Thousands of farm animals at home at the showground
Livestock are at the very heart of the Devon County Show. All told, there will be over 4,000 cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses entered in the show’s competitive classes. And they will all be superb examples of their species or breed – they have to be, to stand any chance of winning a coveted prize card at one of Britain’s premier farming events.
Competition is fierce in every livestock section. Cattle judging in the rings outside the main Westpoint building starts early on the first day and culminates with the crowning of the inter-breed beef and dairy champions around midday on Friday, with a running commentary to explain to the uninitiated what the animals in the ring are, where they’ve come from and what the judges are looking for. It makes for a fascinating scene, with the avenue running along the top side of the judging rings providing a superb vantage point.
Members of the public are equally welcome to watch the judging of the sheep and pigs, and admire not just the quality of the animals, but also the skills of their handlers in presenting them to best advantage – a skill that is at a particular premium with some of the more obstinate pigs!
All of the livestock sections are open to the public, although entrance to the cattle lines in the Westpoint building has to be restricted whilst judging is taking place so that animals on the move and people don’t get tangled up together, with unpredictable results.
There is no finer sight anywhere on the showground than the Grand Parade of Livestock, which takes place on Friday and Saturday afternoons, when the prize-winning cattle, sheep and pigs are led through the main ring by their proud owners and handlers. It somehow sums up what the Devon County Show is all about: a shop window for top farmers and breeders to show off their livestock; a magnificent spectacle for visitors to the show to enjoy.
Devon has more native breeds of sheep and cattle than any other county in England, and the competitive classes for our local breeds are one of the real highlights of the show. The ‘Red Ruby’ Devons and ‘Orange Elephant’ South Devons are renowned the world over for their ability to convert grass to prime beef in all climates and all settings. As for the sheep, Devon is home to no fewer than five breeds: the Devon Closewool, Devon and Cornwall Longwool, the Exmoor Horn, Dartmoor Whiteface and Dartmoor Greyface. Among the pigs, both the Wessex Saddleback and Large Black breeds have strong roots in Devon.
It's a top farming show!
The Devon County Show is still, first and foremost, an agricultural show. Yes, there’s a lot more to it than just farming these days. It acts now as a showcase and market place for the whole rural economy, with local food and drink a particular priority. But farmers and their families still come to the show in their thousands, to show off their livestock, discover and invest in the very latest in farm machinery and equipment, discuss the political and technical issues of the day and just to have a thoroughly good time meeting friends and colleagues, old and new. They, and their livestock, give the event a very special atmosphere, that makes it so much more than just a gigantic country fair.
Despite the rise of specialist events and the power of the internet, there has even been an increase in the number of agricultural trade stands and other farming content in recent years, with the Devon-based co-operative Mole Valley Farmers leading the way. An entire section of the showground is now given over to farm machinery. And as the first major show of the summer, the show also offers the perfect platform for senior farming politicians from the NFU, the CLA and Government to explain what they are up to - and for Devon’s farmers - and our Young Farmers, who have a particularly strong presence - to take them to task! In 2016, the show even managed to attract the most important individual in European agriculture, the EU Farm Commissioner, Phil Hogan.
The Devon County Show combines the county’s agricultural heritage with a focus on the future to create an event which appeals to every strand of the Devon community.
Thrilling equestrian displays
There will be three packed days of competitions for both professional and amateur riders.
The wide variety of classes offer visitors the thrills of show jumping, scurry driving, the inter-hunt relay, private driving, the Concourse D’elegance and the fun Pony Club games.
Visitors will be able to see elegant Arabs, hunters, cobs, small Dartmoor and Exmoor ponies and heavy horses.