THE annual special Bellingham prize show was held last Thursday, with a superb entry of 981 animals entered from across Northumberland, County Durham, and Cumbria.

Held by Hexham and Northern Marts, the show and sale of suckled calves attracted entries from noted annual consignors from all over the region.

The prize show was sponsored by Carrs-Billington Agriculture, Zoetis Animal Health, and the British Limousin Cattle Society.

Presiding as master judge was regular purchaser at the sale, Adam Steele of Steely Farm, Satley in Count Durham.

Mr Steele was presented with 38 fantastic calves, the majority of which were Limousin cross, within five preliminary classes.

Many commented that it was one of the finest shows of calves to be seen at Hexham.

In the end, the Championshop and the Michael Walton Perpetual Challenge Cup wnet to Eric Armstrong of Harlow Bower in Whitfield for the second year in a row.

Mr Armstrong also collected the reserve champion rosette.

The championship was won by an impressive red Limousin cross bullock, bred from the same cow on Harlow Bower as the 2019 heifer champion.

Standing as worthy reserve was a stylish black heifer calf, from a British Blue cross Friesian mother - the suckler cow breed of choice for Mr Armstrong, who figures highly with both his show calves and commercial offering at the sale every year.

Elsewhere, the first prize for four continental steers went to Willmoteswick, who also picked up first prize in the best continental cross steer and second prize in the single Limousin cross steer.

Morley Hill also had a successful show, taking first and second place in the best Continental cross heifer and second place in the best continental cross steer.

Harwood Shield took second place in the single Limousin cross heifer.

The show was conducted following strict coronavirus guidelines, and Hexham and Northern Marts thanked all those involved for their efforts and participation in these times.

The champion and reserve were brought to the ring at 12 noon and both were met with an air of anticipation.

The champion sold for £1150, only to be trumped by the heifer reserve which, with the option of being brought out as a cow, sold for £1180.

Both calves were purchased by Mr Steele, backing both of his decisions.

Run after run of exceptionally well-bred suckled calves were presented and found new homes both locally and further afield.

The majority of consignors reported considerable lifts on last years trade, with one return vendor seeing a £222 increase on his 2019 average.

Throughout the day, the best bullocks and heifers of each offering regularly exceeded four figures.

The sale peaked at £1220 for a sublime Blue cross heifer from Messrs Lee of Morely Hill.

The Whitfield-based family farming operation then followed with another at £1200, with both - and several more besides - bought by high-end father and son finishers from Bishop Auckland, County Durham.

Messrs Lee went on to average a noteworthy £1013 for 22 steers and 20 heifers at six to eight months of age.

Aside from the show winners, steers on the day peaked at £1140 for a bullock from the Reed Brothers at Dyke Nook near Carrshield for a Limousin at seven months.

Three more sold at £1130; one from George Walton of Allensgreen at Bardon Mill, and a pair from the aforementioned Morley Hill.

A spokesman for Hexham and Northern Marts said: "Firmly cemented as the leading sale of spring born suckled calves in the region at this time of year, a fantastic trade was seen throughout and with highlights a-plenty and far too numerous to mention in their entirety."