Eggs, machines and trophies may seem a disparate mix but they have all held one thing in common for Mark Severn of Brick Green Farm, Barkisland where he and wife Tracy run their award-winning Highlee Shorthorns.
“They all need picking up,” says Mark, who has had what can only be described as a fantastic agricultural show season with their two-and-a-half-year-old Beef Shorthorn bull, Millerston Jester.
He’s won eight breed championships including the Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire and four Interbreed championships at Penistone, Halifax, Honley and most recently Nidderdale.
Mark started working on a local farm at West Vale owned by Tom Smith when he was 11 years old.
His first job, which he carried on with until 15, was picking up eggs from Tom’s hens and he’s been picking up things ever since having joined James Garside’s machinery moving company when he was 18 and setting up Machinery Moving Services with Tracy 20 years ago.
The couple are enjoying picking up silverware through their Beef Shorthorns’ prowess but it is the movement of heavy machinery that provides the wherewithal for their farming interest that was prompted by a move to Brick Green Farm in 2001.
“We’d had no thoughts of farming when we first came here,” says Mark. “We’d bought three acres with the house, but within a very short time the neighbouring farmer approached us asking whether we were interested in the farm buildings next door and 23 acres.
“We took the opportunity to shift our lifting machinery and truck, that had been based elsewhere, to the farm and we started buying little dairy calves out of the livestock markets in Otley and Skipton, rearing them half a dozen at a time from a month old to selling as stores at 6-12 months.”
Having spent many years working 24/7 on establishing the machinery moving business their passion for cattle and subsequently showing was ignited further through initially assisting friends Stephen and Kay Darnbrook with their Dexters and then also Paul Harrison with his South Devons at agricultural shows.
“My theory was that with Tracy having started with the rearing of calves and having helped our friends we could try a few pedigree cattle. We looked at the Blonde d’Aquitaine but then Tracy spotted what she called a nice brown one, not a Blonde, that she liked just down the road.
“We bought two cows that were in calf to the bull Vulcan of Upsall. That’s how we started with the Beef Shorthorns as something that is pleasing on the eye and looks good in a field.
“We now have a herd of 27 and have taken on further rented land that sees us with around 80 acres overall. We’ll calve 15 cows and heifers in January and February and our cattle are selling well to other breeders.
“Our main aim is breeding bulls for other breeders. We sell females too and can’t breed enough of them to meet the demand. We’ve already sold all our female calves born this year.
Millerston Jester’s success has been phenomenal but what we are most proud of is that we are now breeding quality calves out of females we’ve bred ourselves that carry our Highlee prefix. It has taken ten years to get where we are but it is tremendously fulfilling.”
Mark and Tracy’s first steps into showing cattle were with Vulcan of Upsall and they didn’t hang about taking him to the bigger shows after he made his debut at Todmorden Show.
“The Great Yorkshire Show was our second show we’d ever done in our own right and he took second place in his class. It set the ball really rolling for where we’ve got to today, but if we’d known then what we know today he may have been placed first.
“All cattle showing people are great. They help, tell you and show you how to improve and when we went to Cheshire Show the man who scans all our cattle told us that we had the right animals, but we needed to smarten ourselves up, get ourselves a shirt and tie and look the biz. We were also very fortunate that Freddie (Vulcan) was such a great bull. If he saw the trailer coming he’d be there eager to get in. When he was at a show he was bright, alert and stood fantastically well.
“Millerston Jester has the same traits. He knows what he has to do and does it. When you get to a show and a seasoned campaigner and incredible showman like Ken Jackson says, albeit in good humour, ‘It’s not you with that b****y bull again’ you know you’re going in the right direction.”
The Beef Shorthorn world is paying its way for Mark and Tracy and they’ve added two other strands to their cattle business in recent times.
“We’re now selling semen from both Poyntington Himself and Millerston Jester. This year we were lucky enough to get nearly 1000 straws off each and we’ve already sold over 600. It’s a new venture adding to our Highlee Show Supplies business we started in selling shampoos, lacquers and waxes to other show people.”