Welsh Black cattle atheir mark at Royal aim to make l Welsh Show; Exhibitors Jessica and Hugh Williams explained the process of preparing show animals when they met TV presenter Kate Humble.
FOR show animals the journey from pasture to prize ring usually involves months of planning and preparation. And when the goal is the Royal Welsh Show, every little detail counts.
Like most exhibitors Jessica Evans Williams, husband Hugh and father Elwyn, launched their Royal Welsh groundwork just after Christmas.
With an eye on conformation, temperament and presence, the Gerddi-Bluog show team selected three from their herd of pedigree Welsh Black cattle. Halter training began shortly afterwards.
"Handling is not much of issue because the Welsh Blacks are a pretty docile breed anyway," said Jessica, whose family runs a 60-head herd at Dolaugwyn, Tywyn.
"We had a BBC film crew here the other day and the three cattle just stood in the field all afternoon."
Leading the interviews that day was Kate Humble, who will present a nightly highlights programme on BBC1 Wales during Royal Welsh week, slotting in breaking action from the livestock rings.
The programme, which follows a number of exhibitors in the build-up to the show, will get a UK-wide audience when it's repeated on BBC4 later in the year.
For Welsh Black exhibitors, it is the coats of their show animals that often demand the biggest commitment.
As winter coats are shed, a regular cycle of washing and blow-drying begins. The process can take up to an hour. For some exhibitors, it is a daily exercise, but the Gerddi-Bluog show cattle are rinsed weekly.
"It's to get rid of all the dust and dead hair," said Jessica, 33, a public protection officer for Gwynedd Council who also consults for Farming Connect and has just become an Agrisgop leader.
"My father does most of it, as well as all the halter training. He's 79 now but I couldn't do without him."
During Royal Welsh week, Elwyn stays behind to manage the remaining cattle, watching the show on TV.
Jessica and Huw, and twins William and Sara, four, arrive at Llanelwedd on the Saturday before the show starts.
First job is to park the caravan, unload the cattle and settle them into their stalls. Mornings are spent mucking out, feeding and laying fresh straw.
Every evening the three show cattle are washed and dried: black soap is worked into the coats to give them a glossy, healthy sheen.
On Monday, judging begins at 9am. "All the exhibitors help each other where they can," said Jessica.
"There is a bit of healthy competition between us but at the end of the day we are all friends."
For some, competitive nt may end before unchtime. Dependults, others will aim things. By bringing e, the Gerddi-Bluog lso step out into the roup competitions. ting a rosette in the ice," said Jessica. r will be the couple's w together. Both involvemen Monday lu ing on resu for bigger three cattle team will a pairs and g "Just gett classes is ni This year 13th show Welsh Black enthusiasts, they met at Llanelwedd in 2005, love blossoming in the cattle lines.
Within a year they were engaged. They married in Portmeirion in 2009 and, in 2013, the twins made their Royal Welsh debut, aged just four months.
Earlier this year's the couples' romance was shared by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society after they won a Valentine's Day competition for free show tickets.
As exhibitors receive tickets anyway, the winning prize was passed to Jessica's mother and sister.
Winners of the Welsh Black bull title in 2010, the family was reserve in the same competition last year. This time they are bringing two heifers and a young bull, Gerddi Bluog Rhinog 5th, who was male interbreed champion at last month's Aberystwyth and Ceredigion Show.
As 15 months, he is fast rising but unlikely to challenge his more mature rivals for the OG Thomas trophy, to be awarded for the first time this year to the champion Welsh Black.
The silverware was donated by the Chwaen Goch family on Anglesey in memory of one of the society's most illustrious breeders. Mr Thomas was also a chairman of the society's council and a president of the Royal Welsh Show.
The inaugural trophy will be presented by his widow, Honor Thomas, 91. Her son, Brian, will perform the honours next year and grandson Carwyn the year after, before it reverts to a society dignitary.
Another innovation this year is the PS100 sponsorship awarded by breed society to each Welsh Black exhibitor. Showing cattle can be a costly business and, in recent | Shaded years, the effect has been felt on entry numbers. Welsh Blacks are not the only breed affected but the sponsorship money is a unique gesture that has quickly proved its value: 30 Blacks and 16 exhibitors will be at the Royal Welsh this year, including three from England.
"It can be quite an expensive business for exhibitors before they even reach the show," said society secretary Evelyn Jones.
"Last year the council passed a resolution to sponsor the exhibitors and it seems to have worked. This year we will have the best line-up of Welsh Black cattle for many years."
Among them, from North Wales, will be Ken Ellis a'i Feibion, Ynysfor, Bryncrug; Arfon Williams, Pentre, Cwmtirmynach; Meredydd Ellis, Hafod Ifan, Ysbyty Ifan; and Llyn Foxwell, Tyddyn Rhyddid, Harlech.
| The Welsh Black Cattle Society has teamed up with Shearwell Data to run a photo competition this summer.
Entrants just need to post a Welsh Black photo on social media using the #LoveWelsh-Blacks hashtag.
The top three, assessed by society president Gwilym Jenkins, will collect PS50, PS30 and PS20.