Royal Highland celebrates all things Scottish

The Royal Highland Show 2009 swings into action in a fortnight with a record number of livestock entries and the focus on celebrating all things Scottish. Jonathan Long and Aly Balsom fill you in on some of the highlights.

This year’s Royal Highland Show, which kicks off on 25 June, helps to celebrate Homecoming 2009. The year of Homecoming is a celebration of all that is Scottish and will bring a distinctly Caledonian feel to proceedings, with the spotlight on Scotland’s native breeds of livestock and Scottish food producers among the highlights.

As a result of the RHASS’ president, David Reid, hailing from the county, Aberdeenshire will have a big presence; a host of activities, demonstrations and competitions highlighting all that is best in farming and food production in Aberdeenshire.

The Aberdeenshire Village will form the centrepiece of the food hall and will feature 17 local food companies and leading chefs from the area. There will be daily cooking demonstrations using local fare under the banner, “Savour the produce of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire”.

Record high livestock entries


This year’s Royal Highland Show is set to draw the crowds and forms part of the year of Homecoming for Scotland

More than 5000 head of cattle, sheep, goats, horses and poultry will see the show stage its largest ever display of livestock. Show manager, David Dunsmuir, says it will be stunning: “It is appropriate that in this year of homecoming, the traditional breeds that gave Scotland its reputation for stockmanship and breeding have increased their entries.”

Among the native breeds, Highland cattle lead the way at 130 entries compared with 91 last year. They are followed by the Aberdeen Angus, up 26 entries from the previous year to 113, and the Beef Shorthorn, Belted Galloway and Galloways all recording strong numbers.

This year the Highland Show also welcomes a special visit from the International Salers Federation Convention. This will bring increased numbers of the breed to the Highland Hall and a wave of delegates from around the world.

In the sheep ring, the popularity of the Texel as a terminal sire is reflected in an entry of 237, up from 190 last year. Judge, Paul Quick, will have his work cut out in selecting a winner.

“There is no doubt that the pride of British and Scottish Genetics will be on show,” says Mr Dunsmuir.

But record entries have increased pressure on pen and stall space, so organisers are having to ask exhibitors to voluntarily reduce the number of stock brought to the show.

“We have had overwhelming response from exhibitors and in some sections we have had too many entries to fit the stock accommodation available,” says Mr Dunsmuir.

“If we cannot cut entries, we will look at a fair formula to match numbers with stalls and pens.”

A fleet of top-class judges will take control of awarding the tickets at this year’s show, with well-known names picking up the mantle in all three of the main interbreed competitions.


This year’s show has attracted a fleet of high-quality judges to place the stock classes

In the sheep lines it will be the turn of Suffolk and Texel breeder John Sinnett, from Worcestershire, to find the overall champion from the 24 section champions which will parade before him on the third morning of the show. Mr Sinnett, renowned for producing some of the Suffolk breed’s highest-priced tups from his family’s Stockton flock, will be faced with an exceptionally high-quality entry. Stock will be converging on Ingliston from all four corners of the UK, although the northern Irish presence has been heavily diminished in the sheep lines due to bluetongue restrictions. Facing the equally challenging task of placing the interbreed pairs in the sheep section will be fellow Suffolk breeder Jim Howie, Carluke.

Among the beef classes the task of selecting the show’s top animal will fall to Charolais and Salers breeder Peter Donger, Northamptonshire. Well known for producing top-class cattle from his Seawell herds, Mr Donger has previously judged the Burke Trophy at the Royal Show.

Another leading Charolais breeder, Colin Campbell, Thrunton, will be joining Mr Donger on the interbreed judging team when he takes charge of placing the interbreed team competition. Mr Campbell has a lifetime’s experience in the cattle industry, so there’s no doubt he will be thorough when it comes to finding the best team of four from the dozen or so breeds competing.

Placing the winners in the native interbreed team awards will be Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus breeder James Playfair-Hannay, Kelso, while the challenge of finding the junior interbreed champion and the beefbreeder champion falls to Simmental breeder Anne MacPherson.

There is no less quality among the dairy judges where the overall championships will be bestowed by Robert Graham, Bridge of Allen. Jersey breeder Mr Graham is a familiar face in the Scottish farming sector as both a farmer and a processor. Breeding both Jerseys and Limousins on the family farm, Mr Graham is also a shareholder in the family’s milk processing business, Grahams The Family Dairy.

Unusually, he will be the only Scot to preside in the dairy rings this year, as all the breed classes are under the eye of judges from south of the border. Tackling the Holsteins will be Harry Evans, Rhosbardig, Ty Croes, Anglesey; the Ayrshires will be placed by Colin Christophers, Trenerry Farm, St Allen, Truro; the Jerseys by Jenny Daw, Amwell Place Farm, Hertford Heath, Hertfordshire; and the Dairy Shorthorns by David Dent, Winton House Farm, Winton, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria.

SAC introduces new Care Farming scheme to show

SAC will be out in force again, offering advice and information on the latest research, business services and education courses.

This year’s new initiative is its involvement in “The Care Farming Scotland Initiative”, which encourages farming families to explore care farming as a diversification.

Evidence shows care farming through cultivating crops or caring for livestock, can help people recover from illness, cope with stress and return to the work routine, says Bill McKelvey, SAC chief executive.

“SAC is committed to working with farmers who are creating opportunities for increased well-being.”

SAC consultants will carry out feasibility studies for farms seeking to diversify towards this area and undertake whole-farm reviews of existing farms.

“This scheme links well with the wider rural community work carried out by SAC. I am sure it is ideally suited to many farming families.”

Animal health and welfare is also high on the agenda. In light of increasing public concern over livestock, SAC is developing high-welfare systems that still offer farmers a commercial return. A variety of health schemes also helps producers manage disease threat. SAC vets will be on hand to discuss these issues.

Biodiversity and climate change also feature highly. Biodiversity specialists will be available to discuss how their work on the lifecycle of leatherjackets can explain how balanced control measures can maintain pasture production and threatened bird species.

Grassland management help from Quality Meat Scotland

A new Grassland Management DVD to help farmers with techniques such as outwintering and deferred grazing, will be available from Quality Meat Scotland.

The DVD gives livestock farmers guidance for getting the best out of grassland and maximising the benefit of current high cattle prices, says Andy McGowan, head of industry developments at QMS.

“An important element to maximising herd profitability could be right under farmers’ feet; effective use of grass and forage is one of the key tools to help us move towards a more sustainable and cost-effective farming system in Scotland.”

The DVD features experts on grassland from all over the UK and includes interviews with beef, dairy and sheep farmers who have successfully used grassland management techniques to maximise profitability.

Top steak competition returns


Competition will be stiff among the interbreed competitors

Twelve Scottish farmers will be competing in the production of the top scotch steak and the chance to take home the McIntosh Donald/Tesco trophy and cash prize of £1000.

The top 12 sirloins were selected from 166 entries in the preliminary judging that took place last month. Michael Stoddart, executive chef at Aberdeen’s five-star Marcliffe at Pitfodels Hotel, says the standard of entries was exceptionally high.

“The entries were the most consistent we have seen over the years of the competition, but we are happy we have selected an excellent final selection that will provide a superb eating experience.”

The 12 comprise nine Limousin crosses, three Charolais crosses and two Simmental crosses.

The winning sirloins will be cooked by celebrity chef Colin Capon, and judged on taste and succulence by a panel headed by NFU Scotland president, Jim Mclaren, on the Friday of the show.

The champion will be presented with the trophy on the Tesco stand at 2pm .

The 12 finalists are R Johnstone, Westerton, Peterhead; Ian Blackhall, Milton of Durris, Banchory; R and L Nimmo, Bogside Farm, Newmains, Wishaw; J Marshall, East Futtie, Camphill, Banchory; G and D Anderson, Brucewells, Netherley, Stonehaven; Ian Thomson, Middleton of Potterton, Aberden; J A M Leggat, Little Invernorth, Rathen Fraserburgh; I W Buchan, Overton of Knaven, Maud; J Innes and Son, Reidstack, Portsoy; Bill Henderson, Nether Toucks, Stonehaven; Matt Steel, Wickerinn Farm, Banchory; Harry Brown, Auchmaliddie Mains, Maud.

Silver medals for technical innovation

The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland has awarded four silver medals and two certificates of commendation under its Technical Innovations Awards Scheme 2009.

Among the winners is a remote cattle monitoring system from ITI Techmedia. This ambitious programme includes a wireless sensor monitoring system to detect conditions in cattle such as parturition and oestrus.

The system aims to offer a valuable aid to farm management, reducing costs and allowing more efficient allocation of resources while improving the lifetime value of cattle.

The system is primarily designed for dairy and beef cattle, but can be adapted for other animals.

A fencing machine, The Quickfencer 80 from Quickfencer, also walks away with an award. The machine unrolls and tensions sheep netting. It also unrolls two rolls of barbed wire at once, semi-tensioned. Final tension is applied by a bar, making the process a lot safer.

A certificate of commendation was also awarded to Solway Re-cycling, for its Eco Animal Shelter, made of 100% recycled agricultural plastics.

Show information

Where The Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, next to Edinburgh airport

When Thursday 25 June to Sunday 28 June

Cost £22 a day, senior citizens and students £17. “Early bird” discounts at £20 and £15 (see website for details). Children under 16 accomanied by an adult go free. Car park £5 a day.

Opening times Thursday:7am-7pm; Friday and Saturday; 8am-7pm; Sunday 8am-6pm

A royal occasion

This year’s Royal Highland will be welcoming three royal visits.
The Queen, Patron of the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland, accompanied by The Princess Royal, will visit on the Friday.
Princess Alexandra will be attending on the Thursday.

Online show coverage

  • Anyone unable to get to this year’s Royal Highland Show can keep up to date with all the news, views, pictures and results from the judging rings with Farmers Weekly‘s Taking Stock blog.

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