The man in the spotlight for this week's Breeders of our Time feature is well-respected Simmental cattle breeder, Stewart Stronach, from North-east Scotland.

With an illustrious career behind him, he opened up to Kathryn Dick about abiding memories from his busy farming and breeding career, favourite animals and who his choice of best breeder is.

What’s your background?

I was brought up on the family farm, which was a mixed farm beside Keith, known as a less favoured area.

The suckler cows we kept have always interested me and my grandfather worked with Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford bulls before buying one of the first Simmental bulls in the area, around the mid 1970s – which, I suppose, is where it all began for us!

What got you into breeding your choice of breed?

We immediately saw the benefits of the faster growing calves when we switched to the Simmental, but it wasn't until we started keeping our own Simmental heifers that we saw the breed's real potential.

The Simmental proved to us that it had fantastic maternal traits, as well as being docile, milky and great mothers.

What qualities do you like about the breed that you work with over others?

We tried Limousin genetics on our heifers but discovered no real benefit at calving and not the same growth rate either.

The Simmental is a true all-round breed with the benefit of being the best suckler cow, with their milk and temperament being second to none. It is also the number one breed for age to slaughter, which puts them in pole position when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint.

The cows are hardy and suit any system with them being great grass converters, whilst also being able to look after their calves and themselves.

What was your first big breed sale or show?

My first big sale was one of the last held in the old UA Perth mart, in the centre of Perth – yes, I'm that old!

What was the best animal that you’ve ever bred?

I haven't bred the best one yet – still trying to get perfection if it exists!

However, a bull I really thought a lot of was Islavale Gaelic, which sold at Stirling for 10,000gns and was placed third in his class. He is still going strong and breeding excellent females for his owners, A and J Craig, Castle Douglas.

But what was the best animal you’ve ever seen?

I really thought Skerrington Rhona 21 was a tremendous cow – she won the Simmental section at the Royal Highland Show, way back in 2012.

Best animal you’ve been out-bidded on or lost?

The day we lost Curaheen Bandit was a really sad moment at Islavale.

If you could change one thing about your breed what would it be and why?

The only thing I would look to change is for more people to try the Simmental breed as sucklers – they would not be disappointed!

You’re most abiding memory?

My most memorable moment when we achieved our third consecutive February Stirling Bull Sales championship – that was with Islavale Islander.

Biggest disappointment?

The day after our local Keith Show, we found our champion bull dead in the field the next morning.

Most influential person in your career?

The late Hector Macaskill – he was a man I had always looked up to and admired. He always went about his business at the bull sales with a great 'can do' attitude and was always willing to give advice – he was definitely one of the best presidents the society has ever had.

What’s been your favourite sale to attend over the years and why?

It has to be Stirling Bull Sales and I probably haven't missed many since UA moved to Stirling from Perth.

Fellow breeders and repeat customers always make the sale and it's great to get feedback from bulls that you have previously sold.

Your choice of best breeder ever?

Again, Hector Macaskill springs to mind and his dispersal speaks volumes of what people thought of his cattle .

Best and worse advice you’ve received?

Worst advice, or saying, would be: "Och it will be OK..." and the best advice would be "prepare for the worst and it probably won't happen".

Biggest achievement?

The hat-trick of wins at the February Bull Sales, but more so the fact that it was all achieved by members of my family – I couldn't do it with out them!

If you could have gone into another breed, which would it have been and why?

I can happily say there is no chance I would need to pick another breed, I am very content with the Simmental.

Anything you would go back and change in your career?

I wouldn't change a thing. It's been a lifetime's work and we are finally getting somewhere.

Any hobbies or interests outwith farming?

I don't have any other hobbies, the Simmentals consume all of my time!

What’s the future of the breed in your opinion?

The future is very bright with all the attributes the Simmental has to offer. As I've already mentioned, the breed's maternal traits are second to none and being the number one breed for days to slaughter will become more and more important in the coming years.