Taking centre stage for this week’s Women in Agriculture is Louise Allan, who has made a name for herself within the world of cattle clipping, as well as pursuing a career as a veterinary nurse.

Here she spoke with Kathryn Dick about her career challenges and proudest moments.

  • Background?

I was born at Arnsow Farm, near Ayr, on a small beef and sheep farm comprising of 175 acres. I hadn’t had any previous showing experience, other than watching dad show dairy cows at local shows.

I grew up on a family run farm where everyone had their own jobs and so this resulted in the farm having to function on back of that. We have since expanded into breeding Shorthorn cattle, last October, as our form of diversity and outlook.

I used to help at a local dairy farm and show dairy cattle, as well as watching beef classes and this was where I caught 'the bug'. In 2008, I used a home-bred calf for the Young Farmers rally and didn’t do well but my determination to win the rally overcame my disappointment.

By 2010 I had won my first YF calf rally and I really caught the bug with commercial cattle. I attended clipping demonstrations, held by Ian Anderson and the mistakes I used to make were ridiculous but that was where my passion for clipping began. Also, because I was a girl I didn’t want to just show stock, I wanted to learn how to clip them too and with a lot of practice, I've managed to achieve just that.

  • What's your job and what does it entail?

I am now totally self employed, however, I qualified as veterinary nurse in 2013. I love nursing but was losing the passion whilst working full time and cramming shows in at the weekend – I just wasn’t getting enough out of both ventures.

I still nurse at the local vet practice, picking up shifts where I can as well as working round the clock clipping livestock for bulls sales and various shows. Over the duration of the bull sales I like to take on three herds if I can.

This year I have expanded more and have became a jack of all trades. One week I'm doing a few days at the bull sales but by Friday I'm nursing a kitten and I've found this method of working has allowed me to get the most out of my nursing qualification and passion for working with livestock.

I also try to find time to be at home and help my parents, as well as taking eight weeks out of my work in the spring to work as a freelance lamber.

  • Favourite agricultural show?

I have two, starting with the Royal Highland Show. It's the pinnacle of them all and the show that you want to experience at least once in your life with livestock. The Highland is where everything comes together and even when turning something out for someone else, I find great satisfaction.

The second would be my local show, Straiton. It is a tiny show but the moment you walk into the showground, you are handed a dram and it won't be empty all day! It is a major show for the Blackface breed filled with competitive stockmen, laughter and whiskey to go round!

  • Best and worst advice you have received?

The best would be if your clipping a beast and it coughs, do not put the clippers back down as it will definitely cough twice! This advice has saved me a dozen show cattle's shoulders!

There is no such thing as bad advice. Advice you don’t want to take is always good criticism in my opinion and Dennis Gall is the best person for constructive criticism.

  • What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Being able to see rawness in animal and turn it out to in it's best form is what I love. A few years ago I bought a beast that I saw in a shed and I got it delivered to Ayr market. Dad picked it up and phoned me to ask why I bought it, and in a few short words told me to send it back.

By the time Christmas came around, he had placed in every class and sold for the top steer price and I managed to triple my money on him.

  • Biggest disappointment?

This year is by far a let down. I was fully booked between locum nursing and show work, as well as lambing. It started with a phone call from the vets to say I was furloughed. Then shows started getting cancelled and I wasn't needed.

This year I was really determined to expand and take on a youngster to come with me during the busy show and sale spells.

  • Most influential person in your career?

Dennis Gall is absolute master of his trade – there is no one else like him. He doesn’t need to say much but he is one person that has hugely influenced my career. I've never seen someone take soap and brush and make an animal spectacular.

Another I would mention is Anne MacPherson. I met Anne while nursing her dog, Kyle, and we soon became good friends. She can show and turn out cattle to perfection and she is a wonderful person altogether. She is a master at what she does and is probably one of most successful females within the world of showing.

I also have to mention my dad as he never discouraged me with anything – even when I brought home a new show calf he never grudged me! He built me a wash bay and transported calves when I couldn't, he is just one in a million and I wouldn't be where I am today without him.

  • Biggest achievement to date?

The year that Kilbride Farm Foreman secured reserve overall and intermediate at Stirling Bull Sales and sold for 22,000gns. His half brother was reserve intermediate that same day and sold for 15,000gns. The Robson family have the best team of bulls I've ever worked with – all were consistent and identical.

  • Most abiding memory?

I would say the year that Foxhillfarm Mamma Mia won inter-breed at the Royal Highland – they had the most consistent team of females I've ever seen. She stood as inter-breed champion and won the breed title, while her sibling took reserve.

I remember standing back and watching Mamma Mia and I knew she would win – she just floated round the ring.

Another would have to be winning the local Straiton Show, in 2018, with a steer. It's always good to secure the small shows before the big ones!

  • Biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your career?

Being a female and being able to get customers to allow you make a break into an industry dominated by men has been my biggest challenge, as it's such a professional industry.

It took me a couple of years to find a consistent stream of customers that were willing to take me on and the major break was when the Kilbride family allowed me to continue working with them.

If you work hard, doesn’t matter what animal you have in front of you – if you turn it out to the best of your ability then people will respect you. I haven't come from a big farm or big name so I’ve had to make a name of myself.

  • Favourite breed of cattle or sheep and why?

In the cattle, I would have to say working with Simmentals as they are a nice docile breed and come up well in the show ring – they always look the part. However, I also love Shorthorns as they are so quiet and easy to work with.

In the sheep I like the Texels and more recently the Blackface breed – my fiancé insists I like them!

  • If you could go into any breed, which would it be?

Beef Shorthorns was what I wanted to go into so it's always been the dream to have a little herd. I've also always had had soft spot for British Charolais cattle.

  • In your opinion, what are the main problems in the agricultural industry?

I have seen more negativity being forefront within the media and I think the British Government needs to promote our food standards as we are not getting the support we need to counteract others opinions.

We are also not getting fair prices for beef, milk, lamb or crop and are constantly faced with negativity which is so hard to overcome.

  • Out with farming, are you involved in any other organisations?

I am currently on the Scottish tug of war team which is my other source of fun. I started this hobby through young farmers and have since won two European and one world titles.

I am also chairperson of Young Limousin Breeders Society, which is very rewarding to be a part of.

  • What piece of advice would you give to any female wanting to make a career within the agricultural industry?

Fight for your place – if you think you deserve it then don’t hold back. Jump in with two feet but take the time to listen and absorb any advice thrown your way.

Don’t be afraid to ask also as that’s how I'm here today.

  • Favourite kist party?

The Royal Welsh Winter Fair is the best as you have just come from Livescot and your all reared up and ready to go again.

Any funny stories?

The day Mamma Mia won Limousin champion at the Highland, a well renowned cattle breeder got quite drunk and merry and ended up riding round the cattle lines on the back of James Nisbet whilst whipping him with a horse whip like a pony saying "Yee Ha"! It was the most random moment but it was so funny.

  • Future?

I would love to start helping youngsters clip cattle, or get involved in any way I can with them. I'm always willing to help youngsters and if people want to help or get help then never be afraid to ask. It's a new era of people coming through and everyone's there to help each other.