What’s your background in agriculture?
I didn’t come directly from a farming background as my parents were musicians, however, my mum’s side of family were farmers and my grandfather was a thatcher as well as working on local estates and having his own small holding – which is where I got my interest from.
In 1980, aged 15, I started working on a local farm with sheep. My aim was to be a shepherdess, before going on to work with cattle and then attending Berkshire Agricultural College, where I undertook a three-year course. Following college, I took some dairying jobs on a few farms, which introduced me to the world of showing dairy cattle at what was then the Newbury show (I think it is called The Royal Berkshire Show now).
I met Alasdair in 2001 during the Foot and Mouth crisis and the rest is history! I also ran a Bed and Breakfast service for eight years, which always kept me busy.

Can you tell us a bit about your job/s and what it entails?
I started the next bit of my working life as a traffic warden, which spanned five years. I had injured myself during farm work, so was advised by my consultant to take a break from farming – but I didn’t want to be stuck in an office.
My Mum noticed the traffic warden advert in the local paper, so I went for an interview and got the job. It was a culture shock going from the country to a big town in Reading, as well as dealing with the public. It was a great job and was good for character building, as well as opening me up to the world of legislation and dealing with difficult situations – it gave me confidence.
An opportunity arose which allowed me to enter back into the world of agriculture when I secured a job working as an Animal Health Officer within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in 1996. I worked with three major disease outbreaks in my career – the BSE crisis, Swine Fever in East Anglia in 2000, and in the Newcastle Disease Control Centre – one of the biggest areas that was affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001.
Once that was over, I moved to Scotland to be with Alasdair and set up our pedigree Limousin herd and that’s where I am today. I was an animal health officer for 23 years and was latterly managing the veterinary and technical staff in the North of Scotland.
After leaving this role in 2018, I began my self-employed career carrying out auditing work for the QMS and SQC Schemes, where my job is still based around legislation and understanding it. I am auditing farmers who are members of these schemes. Standards are set, farmers receive a copy of these standards. It is then their role to read them and ensure they meet standards.
When I visit their farm I am looking at their records, handling system, medicine and feed storage, machinery, and livestock to make 
sure that they meet the standards.

Favourite agricultural show to attend?
The Royal Highland Show and our local Black Isle Show. Both are great for socialising and seeing people that you would only see once a year, as well as a good show of stock at both events.
What has been the best and worst advice you have received?
The best would be don’t give up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep striving on.
The worst would be when my mum knew I wanted to go into farming (at the age of 9) and she said: “Don’t go into farming, you’ll never make any money, your grandfather never did.”

What gives you the most job satisfaction?
On the farm I would say breeding pedigree cattle. I find it very interesting. We look at genetics and performance of those animals and its nice when you do well in show and sale rings. The enjoyment is just breeding them – putting genetics, genomics together and getting a good calf from it.
In terms of QMS, I enjoy just getting out and about, and meeting lots of different people, as well as picking up good and bad ideas.

Why do you like working within agriculture?
I never really picked it – it was in my blood and I never thought of doing anything else. I didn’t actively look into anything else as it was the natural thing to do.
I have grown up with it all my life and remember my mum always talking about what my grandfather did. She took me to the places where he lived and worked. I just took a natural interest in it.

Biggest disappointment?
I don’t really think about disappointments – I just look at the positives and move forward.

Most influential person in your career?
With having a varied career, I’ve been lucky to have met so many influential people so I can’t narrow it down. I have met a lot of people throughout my Girl Guiding life, my college life, farming, Ministry life and the livestock world.

Biggest achievement to date?
In my younger days it would’ve been receiving the Queens Guide Award at 15 years old. Another would be selling our home-bred bull, Alagils Jambon, at Carlisle in 2016 for 28,000gns. This was a huge achievement for us and we topped the sale that day, which made the memory even better.

The biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in your career?
I was a trade union rep for 15 years when working for the government and one of the biggest hurdles I faced was constantly negotiating rights for people with management, meaning that I had to learn another skillset – how to negotiate without losing your rag! A key skill to this was reading and understanding HR legislation – a lot of reading and chewing over!
I would also say battling anxiety, but again it’s something you have to manage.

What’s your favourite type of livestock and why?
I have to say the Limousin. Alasdair has worked with them for 45 years, commercially. We now run them as pedigrees, mainly. They are very quiet, contrary to what folk think! They do have a good character and they do what we want them to do. 
We don’t go for very shapey cattle but go for the maternal type of cow for easy calving, fertility and with a bit of style about them.
Most of our bulls are sold locally, so we focus on breeding what our buyers want for producing store cattle and it’s a bonus if we have a bull good enough for Carlisle or Stirling.

In your opinion, what are the main problems in the agricultural industry?
I would say there is a lack of profit and time for farmers, with most farmers not getting the prices they deserve for the food they produce. Food is still far too cheap for what the farmers are having to put in to get the final product, no matter what it is.

If you could have gone into any other profession, what would it have been and why?
I honestly don’t know! I’ve been on the edge of lots of other industries and mixed with other people, so you could say I’ve had a taste of other career paths – like being a traffic warden! I did enjoy running a Bed and Breakfast, so hospitality could’ve been an option.

Any other Women in Ag you admire and why?
I don’t tend to look at it that way. I have undertaken a lot of different things throughout my life, as will have other women in agriculture, so I don’t  have anyone specifically within the industry that I admire. There are countless talented women, as there are men!

Have you ever felt that you have encouraged other women to follow in your footsteps?
I wouldn’t say I have knowingly or set out to do it, but I would like to think I have encouraged other people – throughout all my various careers – that if 
they didn’t have someone like me then they might struggle. I feel like I’ve probably encouraged a lot of people to choose a path within the industry in some way.

Involved in any other organisations?
Not so many now but I did run a Girl Guide company for eight years, as well as being the Scottish Limousin Club secretary and chair. I also have done church work in the past but recently, I have stepped back from a lot of things.

What piece of advice would you give to any female wanting to make a career within agriculture?
Be the best you can and don’t get hung up about being a woman in the industry. Concentrate on soaking up advice and get on a course – build a good knowledge and skillset. 
There is a whole range of different career paths within the industry and they’re all open to women.