Having been a RHASS director for 13 years, this will be the fifth year that Eric Mutch, from Burnside of Whitefield, Forglen, Banff, will enter the ring as chief beef cattle steward at what is this year will be the Royal Highland Showcase.

Farming alongside his son, Ellis, the family runs 25 pedigree Charolais females along with a mixture of 60 commercial Limousin, Simmental and British Blue cross females all of which are crossed to a Charolais bull. Some 50 store cattle are bought in October to sell as forward stores the following spring, with a further 720 Mule and Texel cross ewes run on the 370 acres at Burnside of Whitefield.

The business also relies on an additional 150 acres of seasonal lets split between summer and winter.

The family has always had pedigree cattle. Eric’s late father started with Aberdeen-Angus in the 1960s and Eric remembers their first continental was a Charolais bull bought in 1974 to cross over commercial cows. In 1993, a British Blonde was purchased and a herd was built up through embryo transfer.

Eric has, in fact, twice won the UK Blonde herd championship and in 2004, bagged the breed honours at the Royal Highland Show.

“Although a Blonde herd does not feature at Whitefield anymore, they still have a strong place in my heart having spent 15 years on the Blonde council of management and served as national chairman for three years,” said Eric.

“Living in Aberdeenshire, commercial Charolais calves are what drives the market as these are the cattle the finishers demand. Their temperament makes them an easy breed to work with and a field of white cows in the summertime always looks the part,” added Eric, who is thoroughly looking forward to next week’s Showcase event.

Eric meeting the Princess Anne at a past show

Eric meeting the Princess Anne at a past show

As chief steward, Eric made frequent trips to Ingliston throughout the year, but since the pandemic all meetings have been over Zoom.

“Although it is not the same as physically meeting fellow directors at Ingliston, the upside is that it has saved a lot of time. I used to be away a whole day for a meeting, now, I just jump onto the computer for a couple of hours… maybe not such a good thing as I am having to work more!” said Eric, who on average spent 20 days a year attending meetings including the week of the show itself.

With Zoom calls all year, Eric finally got to venture down to Ingliston last week to get his bearings around the new set-up and layout for the Showcase.

“Watching it all come together on the run up to the Showcase makes us all even more excited about the event. It is going to be totally different, so we just hope that people will accept that and be a bit more patient with us.”

“We know it is not going to be the show we all love. We have all been in lockdown for so long, people can’t wait to get back out and competing with like minded people again so thankfully we have some form of event” added Eric.

“I did have my reservations about the Showcase concept and the support there would be from exhibitors. All credit to those who have brought out cattle to support it and to our livestock team who have pulled the event together, my three deputy stewards and pool of volunteer stewards.” said Eric.

“The Showcase will be live-streamed globally and will be a good blueprint going forward for years to come. It will create an even bigger audience for all our exhibitors and give them a worldwide shop window,” added Eric.

“The livestock team has put in a power of work to pull this off. We have done our bit and selected judges and will do the best we can to make it the most enjoyable experience for stewards, judges and exhibitors,” said Eric, who thinks the young judges in the beef cattle classes all deserve a chance to shine.

The beef judges will be giving reasons as to why they placed their classes, and all are capable enough having been involved in stockmanship programmes, or showing in some form, including Eric’s son, Ellis, who will be taking charge of both the Charolais and Blondes in the show ring.

“This is not the end for youngsters judging at the Highland – we hope that they will all be invited back in years to come to judge.”

At the end of the day, the future of the Royal Highland Show does revolve around the next generation, so it is essential to keep them keen and interested – a point which Eric was keen to stress.

“The infrastructure of the show has progressed massively during my time as a RHASS director. Our board continually looks to improve year on year to maximise the experience for members, visitors, and exhibitors.

"The Highland's roots are agriculture and agricultural trade. Livestock showing has never been more important to demonstrate the quality of stock and stockmanship throughout the UK.

“Our new Members’ building is impressive, and it will be good to see the facility full of members and guests in future years. So here’s to a drink in the Members Pavilion next year with an even bigger crowd!”