Having featured Sylvia Ormiston last week, we managed to grab a chat with her husband, Dochy Ormiston MVO, this week and his love and passion for Highland cattle ... and looking after HM the Queen's fold.


I was born and brought up in Newtonmore with Highland ponies. As a family we moved to Strathmashie Estate, in Laggan, where we had Blackfaced sheep, Highland cattle and Highland ponies. This was a small sporting estate where our ponies were used during the stalking season and also for pony trekking.

Where did it all begin for you?

After working at home, I moved to Meggernie Estate, in Glen Lyon, where we ran 2500 Blackfaced sheep with 90 cross cattle and 50 pedigree Highland cattle over 40,000 plus acres. I was also involvement in the sporting side of the estate, with the red deer stalking and fishing.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

What I like to see in a cattle beast is it being correct on its legs from the ground up. A good top carrying flesh ... after all we are a beef breed! Sweet in the head in males and females, with quality horns and hair.

Chosen breed’s place in the commercial market?

I think the Highlander has a unique place in the commercial market as its beef is second to none. I have produced and shown commercial Highland bullocks at Smithfield and the Winter Fair which have succeeded and beaten the other native breeds.

Has the breed changed for the better?

All breeds change, but not always for the better. As long as you are happy with your own stock and that there is a market for them then you are doing something right.

If you had to choose another breed to go into, what would it be?

I am not fussy about any breed in particular, but I like feeding and producing bulls for shows and sales.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

My family have been showing Highland ponies at the Royal Highland Show since I can remember and it has always been part of my life.

Best Highland Show achievement?

I have too many results to note all (not trying to be big headed!). However, the most memorable will be winning with home-bred animals it just feels that extra little special!

Biggest showing achievement?

Two occasions that stand out to me are winning at LiveScot, in Lanark, with a Highland bullock and winning the Royal Highland showcase this year with a two-year-old home-bred Highland bull.

Best sale day?

I have had several good sale days with champion bulls and heifers at Oban Highland cattle show but most of my sales are private ones from home.

Which was the best animal you have ever shown?

A two-year-old red heifer from Balmoral which I produced and showed in 2014. She secured five breed champions, one reserve inter-breed and one supreme inter-breed title all in one season.

But what is the best animal you have ever seen?

A truly memorable one was a Blonde A’quitaine bull at the Royal Show in the early 1990s. He went on the be champion that day and highly placed in the inter-breed.

I also remember a Clydesdale stallion I saw at the Royal Melbourne Show, in Australia, when I was there to judge the Highland cattle in 2014. He was quite special.

Abiding memory?

The first time I was asked to judge the Highland Show. This is a great honor to achieve in your career.

Biggest disappointment?

When you are showing you get a lot of disappointments, but you must remember it is only one person’s opinion and it is the critics outside the ring who matter.

Have you missed out on a big purchase?

Not really as I have been able to purchase what I liked and needed at the time.

Most influential person in your career?

My father.

Best stockman/ shepherd?

The stockman at Leys Castle, the late Donald MacDiarmid, taught me how to feed cattle and I have learnt so much from him.

In the present day, Donald MacNaughton, for all that he has, he manages to bring champion cattle out every year!

My shepherd choice would have to be Ian Hunter, from Dalchirla. Going from a shepherd to one of the top Blackface breeders in the country with the help of his wife, Patsy.

Best kist parties?

The kist parties at the Highland Show in the old wooden huts are unforgettable. You would fall out of your hut in the morning after a big night to then show your stock.

Favorite quote?

The secret to success is ‘hard work’

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

I would like to see more home-bred and home produced stock being shown as there seems to be a trend of buying cattle to show.

Best advice?

Listen to advice, there is a lot out there! Don’t be frightened to ask for help.

Best investment?

Buying cheap cattle at breed sales, turning them out as champions and selling them for a profit.

Judging experience?

I have judged all the major shows in the country but the most memorable was being asked to judge the Royal Melbourne Show, in Australia.

When can you spot a show star?

It is very difficult to see in the breeds that I am involved in as they are slow to mature, but a good one will always be a good one!

Problems in the industry?

Losing all of our older stockmen. The knowledge is going to be lost as there are fewer and fewer big herds.

Something you thought you would never achieve but have?

Working for the Royal family at Balmoral and being awarded our MVO in the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours. Both Sylvia and I were honoured at the same time, which is very special indeed.

Do you wish you had done anything different in your career so far?

No, I am very happy with what I have achieved ... but I am not finished yet!

Are you involved in any committees or any hobbies?

I am currently active on the Highland Cattle Society council. In my spare time I also enjoy clay pigeon shooting and I have shot for Scotland on several occasions.

The future of the showing circuit?

I think the future is looking good as a lot of young people are taking interest but the last couple of years have been very difficult for obvious reasons.

Could you imagine your life without showing?

Not really as I have done it all of my life and it is a great shop window for your stock.