From horses, sheep, and feed – Ronnie Black of Collessie, knows it all with more than 60 years of experience being born and bred in Cupar, Fife.


Born and lived at Newton of Collessie all my life, with it being the family home since 1939 established by parents.

I left school at 15 years of age and came home to join my father and brother James to milk 30 cows, growing grain and some potatoes. In the late 60s we took the decision to stop the dairy and reared dairy replacements selling newly calved cows in Lanark and Stirling. Quotas began in 1984, and trade disappeared, so moved to rearing beef.

Our new venture of Collessie Feeds started in 2004. We had to reduce our cattle numbers to utilise the grass for making hay and haylage to sell through the shop.

It is still very much a family affair with my two sons, Mike and Pete now involved along with two full time employees – Grant and Jake. My wife, Dorrie and Pete’s wife, Natalie, run the office and keep us right most of the time.

There was always a show Clydesdale on the farm - father's hobby - always looking out for a 'making' youngster to show and sell. I enjoyed being involved in that process, with the breeding for our stud starting in 1980 when my father semi -retired and bought Kettlestoun Valetta and Westraw Flower.

In 1992 we bred Collessie Cut Above sired by Doura Sir Charles, he became the stallion who put us on the map.

On the Suffolk front, we now run 60 ewes which was founded in 1963 with the purchase of five gimmers.

Why Clydesdales and Suffolk?

I have always been around and I gravitated towards them since coming home to work.

My father was a showaholic when we used to have both ponies and Clydesdales. I have always felt the Clydesdales have that little bit more wow factor and show potential in the ring.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

They need to have that show glow that says look at me, in the Clydesdale we are looking for an animal with a good flat bone, with silky hair throughout being good on their legs and knees and hocks well off the ground. Very importantly good feet and movement.

I am looking for similar attributes in the Suffolk again they need to have that silky hair on their head along with a good level top line with fleshy bodies and spring of rib, led into a strong carcase. They are the meat machine and of course all animals need to be good on their legs.

Have the breeds changed for the better?

Both breeds have evolved over times and market forces have dedicated the way they develop.

The Clydesdales as a group have gotten slightly leggier and more heads up due to the driving aspect in the breed.

The popularity of ridden and driven Clydesdale classes at shows had led to a steady demand for horses so in turn puts the breed in a strong place for the future.

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

Thoroughbred mares would have been nice, but I am more in my comfort zone with the Clydesdales.

How do you manage to fit the livestock in with the feed company?

We just make it works somehow. Teamwork is the name of the game.

Showing aspect to the business?

We enjoy the late summer shows, and the winter foal shows. We feel it really brings the foals on – it is just like going to school for the foals.

Unfortunately, the feed company takes the priority on the sheep showing front that we only attend local shows due to time constraints in the business.

Best Highland Show achievements?

Having won the Highland Show in our own rights twice and four times for Robert Trotter each time is just as special as the first.

Ormiston Mains Sophie was the first win for the Trotters in 1989, followed by Ormiston Mains Amelie who produced Ormiston Mains Amber another champion. The Trotter family gifted me Amber which went on to breed an all-time favourite in our stud, Collessie Jennifer. She went on to win the Royal Highland Show as a yearling before going on to be the ‘poster girl’ for all the publicity material for the Royal Highland Show – being the face on all of the trams and buses in Edinburgh.

On a personal level, in 2007 I was presented the Sir William Young Award by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland for outstanding service to the livestock industry which truly was an honour.

Biggest showing achievement?

The Highland Show is the Olympics. Any win there is special.

Best sale day?

In 2002 at Kelso Ram Sales, we sold a ram lamb for £18,000 to Jimmy Douglas, this one was bred by Muiresk Mayhem. We now aim more for the commercial market and still hit the top 10 flock averages at Kelso every year.

We are full of hope for this year’s crop of lambs of off 48,000gns Limestone Marksman – which we share with Birness, Claycrop and Pyeston.

Which was the best animal that you’ve ever shown?

Ormiston Mains Amelie. She was first four times, reserve once and twice champion at the Royal Highland Show.

She was just a special thing, but the most important thing was the judges liked her.

But what was the best animal that you’d ever seen?

Doura Sir Charles – he was a great show horse with great movement and was the sire of Collessie Cut Above.

On the Suffolk front, the £90,000 Ardlea Ardbenning will always stick in my mind, he was the complete machine.

Biggest disappointment?

That is part in parcel of what we do. We must keep hacking on with what is working for us don’t dwell on the disappointments or we would get nothing done.

Have you missed out on a big purchase you wanted?

I have missed a few rams in my days because I ran out of cash.

Most influential person in your career?

My father sowed the seeds for me, and although I am never finished learning he was the one that taught me the basics to agriculture and set me on my road.

Jimmy Wilson gave me a lot of useful help and advice for our Suffolk flock in the early days.

Your choice of best stockman/shepherd ever?

That is very difficult to single out any one person – there are heaps of them! It is an honour to see so many hard-working enthusiasts in the industry producing the best of livestock, and TSF highlights this every week.

Ali Jackson is the current superstar, in various breeds, he used to stay in our village and come out and help here.

Another that must be mentioned in the Clydesdale world for 50 years of fantastic promotion with his marvellous team of geldings is Hugh Ramsay MBE.

Favourite quote?

No second chance to make a first impression.

Best advice?

You have got to be living the dream and love what you do.

Best investment?

The pieces of land we have managed to purchase over the years to get us to the size we are at today.

When can you tell it will be a show star?

You will have a bit of an idea when they hit the ground, but from there they need to develop. You will only know it is a true star on show day when you are comparing it with the opposition and the judge gives it the tap out as champion!

Something you thought you would never achieve but have?

Getting to almost 75 years of age and having nine grandchildren.

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

If I had stuck in at school, I could have been anything!

But I can’t change what has happened and I am content as to where my life has brought me and thankful for the opportunities I have been granted.

The future of the showing circuit?

Fingers crossed shows will be able to get back on track this year. They are a crucial part of the agriculture jigsaw for all aspects of the industry. They are social events for all and a great networking tool being able to promote the best of your stock and potentially meet your next customer.

Shows are our main interaction with the general public which is the all-important part of selling our produce.