The star attraction of our Stockmen of our Time feature this week is the renowned and well respected Jim Ross, who shared his illustrious and distinguished career highlights with The Scottish Farmer.

What’s your background?

I was brought up on a farm at Corsock, where my father and grandfather had 60 Galloway cows and 400 Blackface ewes. I moved to Romesbeoch some 53 years ago and was allowed to pick six Galloway cows to take with me.

Over the years the Galloway herd has increased to 25 cows, with currently 25 pedigree Galloway cattle, 140 commercial cattle and 550 breeding ewes consisting of Blackie's and Mules, as well as a small flock of Bluefaced Leicesters.

I have served on the Galloway Cattle Society Council for 36 years and was Chairman of the council for nine consecutive years. I'm also a member of the Bluefaced Leicester council, as well as being a sales inspector for the breed.

I have been pretty lucky throughout my showing career, having won the Royal Highland Show nine times, the Royal Show seven times, the Great Yorkshire Show 22 times and the National Galloway Show six times. I have also secured the Galloway 'Herd of the Year' title a total of 20 times.

However, all these achievements would not have been possible without of the help of my family, namely Lindsasy, Matt, Doug, Carolyn and my wife, Selina – all have been a big help throughout years.

It has also given me great pleasure watching the next generation prepare, dress and show calves in juvenile classes throughout the years and now the grandchildren – Logan, Haden, Mackenzie, Lloyd, Zara and Mitch – all show calves and sheep in young handlers sections at different shows.

What got you into showing?

If I'm honest, I don’t really know! I think it was attending shows or sales and watching and listening as the older generation prepared their stock for the show and sale ring.

I learned a lot over the years by doing that and also the buzz you get by walking up and down cattle and sheep lines at all the major and local shows also encouraged me to get involved.

What qualities do you like about the breeds that you work with over others?

The Galloway breed has always been my favourite; the ability of the breed to survive on upland and hill areas, produce a calf every year and many of them still breeding calves at 16 years old are just some aspects that I love. They are the easycare breed of the cattle world and in the show ring it is their character and locomotion which attracts the judges eye.

What was your first Royal Highland Show?

My first Highland Show was in the early 1950’s when it was based at Dumfries and the first time I showed cattle at the Royal Highland was in 1984 with Marianne 21st of Romesbeoch.

She originated from the six cows that came to Romesbeoch and she stood reserve female that year and followed on the next year by winning the Galloway championship, plus many more titles after that.

I have only missed showing at Royal Highland six times, with four of those being due to the fact that I was judging as cattle or sheep.

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

There have been quite a number of animals over the years, including Marianne Sunset, Beauties and Moyra’s but my favourite has to be Doon-of-Urr Merys 42nd.

She was bought as a heifer after foot and mouth to raise stock and stay safe from the butchers slab – which is another story but we wont go into that today. She ended up securing 16 breed championships, six inter-breeds, four champion of champion titles and two Galloway National Show championships.

Not only was she a fantastic show cow but she was a breeder as well, having produced the National Show winner, Merys 1307, as well as bulls that were used in herds throughout the country.

One bull she bred was Murphy of Romesbeoch, which we bought back into the Romesbeoch herd and he, in turn, sired Windstor of Romesbeoch, which sold for 12,500gns, at Castle Douglas. Half of the herd at Romesbeoch are now descendants of Merys 42nd.

What was the best animal that you’d ever seen?

Two animals spring to mind, the first being the Charolais cow, Kilkenny Celia. Her sheer presence and power was fantastic and she was shown to perfection by the MacMillan father and son duo. The second was Galloway bull, Blackcraig Codiac, with his outlook and presence filling the eye.

Changes over the years in the showing world – good and bad?

There have been many changes through the years with one of the biggest being the size and weight of our native cattle breeds – they have really changed.

Showing livestock has gotten easier – when I started there was as much hair on the cattle that you could grow and you had to sheet them up to stop them sweating.

Nowadays, we all clip the hair off and dry with an electric hot air blower, as well as covering the body with aerosol spray.

You’re most abiding memory?

Probably selling Windstor of Romesbeoch for 12,500gns – he wasn't shown at the Galloway show that day because my youngest son, Doug, was judging the bull classes.

Other memories include being asked to judge cattle and sheep classes all over Scotland, England, Ireland, German and Australia. The most memorable trip would be my visit to Australia to judge the beef inter-breed class at the Royal Adelaide Show – it was a great experience.

Biggest disappointment in your career?

There have been quite a few over the years, but the three biggest disappointments come to mind include losing all our livestock to foot and mouth, some 19 years ago.

The second would be never having won the February Bull Sales and then last year, the sudden death of one of our Galloway show team – she was probably one of the best heifers I ever bred.

Most influential person in your career?

That has to be the late Hugh Lamberton, who taught me a lot about dressing cattle and sheep, and the late Eddie Blackstock – the pair of them were always there to give many a welcoming hand and advice and I really miss them.

Favourite show?

Definitely the Great Yorkshire Show, everyone there seems to be more relaxed and anyone that has been to the show must have or should visit the Galloway bar. You couldn’t whip a cat in it!

It's one big party starting on the Sunday afternoon and finishing on the Wednesday night. I've met many great friends there during years and hope there are still a lot more years to come.

Best stockman?

I would have to say Jimmy MacMillan, Ian Anderson, Rich Thomson and Dennis Gall. Many a tussle there has been between Dennis and myself, having showed Galloway cattle over the years and we have always remained good friends.

The younger generation in the form of Drew Hyslop and Ali Jackson are also two that I respect – these pair always bring cattle and sheep out to real perfection.

Best and worse advice?

I don’t think there has been any best or worst advice, however the best advice I told myself after foot and mouth was that you should not make same mistakes second time round in the cattle and sheep breeding world but there has still been mistakes made – my motto is watch, listen but make up your own mind at the end of the day.

Biggest showing achievement?

It has to be in 2009 when the Galloway cattle breed had a tremendous Highland Show by winning titles including the individual inter-breed, pairs, native inter-breed and overall beef inter-breed team.

It was great to be part of all these inter-breed teams with Doon-of-Urr 42nd, as well as being chairman of the Galloway society at that time.

Any hobbies?

I have no real hobbies but like watching the grandchildren playing rugby and football. I'm also the president of Lower Nithsdale Young Farmers Club and coach their members at stock judging practices, beef cattle dressing, as well as coaching Dumfries and Galloway Young Farmers members at stock judging for Highland.

I like to see the young ones coming up through all the different ranks and levels and hopefully my input will help throughout coming years.

What’s the future of the show circuit?

The show circuit is in pretty good hands with the younger generation, which is coming on but the problem is the effects left after Covid-19 and whether small shows, or even larger shows, are able to continue.

However, I am sure they will survive through sheer determination, whether it be the cattle, sheep, horse, pig, goat or poultry breeders throughout width and breadth of country.

Good luck to all these stockpersons in the country. Keep safe and hopefully we will all meet up in 2021 for happier time and a dram or two.