By Kathryn Dick

When it comes to stockmen, there are few better respected than Jack Ramsay, from Mauchline, who continues to be a major influence in the world of showing.

Jack shared his long and distinguished career of 40-plus years of showing Highland cattle, Beef Shorthorns and back to his first love, poultry, with The Scottish Farmer.

What’s your background?

I was brought up at Mauchline Mains, which was a family run dairy where my father kept Ayrshire cattle (Ramsay Ayrshires). I studied agriculture at the Scottish Rural College, on the Edinburgh campus.

I then began working on numerous farms after my education, before settling to work for the late Tom McLatchie, at Millerston, just outside Mauchline.

What got you into showing in the first place?

I can't remember not having some kind of livestock about me as a kid, whether it was rabbits, pigeons or goats. However, it was bantam chickens that first got me hooked on the showing circuit – a hobby that I have recently returned to after a period of 40 years.

What qualities do you like about the breeds you work with?

All breeds were bred for a reason, but I have found that the Beef Shorthorn fits well into the system at Millerston – both in the pedigree and commercial markets.

The modern Shorthorn has an array of traits that include docility, longevity and the ability to cross well with most breeds. The fact that they are usually to be found still in the same field as I am, is also an advantage at my age!

What was your first Highland Show?

My first Highland Show with cattle was in 1973. I stood last in a class of Highlanders with a heifer that, six years later, won the breed championship. Both man and beast have since improved!

What was the best animal you have ever shown?

Highlander-wise it would have to be Una 10 of Millerston. She was one of those rare beasts that was at 12 o'clock all show season, from winning Ayr in April, to standing supreme at Dalmally in September, she kept her form throughout the summer.

Shorthorn-wise, Millerston Gretta Freya would be my choice. She gave us a lot of success as a heifer and she was a fantastic breeder as well. Her first calf, Millerston Jester, won the breed championship at all the major shows, in 2017, for Mark and Tracy Severn.

But what is the best animal you have ever seen?

A very good question! There have been a few animals that come to mind from over the years. The great Ayrshire cow, Dan Lindsay, showed back in the 1970s was a special beast. Harperfield Queen of the Ring was a very special animal ... just like her owner.

I also liked Kilkenny Celia, the Charolais cow that Jimmy McMillan brought out for Peter Donger – she was a class act. Even when she was lying down, you had to stop and look at her.

A Galloway bull that Willie McLean cleaned up a few years back, Blackcraig Kodiak, really filled the eye and the Hereford bull, Normanton 1 Laertes, that won the inter-breed at the Highland Show, a couple of years ago, really oozed quality.

The best Highland beast for me would have to be the heifer that tapped out as champion at the Toronto Winter Fair – she really was on her toes that day.

My favourite Beef Shorthorn was Bushypark Cherry 2, a heifer I judged at Tullamore Show, in Eire. So impressed was I with this beast that I bought her full brother as a five-month-old calf and he is now a stock bull at Millerston.

Changes over the years, good and bad?

The biggest change over the years is the number of women now showing cattle. When I started showing in the 1970s, there were very few women showing cattle, whereas now it is common place.

Good or bad, I'll let others decide – but to be fair, there are some that are quite good at it!

Abiding memory?

It would have to be when we sold Millerston Kasper for 20,000gns at the Stirling Bull Sales, held by United Auctions. He was the second highest priced Shorthorn bull ever to be sold, so it's a memory I'll always cherish.

Biggest disappointment?

Selling Millerston Kasper for 20,000gns was a very bitter sweet day as Grace, who had picked him out from a very early age, was not there to witness the occasion as she was very ill in hospital, having suffered a severe brain haemorrhage six weeks earlier.

Most influential people in your career?

My parents were very influential, obviously, as well as my long-suffering wife, Grace, who has always been the voice of reason and a calming influence. She has always supported me and had a genuine interest in the cattle at Millerston.

The late Tom McLatchie is another person who influenced my career – he had the confidence to give this very green young whipper snapper a chance! Working for Tom was a real experience and one could not help but learn from him.

Favourite show over the years?

I would have to say Dalmally. It was the last show of the season and all the champion Highland cattle from across the UK used to converge there for the unofficial world championships and the late Callum Auch ensured that everyone was well looked after, inside and out!

Best stockman ever?

There are a few stockmen that I have a lot of respect and admiration for. Men that know the job inside out and were well worth listening to and learning from. I'd better put them in alphabetical order – no one was better than the other, but all were masters of their craft.

They are: Alistair Clark, Donald McDairmid, Dave Smith, Ian Anderson, Jim Donald, Jim Guthrie, Jimmy McMillan and last, but by no means least, Rich Thomson. My good friend Rich, who is recovering from a recent stroke, has been a great help to me over the years at bull sales.

Rich has only missed one Perth or Stirling February bull sale since 1958, so there is not much he hasn't seen and a lot of people have benefitted from his knowledge and experience over the years.

Best and worst advice you’ve received?

The best advice I've received would be if you win, say nothing; if you get beaten, say even less. Know when you've been lucky.

The worst would be when Norman Taylor advised me at the Winter Fair that drinking Blue Nun wine wouldn't give you a hangover – he lied!

Biggest showing achievement?

Winning the Stirling Bull Sales has to be my biggest achievement by far. This is the business end of the job and is the crown that most cattlemen aspire to claim.

What's the future of the show circuit?

I'm sure the shows will bounce back after this year, they always have. I would say the future looks good as there are a lot of good, keen and young stock people out there.

We all hope there is a livestock industry for them in the future. I am certain that the tradition of stockmanship will continue for years to come.