By Julie Wight

Farming is difficult enough being born and bred into the industry, but it’s a completely different ball game entering the livestock sector without any previous experience. But, it is achieveable as well-respected and ‘kent’ face, Dougie McBeath, Stirling, has discovered.

On leaving school, Dougie went straight to work with hill sheep at Fendoch, up the Sma’ Glen, for 18 months. However, he swiftly moved into cattle when he started working for Tom Adams, who had Aberdeen-Angus at Lower Greenyards, Stirling, in 1984.

His enthusiasm for showing kicked off when he began working on the Isle of Man, for Doctor MacDonald, Ballamanaugh, with his state of the art unit showcasing top quality livestock.

In 1991 it was a move back across to the mainland to work with David and Ronald Dick’s Ronick Limousin herd, from Stirling, that his whirlwind career really kicked off showing pedigree livestock.

Almost 15 years later, Dougie made the decision to go self-employed in January, 2005, which proved a huge hit, with an abundance of work coming his way turning out cattle for other people. It also enabled him to run a small herd of pedigree Limousin cattle with his partner, Sarah-Jane Jessop.

What is your chosen breed?

Limousin is by far my favourite, it is one that I can’t explain, but it is the breed that I love to be with.

Some would say they are wild cattle, but they are only as wild as the men who are handling them. They are intelligent animals and a privilege to work alongside.

Who got you started showing?

My father, Charlie, was an electrician and my mother, Norma, was a nurse, so neither were farming related. However, they gave me the inspiration to work hard and enabled me to follow my dream.

I used to go and visit the late Jim Donald, of Wester Campsie, when I was young, and it was always a good laugh going down to see Peter the pony. I got asked to hold the hosepipe to water the fatstock cattle, and after that I was hooked – I couldn’t stay away from the place and that was at just eight years of age.

I have got Jim to thank for where I am now. I wouldn’t be in this career if it wasn’t for him and I can’t express my gratitude enough to him.

Showing success?

The first cow I ever showed was Broadmeadows Ainsi, which stood first at the Royal Highland Show in 1991 and reserve breed champion. A fortnight later, at the Royal Show, she was breed and inter-breed champion which was believed to be the first time a Limousin had lifted the supreme beef at the Royal Show.

I found the Royal Highland difficult to win but after winning my first championship in 1996 with Ronick Janita, I brought out several others, winning the supreme seven times to date, with Brockhurst Batik, Hafodlas Domino and Brockhurst Bolshoi in 2008, 2012 and 2014, respectively.

On a personal basis, we were lucky enough to be reserve in the breed with Poolehall Iris, at both the Royal Highland and the Great Yorkshire, in 2016.

At the Royal Show, I’ve assisted in bringing out part of the winning pair that won the Burke Trophy four times and reserve three times.

The Royal was always one of my favourites, lifting the award for the best exhibitor bred female with Ronick Danita once while her daughter, Janita, bagged it four times – five years in succession. Not many will have achieved that.

In the sale rings, 2004 was one of the best years I had, achieving up to 20,000gns for Ronick Telma, while Ronick Money reached 18,000gns at Carlisle, at the Ronick reduction sale.

From 2008 to 2014, I brought out three inter-breed winners for Doug Mash at the Highland Show.

Brockhurst Batik was reserve inter-breed in 2008; Hafodlas Domino won the supreme beef award in 2012 and Brockhurst Bolshoi was third in the overall inter-breed cattle line-up in 2014 and then went on to win the Queen’s Cup for best exhibitor bred.

I couldn’t have done any of that without the assistance, of the great, up and coming Ben Bellew.

What is the best animal you have ever shown?

Ronick Janita has got to be the most successful animal that I have ever shown but my favourite will always be Broadmeadows Ainsi and her daughter, Ronick McAinsi.

Ainsi was my first ever big winner, taking supreme at the Royal and every bull that she bred sold in to a pedigree herd, which says something.

McAinsi also won the Royal Show as a cow for Doug Mash, and has bred well, being the mother of Batik and Bolshoi, as well as breeding females to 24,000gns.

But what is the best animal you have ever seen?

The Charolais cow, Kilkenny Celia, brought out by the great showman, Jimmy McMillan senior, is always one that stands out to me, being just my type, with a tremendous block of beef on her. She was very successful throughout the show ring.

Another right breedy female was Darshams KitKat, from the Clements family, which ironically was brought out by Jimmy McMillan junior. She was a standout female throughout her life and sold for a record price of 18,000gns in 2006.

Abiding memory?

There are many to choose from, but one that stands out for me is leading the parade after Ainsi stood overall champion at the Royal Show in 1991 – the first ever Limousin to do so. I was grinning like a Cheshire cat all the way round the ring…

Another that clocks up to the top was when Ronick McAinsi lifted the championship at the Red Ladies sale in 1998 before going on to sell for 28,000gns, which was a world record at the time for a maiden heifer, selling to my dear friend Doug Mash.

Biggest disappointment?

I do not do disappointments, you have to get up, brush yourself down and go again.

There will always be times when you are disappointed you never won, but there will also be times you were lucky to win – you just have to take it in your stride and always be proud of what you have done.

Who has got the best kist parties?

As long as there is a dram available, every party is a good kist party. Dodging up and down the lines, they are all much of a likeness and everyone is always so friendly and welcoming, especially at the Royal Highland.

What’s been your best show over the years?

The old Smithfield was always one to beat and among summer shows it would have to be the Royal Show, it was the best show in the world when it was still going and always a highlight of the show calendar. But, since it has gone, it has to be the Royal Highland.

Biggest achievement ?

Even if it is 25-acre, my biggest achievement is buying a farm with my partner SJ, albeit we couldn’t have done it without the financial backing from SJ’s father, John Baker, which we will always be thankful for his support and kindness.

I would be lost without the connections and way of life I have made in this career.

Your choice of best stockmen?

My first real boss in the cattle job, Tom Adam, Greenyards, taught me a lot about feeding cattle, to ensure they are fit and not just fat, as well as getting my keen eye on judging cattle from him.

Jim Donald was a master in what he did, there’s no doubt about that. Dave Smith (wee Smithy) and Dennis Gall are two that I couldn’t go past as well. Wee Smithy was one of a kind, he would always turn the cattle out to perfection, he was always up for the party the night before but no matter what, he was always up at 4 o’clock getting the cattle to perfection.

Dennis is huge inspiration to all, what has the man not done in cattle and sheep? He is just an all out performer and is still at it yet producing perfection every time.

Interest out with farming?

An afternoon out at the rugby going to watch Scotland is always good fun, but the majority of my memories are all through the cattle and socialising with friends at shows and sales. It is my life, but also my passion.

Changes over the years?

The Limousin breed itself has changed a lot.

There are more commercial types with the thicker type bulls making big money, but to me there are too many dumpy ones that just have a big carcase. There has been too much focus on the back-end in recent years.

The emphasis needs to be on pelvic scoring for breeding replacement females for easy calving. The shape is overpowering and taking away from more powerful females.

We need to focus more on the quality of the females, because if you lose them, you lose half your customers.

Future of showing ?

There are a lot of uncertainties, but if we keep at it, I think the job will be ok.

Some of the bigger shows have been running for 150 years, so, they are not just going to give up. I just hope they keep going as it is always good to see the youngsters coming through.

Professionalism is coming into the job which makes competing so much more difficult for the new ones. Showing has always been hard work, but the bar is set so high that if you don’t reach it, you’re left behind.

It is harder to learn about the preparation behind show animals now that there are so many professionals and it’s very competitive. So here’s to the 2021 show season and being reunited at kist parties up and down the country.