HAVING invested huge amounts of time and energy into his traditional Bluefaced Leicester flock and Galloway cattle, there is no doubt Alan McClymont, from Kirkstead, Yarrow, has been flourishing in both show and sale rings in recent years

The family farms some 5000 acres between Kirkstead, the contract farm at Dryhope and Newhouse which in turn are home to 1800 Blackface and 30 pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes and 50 Galloway cows.

However, there are a few hands to help out between full-time employee, David Faulds; freelance stockman, Billy Brockie, who takes care of the stock at Newhouse; and Alan’s eldest son, Sam (16), who left school at Christmas to work at home.

Younger son, Oliver (14), is still at school, but shows a keen interest in the farm and helps out whenever he can. Alan’s wife, Hilary, works full time as a housing manager but also lends a hand!

“It is all very much a family affair here and it is encouraging to see the next generation coming through and supporting the industry,” said Alan, who is also vice-chairman of the Galloway Cattle Society.

Why are Blackies, trad Blues and Galloways your chosen breeds?

Blackface sheep are a real passion of mine and are the best hill breed suited to our climate, which rises from 1000ft to 2400ft above sea level.

The traditional Blues started as a hobby for my mother, Elizabeth, around 40 years ago and are now a main part of our business. We don’t cross any ewes up here, as we need all our in-bye ground for Blackie twins, so I have never felt the need to change from the original traditional type.

The herd of Galloways began in 1994 when I was looking for a new challenge and something to keep the grass down on the hill.

I have liked Galloways from a young age and remember coming home from the Highland with their journal claiming I would have some one day … it just reiterates the importance of shows.

What got you involved in showing?

Being brought up on a family farm, showing has always been in my blood. At an early age of four or five, I was always out in the sheep pens at Yarrow Show showing our Blackface sheep, with my late dad, Robin. Once showing gets into your blood, it is something you will always want to do.

Who inspires you?

My biggest influencers are my parents and I will always be thankful for everything they have done for me. Any spare time I had when I was younger, I was out on the farm lending a hand.

I left school at 16 and came straight home, although I did do a lot of freelance work on various other units to gain experience.

My father handed over the day to day running of the farm when I was just 20, as he believed that many farmers held onto the control for too long. However, he was still always heavily involved in the business.

The most important thing in a successful farm is the enthusiasm and new ideas coming in.

What was your first RHS?

We are pretty fresh to the Royal Highland, with our first time exhibiting being in 2016 – there was always plenty of work on without spending time on show stock.

However, when the traditional and crossing-type of Bluefaced Leicesters split into two separate sections in 2016, we wanted to show our support as well as us wanting to push on more with the Blues, which certainly has helped us in the sale ring!

My sons, Sam and Oliver, were a huge encouragement and told me to go for it! I am so glad that I did, having won the section three years in succession – 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The first year we went we were just going to see the standard of the stock and we thought if we got a ticket of any form it would be fantastic but we were purely going to enjoy the experience and the camaraderie of it all – never did we think we would come away with the championship in our first year!

We were planning to begin showing our Galloways this year, but that was put on hold when I was asked to judge what was suppose to be this year’s show. There’s always time yet!

What’s the best animal you’ve shown?

I will always have a soft spot for our Royal Highland double champion, Burndale G1, but my favourite must be Kirkstead F22, which won the Scottish progeny show two years on the trot in 2015 and 2016 as a one and two-crop ewe.

She bred really well for us and still looks fantastic as a seven-year-old, we definitely retired her too early!

What’s the best animal you’ve ever seen?

In the Galloways, it would be the bull Blackcraig Kodiak, which won both the Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire Show in 2009. He was an outstanding beef animal.

Among the Blackies, it would be the 2002 Royal Highland winner, 007, shown by Gosland and brought out exceptionally by Angus Kennedy, he had an amazing presence about him.

One reaching away back to the 1970s, when my interest started in the Blues as a young boy, was a Laidlawstiel ewe that caught my eye for her unique and standing character. I can still picture her today!

Changes over the years?

The Galloways, have really came on a lot in the last 10-15 years – they are bigger in size as well as keeping their style. The breed is hitting the spec’ more and killing better. They also do a great job on the hill where they need to be.

In agriculture in general, there are fewer people on farm, so it is becoming harder to get jobs done as we have a lot more to do!

Biggest disappointment?

Many years of selling Blackface tups when I was a teenager were a disappointment. However, I now consider it to have been a learning curve!

We analyse every show or sale and take what we need from them, good or bad, before drawing a line under it the next day, there is no point in dwelling on what has been. There’s always a fine line between a pat on the back and a kick up the backside …

Abiding memory?

Recent sales have proved that hard work pays off.

One we can never forget, was just recently, in February, at the Galloway sale, in Castle Douglas, when we topped the sale at 16,000gns with Kirkstead Commander.

Our top price to date among the Blackies was in 2015 when a shearling sold for £20,000 at Lanark.

In the Blues, our best memory will always be doing the ‘triple crown’ at the Royal Highland, taking three champions on the trot for our first three years of showing!

Most influential person?

Apart from my parents, it has got to be neighbouring farmer, the late Jim Robertson, Dryhope.

He inspired me as a young lad – I was always over there to lend a hand and he would take the time to explain any job to a youngster. Although he would never tell you what to do, just give you advice …

Your favourite show?

I have got to go with my local, Yarrow. In years gone by, 35 shearlings and 25 old tups were the norm every year – it is great to see a local show getting so many exhibitors involved.

However, since starting to show at the Royal Highland, we love every part of it from showing, to advertising to socialising!

Best stockman ever?

I have been lucky to know a lot of good stockmen in my life, however, one in particular stands out ... Dennis Gall.

He helped me a lot when I got into the Galloways. He was always someone I would look up to because his cattle were always brought out to perfection and he is a great character – really a legend in the cattle world.

He must have thought that I was a sheep man desperately needing some help and thankfully he still helps me to this day as a semi-retired freelance.

The best kist parties?

The next kist party you go to is always the best! It is good to get around and go for a blether with everyone!

Outwith farming?

The boys both play rugby and football, so any spare time I do have is spent driving around the country and standing in the wind and rain to watch.

It is great to get away from the farm for an afternoon to take your mind off everything and socialise!

The future of the show circuit?

Smaller shows are starting to struggle for entries, so it is vital that we support them – they are the feeders for the big shows.

Everyone is getting better and better at presenting their stock and if you don’t push hard you will be left behind.

The Royal Highland goes from strength to strength every year and is the best advertisement you will get for your stock. It has been a huge encouragement for us these last few years.

The young people that are coming through are so talented and determined – we will be in good hands for the next generation.

I always say ‘you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it’ so get involved and get started, it is a wonderful career!

Get out and go for it – chase your dreams – don’t hope they will happen, make them happen!