Well-known Texel breeder, Brian MacTaggart, from Douganhill, Palnackie, Castle Douglas, shares how showing began in his career and his achievements over the years.

Born at Knocksting, Dalry, Kirkcudbrightshire, it wasn’t long until the family moved to Garwald, Eskdalemuir, where Brian’s father, Andrew, ran South Country Cheviot and Blackface sheep, along with a suckler cattle herd. However, at the age of just 12, the family moved back to Kirkcudbrightshire in 1970 when Brian’s father and brothers started the fencing and haulage business, MacTaggart Brothers. Brian had no interest in driving lorries, so at the age of 16 he went to stay and work on Hensol Estate, with his sister and brother in law, Yvonne and David Grant.

After marrying Janice in 1978, they joined the Grants at Gelston Castle Estate, where Brian has been for 42 years, the last 24 years as manager of Douganhill Farms. There, the team run 100 pedigree Texels, 100 accredited Cheviot Mules, 200 Cheviot Mules for breeding fat lambs and 500 North Country Cheviots, of which 200 are kept pure and 300 crossed to the Bluefaced Leicester – as well as a herd of 200 sucklers, all across 1650 acres.

What is your chosen breed?

On a trip to Castle Douglas market my eyes were drawn to the Texel cross lambs. I was so impressed with the shape of them that I thought we should be trying them.

In 1980, we bought two Texel shearling tups, one from Andrew Barr, Heatheryhall, and the other from Charles Scott, East Middle, which was the beginning of our own Texel cross prime lambs. The Texel to me is everything you need in a sheep, it can be used both for breeding commercial females and quality prime lambs as well as being successful in the pedigree market. They are milky and the lambs are full of vigour at lambing time.

What got you involved in showing?

It all began from showing home-bred prime lambs at local shows. We soon got inspired and ventured to the Royal Highland, Winter Fair and Smithfield.

Once our pedigree numbers got established we decided to start showing at our local shows – Dumfries, Moffat and Stewartry. In 1985, we were awarded a fifth prize for a Texel ewe lamb at Dumfries Show and you would think I had won the World Cup I was so chuffed.

Have you always been on a farm?

I was brought up on a farm, so farming has always been in my blood. My Dad, Andrew, encouraged me from a young age – we were always out working with sheep either at lambing or gathering time, so I always knew what I wanted to do.

My wife Janice, daughter Jennifer and son David used to help me at nights and weekends to dress the prime lambs. David still comes down at weekends to help with the Texels.

When was your first RHS?

That long ago that I can’t remember! I definitely cannot forget our first win in 1998 with our Texel ewe, Babycham. My first showing experience began when the late Wull Porteous introduced me to showing Ayrshires at Stewartry Show for Jim White, Hightae, in 1976.

The best animals you have ever shown?

It has got to be between three...

Our first Highland champion, Babycham, was a real turning point for our flock and one that will never be forgotten. Then, in 2008 we lifted the reserve champion among the Texels with Douganhill Crystal.

However, one of my proudest moments was with Bonnie Lass, when we took the inter-breed title for the first time, just last year at Ingliston – that really was something special.

What is the best animal that you have ever seen?

The 2010 North Country Cheviot gimmer from Hownam Grange, for me, was outstanding. She was so correct, had tremendous power and a great showing presence. Another sheep I must mention is the Procters’ ewe lamb, Cinderella – I just think she was a tremendous ewe lamb, simply stunning!

Changes over the years?

There have been many changes over the years within the Texel breed from having too much wool to having none at all, but it is good to see we have a bit of a compromise now.

There was a time that their head was everything which is not the purpose of this versatile breed, but now people are beginning to breed for body, power and shape again. After all, that is what they came into this country for.

Personally, I like a nice flashy head, but do not want a big bucket head. My focus is on the body of the sheep.

Abiding memories?

Our first win at the Highland in 1998 with Babycham and with our Texel cross prime lambs will always be a special memory to us. That same year, we were also champion at the Winter Fair and Smithfield – that was some year for us! The celebrations that followed were not so memorable ...

In the sale ring, Douganhill Jeronimo sold for 48,000gns at the Solway and Tyne Texel Club Sale, at Carlisle, to the Haltcliffe flock – that’s certainly up there with my achievements and by far our best price to date.

More recently and one that will last with me forever was taking that first inter-breed championship at the Highland.

Biggest disappointment

I don’t do disappointments. When you show, you just have to accept the judge’s decision whether you like it or not. Although you might not agree with it, you just have to take it on the chin – there will always be another show to compete at.

However, a major disappointment occurred last year at the Royal Highland when I missed my grand-daughter, Katie, winning the inter-breed young handlers. I had to come home for work, although she clearly does better when I am not there watching!

Most influential people?

There is certainly not just one...

The late Wull Porteous showed me a lot about bringing out show animals. It didn’t matter if it was dairy, beef or sheep, he was a master at bringing them all out he knew his stock well.

Inspiring me into showing prime lambs at the Royal Highland, Scottish Winter Fair and Smithfield was the late Bob Osborne, Durisdeer – he encouraged me to believe in myself and my ability.

The late Scott Johnston and Robin Hope were two Texel breeders that you could not forget for their endless talents. Scott was a quiet man but always gave me good advice and Robin was a master at presenting sheep.

My brother-in-law, David Grant taught me a lot over the years. He took me under his wing, or tried to and has done the same for my son David, which I will always be truly grateful for.

Lastly, but by no means least, my wife Janice, she gives me a lift when she thinks I need it but at the same time she can bring me back down to earth with a bang!

Favourite show and why?

Although the Royal Highland and the Great Yorkshire are some of the top shows now, the one that would have to top them all would be the old Smithfield.

I have been fortunate enough to judge the length and breadth of the UK and Northern Ireland to see all different kinds of shows, however, it doesn’t matter what show it is you meet so many people and some of which have become lifelong friends – and that is what showing is all about.

Who has the best kist parties?

We have had a few kist parties of our own over the years, but the ones at Smithfield, in London, take a bit of beating. After a week in London you were guaranteed to have the ‘Smithfield Flu’ when you got home, now it is ‘Smithfield Blues’.

Interests outwith farming

I enjoy watching and going to rugby matches, I just love the atmosphere at the live matches. A wee bit of shooting has never done me any harm although I am not the best at it, but it is good banter and great chat all the same.

Any spare time in the winter I like to relax by doing a bit of drawing, although I may not be that good at it, I do enjoy it.

The future of showing?

There is a strong future when you look up and around the show ring and see the number of youngsters that are beginning to get involved it is really encouraging.

Supporting young handler classes at all levels is so important as it is the first step at bringing them on and giving the youngsters that confidence boost that is required and seeing what it is all about for themselves.

The youth really are what stands the showing circuit in good stead.

They are the future generation that will take it all on – and if we can pass on some experience and tips to them, it is a bonus.