At such a young age and a master of many breeds already, Alastair Jackson takes the limelight this week as our Stockmen of our Time.

Now based at Maulscastle Farm, Dumfries, with Kevin Watret’s Solway View herd as well as his own Tiptop flock, there isn’t much Ali will not take on board.

Brought up on Lindifferon Farm, in Fife, after finishing his course at Aberdeen college, he took the ‘trip of a lifetime’ to New Zealand and Australia.

On his return, he turned self-employed and worked mainly with James and Thomas Whiteford, at Tercrosset Farm.

It wasn’t until March, 2009, when Ali started doing some odd days work with Kevin Watret, that he soon landed himself a full-time job that September.

Some 12 years later, it is now where he calls home, and where Kevin’s son, Connor and Ali undertake the day to day running of the farm, which has 230 cattle and 400 sheep across 170 acres, as well as Ali renting 20 acres of his own.

The team work with British Blues, Limousins, Beltex, Texels and Blue Texels, whilst Ali runs his own flock of Beltex and Texels and shares the Dutch Spotted sheep with Kevin. There really isn’t much stopping the team ...

“The British Blues are a breed that I spend every day working with and the impact they have had on the commercial beef industry is second to none.

“Among the sheep, working with Beltex is a great honour and one that I have always been involved in when my dad first imported them in 1997,” said Ali.

If you had to choose another breed to go into what would it be?

Clydesdale horses. Having showed them for my nana and papa and helping Ronnie Black, at Collessie, I am determined that I will get a filly one day.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

It is in the breeding. Both sides of my family were great stockmen – mum’s side showed Landrace pigs all over the country, while my dad’s side showed cattle successfully.

I knew it was always going to be a part of my life and I am so thankful for everything we have attained over the years.

Have you always been on the farm?

I was born and bred on the farm and now working with Kevin, it is part of my life. I occasionally help Kevin with his KW Electrical business – it is sometimes good just to get away from farming for a day and a change of scenery!

Who inspires you?

My family, who have all been successful farmers in their own right. They have all made me who I am today.

Royal Highland Show experiences?

I have been to every Highland Show since I was born, I even came back from New Zealand early so I didn’t miss out on it.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in a lot of overall championships with both my dad and Kevin over the years. But the one that sticks out for me was winning my first ever first prize with the Beltex ewe lamb, Tiptop Bubble Gum.

Her full brother got second and reserve male champion to the overall champion Beltex that day too.

Your first win will always be remembered and feel special.

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

On the cattle side, it would be Solway View Elegance, she won the triple crown in 2013 – taking champion at the Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh – her daughter won the Highland Show just last year.

What a year 2013 was...

Winning championships has always been in her blood line, as she was a Gitan, out of Broomfield Vivien which won the Highland in 2008.

The Scottish Farmer:

Solway View Elegance won the triple crown in 2013 brought out by Ali

But what was the best animal that you’d ever seen?

Foxhillfarm Gracie was a heifer that stood out a mile on the show circuit – which was annoying as it was the same year we showed Elegance, which was reserve inter-breed to Gracie at the Great Yorkshire Show. It was gutting to miss out but she was one of a kind and she will be remembered by many breeders.

The sheep that stood out for me was Kingledores Adele, owned by Richard Wood. She is in a lot of pedigree Beltex now and she has made a massive impact on the breed over the years as well as my own Beltex flock.

Changes over the years?

British Blue cattle have improved a lot over the years. They are now a lot more correct and have the size, power and style to compete with any breed.

Modernisation is changing farming dramatically, so much so that we currently use calving probes that reads temperatures prior to calving.

Within the showing circuit, the cost of getting to shows is not cheap and will put people off especially when they are just starting out. However, showing is a lot of farmers livelihood including mine, and I can’t wait to venture back to shows whenever that may be...

Abiding memory?

Going to the Agribition, in Canada, with the British stock judging team and winning the best set of reasons for the Hereford cattle and being placed 10th overall.

Canadians and Americans seem to bring cattle out to another level, so it was a trip I will never forget and one that I learnt a lot from.

Biggest disappointment?

Losing any livestock. It is heart-breaking when something dies and it always seems to be a good one.

We just need to work through the harder times and hope that the better times follow.

Most influential person in your career?

I could name so many, my family and my fiancé, Hannah, but most of all Kevin my boss and friend.

I would not be where I am today without the opportunities he has given me over the years with his cattle and especially allowing me to run my own sheep on the farm allowing me the chance to try and build my flock.

Your favourite show over the years?

It has to be the Royal Highland Show – for me, it is the big one to win. The months of build up to the show wondering what is going to be the animal to beat and preparing your own.

It is a place to catch up with old friends that you may only see once a year and meet new ones along the way.

Best stockman/shepherd ever?

Among the sheep world it would be Allan Wight and his team at Midlock. Every year they produce the goods in so many breeds.

Another that is consistently good at turning out sheep is Stuart Wood – I am sure he has shares in Facebook.

The master in the trade for the beef cattle, I would have to say is Jim Goldie – he always does well selling pedigree cattle and they always look the best when he brings them out.

Drew Hyslop is another that must be mentioned for his attention to detail at turning show cattle out. He has given me a lot of advice over the years.

Although it is not really my profession, an easily stand out man in the dairy industry is Mark Knutsford, of the Riverdane herd. He does our cattle embryo transfer work and he can bring out dairy cows to perfection.

Who has got the best kist parties?

Solway View Wheelie bar. I’d hate to think how many kegs of lager Kevin has bought over the years, but it’s 15 kegs between the three major shows.

Interests outwith farming?

Until this year, I had played rugby for three very good clubs – Howe of Fife, Annan and Dumfries. I have been lucky enough to have won many competitions through them and have met some amazing people along the way.

Best advice?

Try new things don’t get stuck in old ways just because that is how you have always done it. Every day is a learning day and there is so many opportunities out there that could influence your herd or flock.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

That the UK would support British farming more and reduce the amount of meat and produce that is being imported.

Biggest showing achievement?

Winning the Great Yorkshire Show inter-breed in 2019 with the Dutch Spotted ewe, Tiptop Hannah. Achieving a major championship for my own flock was just phenomenal.

Best investment?

My first Valais Blacknose ewe, although I no longer have them now. That one ewe made me a lot of money.

The future of the showing circuit?

I hate to think what will happen after Covid-19 sorts itself out … we just have to hope all of the shows will survive this year.

However the competition has been getting stronger and stronger year on year and is more professional than ever – it makes us all work harder for what we want...