After a phenomenal year in the sale rings, Archie MacGregor takes the focus of our attention this week as he shared his reasons for being hooked into the pedigree world.

Born and bred at Allanfauld, that’s where it all began for him as it was home to a Blackface flock along with cross-bred suckler cows.

In 1970, Allanfauld changed from using Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford bulls on the suckler herd to being some of the first Charolais breeders in the area and then using the bulls on the herd.

“Charolais, in my opinion, is the best breed for crossing over any type of beef cattle, for quicker finishing, growth, conformation and fleshing,” said Archie, who runs the farm alongside son, John and shepherd, David Kinloch. They farm 2000 acres and now run 1600 Blackface ewes and around 60 breeding cows of the Charolais, Limousin and Luing breeds.

Although it’s Blackface sheep that have always been the mainstay of the family’s business, more recently John has become enthusiastic about the Texels. And despite the fact Allanfauld have used Bluefaced Leicesters since the 1960s, it is only recently that the MacGregors started to take a serious interest in breeding them.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

I always showed sheep and calves at our local shows. Jim McKechnie senior came to buy show calves from us in the 1970s and I asked if I could help him at Smithfield and take a steer of my own in 1976.

Jim won Smithfield that year with the Allanfauld-bred Fizz and I had the reserve steer champion with Mr Chips – needless to say I was hooked!

Who inspires you in farming?

My two elder brothers, Donald and Jimmy, inspired me as a boy and my father, Duncan, although not previously involved in pedigree breeding, gave us lots of encouragement and was instrumental in building up the farming business.

What was your first Royal Highland Show?

I don’t think I have missed a Highland Show since I was seven years old. I started showing commercial cattle around 1980 and after a couple of years we were reserve with a steer called Sebastian.

We ventured to the Blackface sheep ring in the 1990s and have since been awarded champion three times.

What’s the best animals you’ve ever shown and bred?

It would have to be Clansman, Smithfield champion in 1998, sired by Shatton Pedro and out of a Vagabond daughter.

In the Blackfaces, I would choose The Hulk, which was Blackface champion at the Highland in 2014 and sold for £24,000 to Blackhouse and Williamhope. He was also voted Champion of the Decade in The Scottish Farmer poll this year.

John’s 2019 show gimmer is a stand out among the Texels, she is by Knap You’re the Man, and went on to sell for 22,000gns.

The best animals I think we’ve bred among the Blackfaces would have to be Sergeant Pepper and the £80,000 lamb sold this year. It is a great thrill when you hit the top end sale prices.

My favourite among the Texels was Allanfauld Am the Man, which attained 24,000gns.

The cattle side of things, without a doubt it would be Allanfauld Vagabond, a tremendous crossing bull and bred exceptionally for our pure Charolais herd, and selling Allanfauld Neptune for 20,000gns will be another hard one to forget.

Vagabond bred my favourite cross-bred, Starlight, which was sold as a calf to Geoff Bellas, and went on to win Smithfield.

Finally, among the Limousins, the Stars of the Future winner, Allanfauld Jolene, made £18,000 and Allanfauld Nemesis sold for 27,000gns.

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

In the Charolais, it is a toss-up between Kilkenny Celia, Mowbraypark Gigi and Elgin Catherine, whilst in the Limousins, it would have to be William Smith’s Millbrook Ginger Spice.

Among the Blackfaces, the £40,000 Dalchirla is a real stand out animal and will always have a place in my mind.

Another toss-up would be among the commercial cattle, being between Ewen and Donald MacPherson’s The Bandit and Hugh Dunlop’s Dancing Queen.

The Texel champion of the decade in The SF this year has to be my choice in that breed. This Teiglum gimmer went on to breed the 70,000gns Young Gun. Probably the most consistent Texel sire in recent years.

The Scottish Farmer: Archie collecting his ticket from the Queen at Smithfield Archie collecting his ticket from the Queen at Smithfield

Archie collecting his ticket from the Queen at Smithfield

Changes over the years?

Over my lifetime, I have seen the transition from native breed dominance to continental dominance in both cattle and sheep. Native cattle have got bigger to compete and still have a very good quality story to tell.

Blackface sheep in the past have been criticised for being too small but for the most part this has changed in recent years. I feel they need to have the ability to grow and produce a 20kg-plus carcase, and although style and character are very important, we must never forget to breed for carcase, shape, bone and tight coats to protect them on the hill.

Abiding memory?

An after dinner speech by the late Ben Wilson, Troloss. He just oozed enthusiasm for the Blackface breed. I was only about 14 at the time but I remember most of what was said to this day.

Biggest disappointment?

There have been many disappointments, but I try not to dwell on them. Something always comes along to lift the spirits. When you analyse your mistakes, there is always something to learn for the future.

Most influential person in your career?

Undoubtedly my father, who encouraged me in every way and drove me in my ambitions and then Jim McKechnie, who taught me the secrets of dressing and showing cattle. And, of course Ewen MacPherson, who was just an inspiration!

What has been your favourite show over the years and why?

There is only one answer to that ... the Royal Smithfield Show.

The anticipation at that time of year, with the build-up in progress, the trip in the lorry down to London, the unique smell as you walked into Earl’s Court, the camaraderie, the kist parties, the excitement of showing and occasionally winning, not to mention the bright lights of Soho.

Those of us who enjoyed the Smithfield experience were very lucky.

Your choice of best stockman/shepherd ever?

The top livestock at sales are the result of a combination of breeding, feeding and presentation. In my opinion, those stockmen with control of the breeding will have most influence in their respective breeds.

When I was young, I really admired Davie Cunningham, Sandy Paterson (at Connachan) and Allan Wight, Midlock.

Nowadays, it must be Allan Wight junior, who is at the top of three different breeds and Ian Hunter, at Dalchirla, who has dominated the Blackface breed for over two decades.

In the cattle world, Bruce and Hamish Goldie have followed well in their father’s footsteps.

The best kist parties?

The Smithfield kist parties were probably the most memorable, but all are good, even the ones up the Blackie lines at the Highland, in the dark and sometimes freezing cold.

Interests outwith farming?

We have a large supportive family and any spare time we have, we like to spend time with them. Our 16 grandchildren keep us very busy. I also enjoy a good book when I get peace to read it.

Best advice?

When buying a stock tup or bull, the quality of the dam is probably more important than the sire.

If you could change one thing what would it be?

We should have moved years ago to a better farm, but I guess we are stuck here now.

Biggest showing achievement?

There are a few good memories.

Winning Smithfield with Clansman in 1998; being placed first to eighth in a Charolais steer class at Cally Market. All were by Allanfauld Vagabond and the one that was fifth went on to win Smithfield, it just shows a different person’s opinion…

Another that I always remember is winning the Blackface National Show in 2017 with Lady Mac and this year we sold her grandson for £80,000, which is a record for our flock.

John also showed three successive Limousin champion bulls at the Stirling Bull Sales from 2013 to 2014.

Best investment?

Buying a half share in a £3500 shearling from Dalchirla last year – the best breeding tup we have ever used.

Also buying Acton Semele in 1983 for 2000gns for my wife, Libby – the following year, Semele bred Allanfauld Vagabond and what a success that has been!

The future of the showing circuit?

Once 2020 has been consigned to history, I’m sure things will get back to some sort of normality.

We have a tradition to keep up and there are plenty enthusiastic and talented young stock people, including my son, John and sons in-law, Pandy, Matthew, Tim and Stuart, who are just raring to get the ‘shows’ on the road again!