Bringing out 12 bull sales champions is a lifetime achievement in itself but is one that Iain Campbell has under his belt – and he hopes he’s not finished yet!

Now based at Upper Huntlywood with John Elliot where he helps run the Gordon herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle, which play a big part in the 700 acre farm.

A love of farming began at a young age for Iain, when his father worked for Jimmy Tait’s Balmyre Hereford herd, before moving to Major Walter’s Balthayock herd.

Balthayock has been a real influencer on the Campbell family, with four generations-worth of experience gained there.

However, the first job for Iain was in 1984 when he became assistant cattle man at Neil Massie’s Blelack herd, working alongside Ian McDonald. Three years later, after his departure of Ian, he moved up to the position of head stockman at the age of just 20.

After 19 years at Blelack, Iain needed a new challenge and moved down to Lockerbie to work for Danny Sawrij for a new challenge.

In 2013, his latest move was to Kelso with John Elliot, where he is at present.

What is your chosen breed and why?

My first love was the Charolais, purely because it was what I grew up with. Over the years, I have sided more with the Aberdeen-Angus, as that’s what I’m now mainly involved with.

So, that’s now my main focus, though we also have some Shorthorn and Limousin cattle here at Upper Huntlywood.

What got you involved in showing?

My dad. He was always a great supporter of both local and national shows and as early as I can remember I would spend most Saturdays in the summer going around all the shows with him and following in his footsteps. It is something I have done all my life.

Although perhaps my goal nowadays is more focused on bull sales, as opposed to summer shows, they are both vital parts of our farming calendar.

Royal Highland Show experiences?

I have won it once with the Aberdeen-Angus, Blelack Blackbird, back in 1989.

Another Angus, Linton Gilbertines Rosebud, was champion at the Great Yorkshire, whilst Linton Gilbertines Bold Ruler ruled supreme at the Royal Welsh, as well as being reserve a few times over the years!

Best animal you have ever shown?

The Charolais, Blelack Gabriella. She was female champion, reserve overall and went on to pick up The Scottish Farmer trophy the same year at the Royal Highland Show in 1993.

She was an animal that could sense it was show day – she would shine and show herself. She didn’t disappoint in the sale ring either when she sold for 12,500gns at the Christmas Cracker, at Carlisle.

At Swalesmoor, it would have to be in 2008 when the young Charolais bull, Swalesmoor Cupid, was junior inter-breed at the Highland and went on to win the Perth Bull Sales before making 12,000gns. He was a great-natured kind – you could leave the kids working with him he was that much of a gent…

Another Highland success was Linton Gilbertines President, which stood reserve junior champion before taking reserve supreme at the Yorkshire. He went on to take the top honours at Stirling Bull Sales in 2017 before being bid to 17,000gns.

The Scottish Farmer: One of the highlights – the champion at Stirling Bull Sales, Linton Gilbertine President, that Iain brought out for the late Gordon Brooke, which sold for 17,000gns Ref:RH2210170230One of the highlights – the champion at Stirling Bull Sales, Linton Gilbertine President, that Iain brought out for the late Gordon Brooke, which sold for 17,000gns Ref:RH2210170230

Best animal you have ever seen?

Kilkenny Celia – if anyone had anything to do with Charolais cattle back then, their answer would have to be her.

She was unbeatable. Anyone who saw her said she was just outstanding. She didn’t just come out one year and win it, she did it for a couple of years on the trot and continued to succeed.

Changes over the years?

The public getting access to show. It is a real shame for the public to have so little access to what really goes on behind the scenes, though I accept it’ll never change now as a lot of it is down to health and safety.

Even I got chucked out the Royal Highland Show cattle lines one year when I was a judge for not having a livestock band!

I remember back in the day at Perth Bull Sales on the Sunday we exercised the bulls before the public came in to have a look – you could barely move for people on that day!

The products used to dress the cattle are totally different now. We used to oil down the Angus’ show cattle, now most are dressed up, but the standard of dressing cattle has improved drastically just because of modern products.

Abiding memory?

Judging the Aberdeen-Angus at Stirling Bull Sales 10 years ago. It was a real honour to be asked and there have been very few stockmen that have judged at it ... it is more of a breeder’s thing. That was as big of high as anything!

Biggest disappointment?

You get a lot in this trade!

Swalesmoor Aladdin stood junior champion at the Royal Highland and one night I was doing my routine checks and found him stone cold dead in his pen after checking him a few hours earlier. He was geared up for the bull sales and had great potential.

It was the phone call after that was the hardest when having to tell your boss…

Most influential people?

My mother and father. I learnt a lot from trailing behind them at a young age and I wouldn’t be in the career I am if it wasn’t for them.

Even though they are retired now, they are still a huge help at shows and sales and there for advice when I need it most!

As are my wife, Hazel and children, Isla and Kirsty. They are there for any help and support I need and are all very keen on agriculture.

I must mention Henry Durward. He was stockmen at Douneside and would be a regular visitor to Blelack. He was always there for good advice. He brought out a bull that made 54,000gns in 1964 ... so he was a reliable source!

Another I would like to mention is Neil Massie. I went there at 17 years old, so he has had a big influence on me, and I wouldn’t be where I am without that start. He would have taken a big risk making me head stockmen at 20 years old.

Neil always encouraged me, so much so that when I achieved my first championship with Swalesmoor he sent me a letter of congratulations. It was a lovely gesture.

Favourite shows?

I got engaged at the Royal Highland Show, so it will always be one to remember! After a day of celebrating in the cattle rings, I popped the question at night …

The Great Yorkshire Show is also a great one as it is really family oriented.

Best stockmen?

There are so many in the industry that are great value – that being said, stockmen can only make the best of what they have.

If I were to pick one person, the one I always admired was the late Fred Smith, he was equally capable at bringing out bull sale and Smithfield winners. Whether it was commercial or pedigree, he always had everything to perfection as well as being a great character.

Interests outwith farming?

Work takes up most of my time!

Best advice?

Put the hard work in at home – you can’t bring a champion out just by spending some time on it at a show! Through your career you have got to be thick-skinned and you need the highs to make up for the lows.

Biggest achievement?

Bringing out 12 supreme bull sales champions – nine Aberdeen-Angus and three Charolais champions.

Each one is as special as any other and I am proud to have achieved what I have so far.

The future of the showing circuit?

Hopefully, with the news of the vaccine it is a bit rosier!

Shows have to keep going. Not only are they good for advertising what you have but they are a great social relief for many hard-working people. Enjoying ourselves and meeting up!

I’m optimistic that things will move on and there will be a strong future out there. If they miss another year of showing, it will be even harder for many of us to get back into the swing of it again, though.