By Kathryn Dick

Christina Cormack has been at the heart of the Belted Galloway Cattle Society and the Zwartbles Sheep Association for more than 10 years now, as well as being heavily involved in her family-run pedigree beef and sheep farm.

Through her early involvement in dairy farming to working with pedigree auctioneers, semen sales and feed companies, Christina has had the opportunity to travel nationwide and worldwide following her passion for agriculture.

She opened up to The Scottish Farmer.


I was born in Ayrshire and was brought up on a dairy farm, where my dad – David Hastings – was herd manager at that time for the Wheatrig herd of Ayrshire cattle. From a very early age, my two brothers and myself led calves at local shows.

At six-years-old we moved to Dorset, where my dad managed the Future and Crichel herds of Holsteins and this was when the showing bug hit us all! My dad toured the country with cows for shows and we grew up on the show circuit, which was a great life and I made so many friends, as well as learning so much about the industry and all the different breeds.

One fond memory was taking a cow all the way from Dorset to Edinburgh for the DairyScot show, with dad driving the lorry alongside mum and I. He had bedded the entire back of the lorry and the cow was loose so she had plenty of room and was comfortable. The 12-hour long journey was worth it as the cow stood champion.

We moved to Cheshire when I was 15, where my dad and brother, David, managed the Painley herd. At this point, David and I were enrolled into the Holstein Young Breeders Club, which was an amazing group of people and we learnt so much and had so much fun in competitions. We took part in events such as field to photo, showmanship, weekend rally, dairy pentathlon, clipping and many more.

YBs taught us an awful lot and gave us so many opportunities, as well as making so many friends from near and far. I used to love the calf shows and the competitiveness of it all, and I can still remember the day when I beat my brother. I was very proud and that was the day he retired from showmanship, as he said I wasn’t getting the opportunity to beat him again!

I met my husband Fraser – a cattle foot trimmer and beef farmer – in 2000 and we managed to secure a smallholding shortly after. My husband undertook show and sale preparation for clients and we attended shows around the country, as well as the Perth and Stirling Bull Sales.

We now have a small herd of pedigree Limousin and Aberdeen-Angus cattle, and the children have a flock of Blue Texels, Dutch Spotted and recently they purchased two Beltex ewes to start a small flock of those. The children are so keen and we want to encourage them as much as possible and give them as many opportunities as we can.

What’s your job and what does it entail?

I have worked in the industry all my life. Having left school at 16, my ambition was to start a farm secretary business and go around various farms doing their paperwork.

However, I was too young for the college course and had to wait a year, so I worked as an office junior in the pedigree sales department at Wright-Manley Auctioneers, in Cheshire. I spent four years there and never did undertake that college course!

I then worked as Young Breeders co-ordinator for the British Holstein Society. I loved this job as I felt that I was organising events for other young people that I had so enjoyed and still did enjoy. These two roles taught me a lot and put me in good stead for my current job as breed secretary for the Belted Galloway Cattle Society and the Zwartbles Sheep Association.

The two societies keep me working full time and the job is so varied, which I love. With registrations and transfers of all the animals, compiling sale catalogues and attending shows and sales, I have been a breed secretary for more than 12 years now and I wouldn’t change a thing. You get to meet and speak to so many different people who all have different stories to tell of why they keep cattle or sheep.

Best and worst advice?

Two pieces of good advice. The first from my boss at Wright-Manley. One morning when I was held up by traffic and was late, I sped into the car park at work and then ran across the car park and into the office. I apologised for being late he said ‘it’s better to be late in this world than early in the next’ and I have never forgotten that. When I am late and driving a bit too quickly, I now say that phrase to myself and slow down.

The other was from my late father in-law, George Cormack, who always said ‘if you enjoy your job, you will be good at it’. This is so true and I think if you enjoy your career, you will go that extra mile.

The worst is when my husband tells me ‘you never let go of a beast ... you always hang on!’ This has resulted in me being dragged round many a farm yard, as well as ending up in a water trough with a sheep on top of me. But I never did let go of that sheep!

What gives you job satisfaction?

I’m lucky enough to work for two breed societies and be able to communicate with so many different people all over the country and abroad. I love watching and helping the societies grow each year through shows, sales and online platforms, and also being able to integrate modern ways into the societies.

Biggest disappointment?

I wouldn’t say that I’ve had any disappointments, just hurdles that I’ve had to overcome.

Most abiding memory?

The friendships that I have gained through working in the dairy industry – they are friends for life. You may not see someone for 10 years and then you bump into them at an event and it seems like it was only yesterday you last saw each other.

Most influential people?

It has to be my parents. My dad because of his strong dairy roots, his passion for the job and work ethic – I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show cattle, travelled across world or be involved in the livestock industry without his influence. He opened doors for jobs in my later career and even found me a husband – although it wasn’t easy telling my dad that I was marrying a beef farmer!

He always jokes and reminds Fraser that: “You are my favourite son-in-law ... oh that’s right I only have one!”

I have to thank my mum for bringing us up with the mentality that you have to work for things and you don’t get everything handed to you.

I also have to mention my husband, Fraser, and two children, Cameron and Chloe, for their passion for the livestock industry. They push me everyday to help look after the industry as it is the path that both children want to go down.

Your biggest achievement?

Winning champion young handler at the National YMA calf show in 1996 and in turn, gaining a trip sponsored by Semex UK to represent the UK in the 4H handler competition at the Toronto Winter Fair, which was a great experience.

The Canadians were so professional and helpful and to top it off I came fifth out of 64, which at the time was the highest place that a UK person had come in the competition.

Biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome?

During my time working for the British Holstein Society, they merged with the Holstein Friesian Society and this was a very difficult and stressful time!

Looking back now, of course, it was the right thing to do and it needed to happen, but the job was never the same for me – the British Holstein Society was like a family.

Main problems in the industry?

I would say cheap imports coming into the country are a problem, especially when we have superior quality products already in the UK.

The government also don’t seem to view farming as a priority anymore and both these issues combined make it harder to succeed in agriculture, no matter what sector you are in.

Are you involved in any other organisations?

I don’t have a lot of time for much else, other than running my two children around to rugby and hockey. Any spare time is spent as a family and usually involves doing something with sheep!

The main challenges the younger generation?

The industry has lots of challenges but the main one is being able to find that first hitch up onto the ladder. No matter what sector you want to go into, whether its dairy, beef, arable or sheep, with the shortage of farms being available and rising costs, it can be a huge challenge.

Also, the amount of red tape that surrounds the whole sector seems to be getting worse, but on a brighter note, hopefully the long-term Brexit plan may see a positive future for farming and possibly open the door to more opportunities for younger people.

Technology also plays a huge favour to younger farmers nowadays and that will help progress their business when they are given the chance.

Advice for any female wanting to make a career within agriculture?

Go for it! You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it and are dedicated. It is no longer a male dominated industry as I have spent my entire career within the agricultural sector.

Given the right platforms, women can be as successful as any man in this industry and then there’s that good saying...’Behind every great man, there’s a great woman!’

Favourite show?

In my younger days, it would be the Royal Show, at Stoneleigh, where my dad always had a big string of cattle. Nowadays, I would have to say the Royal Highland Show – however, I have so many fond memories of both.

Future plans?

Currently, it seems far more important to stay safe going forward and, like any parent, I would like to see my children flourish in their chosen paths in agriculture, be happy and get as much enjoyment from it as my husband and I both have.