Bringing out any breed of cattle to a high standard from Orkney all the way down to Exeter now based in Inverurie has been the life long goal of Ian Matthew.


I was born and bred at Flowerybrae, Memsie, where my father farmed. I came straight home to work alongside him after I left school with the commercial cattle, until I got married in August, 1972. I then worked at various commercial and dairy farms before getting started in the pedigree work.

My first pedigree job was at Harestone, where I brought out Charolais cattle for five years, before moving to the Durnos, at Uppermill, for a further five years.

It was at that point I moved to Inverurie and started my freelance work in 2001 – securing two days a week at Thainstone auction market and filling the rest of my days in with pedigree cattle.

I have travelled from Orkney to Exeter to bring out show cattle ... it is amazing how news travels.

What got you involved with showing to start with?

My first success was winning the East Aberdeenshire Young Farmers overwintering competition on two separate occasions, one with a home-bred steer and another with a bought-in steer.

When I took part in the stock judging programme at the age of 16 at the Royal Highland Show they were looking for volunteers to lead cattle in the grand parade, I was lucky enough to get a nice white heifer that showed herself, and from there I was hooked.

What is your favourite breed?

It has got to be the Beef Shorthorn, for their good temperament and ease of handling, plus they show a variation of markings which make them stand out.

There has been a lot of different cattle since I started, but I wouldn’t like to see the bulls getting much bigger now. The way agriculture is going there are fewer men on farms, so we need to have more cows that will calve themselves and the Shorthorns seem to fit that bill pretty well.

They can also be crossed with any other breed to make a strong suckler cow, although I like to keep them as pure as possible.

The Morrison’s promotion has really helped the Beef Shorthorn breed find a place in the commercial market.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

Good conformation, not too much backside and great length as that is where the dear cuts of meat comes from along the top.

If you could go into another breed, which would it be?

Aberdeen-Angus or Simmental. I just love working with pure cattle and have done well with both breeds at various places bringing them out, they have a strong place in the commercial market too.

Best Highland Show achievements?

When the Uppermill Shorthorn heifer, Blythsome Jut, secured the junior, female and overall reserve champion. It was some day!

I was up against Robert Grierson, so it was always a good laugh ... we were the best of friends and always will be.

Biggest showing achievement?

Showing the Harestone Charolais stock bull, Thrunton Festival, at the Highland Show and the Royal, and managing to bag reserve champion on both occasions, before showing him up in the North-east of Scotland in the same year, 1994 and winning five championships. He went unbeaten that year.

Best sale day?

The Simmental bull, Starline Apollo secured my highest price to date of 20,000gns when bringing cattle out at Stirling Bull Sales after he stood senior champion in the pre-sale show.

He came from down in Exeter, although if he was from up in the North of England, I'm sure that bull would have made 10,000gns more.

Starline Apollo secured Ians highest price of 20,000gns at Stirling Bull Sales

Starline Apollo secured Ian's highest price of 20,000gns at Stirling Bull Sales

What is the best animal you have ever shown?

Starline Apollo. He was an outstanding bull from his shape and appearance, he was a gentle man to work with.

Also, the Shorthorn heifer, Blythsome Jut. I just really liked her temperament ... she was easy handled and always looked the part.

But what is the best animal, you have ever seen?

Peter Donger's Kilkenny Celia, shown by Jimmy McMillan. She had tremendous shape and great courage about her, and was always show ready ... you could never fault Jimmy for a lack of hard work.

Another would be Uppermill Lochalsh, which sold to Graeme Russell, when he then went on to win the Shorthorn section at the Highland and he came up to the North-east with it and was unbeaten at every show he attended.

Abiding memories?

The year that Thrunton Festival won five shows in the one year. He enjoyed being shown and I enjoyed showing him.

Winning the national show with and Aberdeen-Angus at Westmorland Show, for Hamish Sclater, will always stick in my mind. It was a huge achievement.

The year Starline Apollo won the Stirling Bull Sales will be another I can never forget. He always had the style, right through until sale day.

Being able to make and sell halters has been a great part of my career and I still sell around 300 annually, the majority of which are sold private although we do have a stocklist at Towns and Carnie, which is an agriculture shop in Thainstone.

Biggest disappointment?

The day we lost Ianmore Ideal at Uppermill, he was only three-years-old and would have made a tremendous bull with great potential. Unfortunately, he was imported from Canada with a nail in his stomach, he was grand here until he started working and the nail started moving back and forward.

Most influential person in your career?

Robert Grierson. I learnt a lot from him, we worked together but showed apart. We always went to a show and sale and watched and listed to other stockmen as we went along.

Jimmy McMillan and Bert Rugg both had a lot to pass down and I will forever be grateful for that.

Best stockman?

Richard Rettie. He is a man of many talents and brings out a variety of breeds and all to perfection, he is at the top of the game today.

Best advice?

Look forward, don’t look back.

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

I would like to see more young people working with livestock because we need more coming through. The job will disappear if we don’t get more stockmen and women keen to continue in the industry.

What young handlers are coming through?

Laura Green is a tremendous stockperson with a lot of potential.

Best advice for someone starting off in the industry?

Every day is a school day, look and listen to what people are doing and saying. You will never know it all.

Best investment?

My wife, Brenda. She has always supported me and has had a lot of white coats to wash over the years!

The future of showing?

I would like to think the success will continue but it is getting very expensive to enter a show and get to it with transport. I would love to see the shows get up and running again and expand even further, it is all down to time and money though.

The day of a show is very exciting, but the work has to be done before, you can’t take an animal out of a field and hope it behaves at a show, there is a lot of time involved in the preparation.

Could you imagine your life without showing?

No. I have met a lot of good friends and seen a lot of good cattle in my time, I have always loved my job and always will. I show any breed that I have been asked to, including goats!