Southern Irishman, Pat Greaney, knows the Scottish soils like the back of hands, having shown and sold livestock throughout Scotland all of his career. He talked to The SF about what's makes him tick ...

What’s your background?

Born and bred on a small 60-acre farm in Southern Ireland, being one of six was where it all began for me – rearing dairy calves for replacements, alongside pedigree flocks of Suffolks, Galways and Texels. We were one of the first to import the Texels into Southern Ireland in the early 1970s.

I worked at home until I went to study agriculture at college and thereafter I went shepherding, beginning my career at the pedigree Suffolk flock of Coshla, running 360 ewes. Then venturing onto work at an agriculture college as the beef and sheep technician, teaching students the day-to-day running of a beef and sheep unit, but still in Ireland.

A quick two years at Pelletstown Limousins led me on to Tom Bailey knocking on my door wanting me to go and work for him and his Bailey’s herd of Limousins and flocks of Texel and Suffolks, and that’s where I stayed for 15 years.

I then worked alongside Ardlea Limousins and started a Suffolk flock there on the condition that Dan Tynan would buy a farm in the South-west of Scotland. I always wanted to farm in Scotland – it is the place to be when it comes to showing and marketing your stock, plus you have the best cattle. Even when I was over in Ireland, we would always come over to Scotland to shows and sales.

However, Scotland was never meant for me as I came down to south Wales to work as a farm manager for Dai Walters, Duffryn Farms, who was just new into farming. I established a Limousin herd here in 2012 and I am still here today, living with my partner, Julie, who I met at the Royal Highland in the late 1990s, and we have five kids aged 19 down to 11. My eldest boy and two girls are keen on farming, especially the Texels and Suffolks.

We’re now running 120 cows, a 50:50 split between Limousins and commercials, along with 500 commercial ewes, a small flock of Suffolk and Texels for our own use and 150 acres of crops.

Dai is into racehorses – he buys in a lot of yearlings from France and Ireland, and we rear them until they are four-year-olds and then they go in to training, usually having 50 horses training at any one time. He sells shares in the horses, but the yearlings can cost anything between £10,000 and £150,000.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

For the Limousin, I start with the head. If they don’t have a beautiful head, I am not interested – male or female. Correctness and locomotion have got to be there, and nothing too extreme.

Among the sheep, it has got to ooze breed character, be very correct with a good top line.

Chosen breed’s place in the commercial market?

Limousins are the No 1 numerically and of choice at the abattoir. They are the most popular breed in the UK, holding the highest percentage of registrations and rightly so.

Has the breed changed for the better?

As a terminal sire, the breed has changed for the better. They can meet a 400kg carcase weight quicker, which is desired by the abattoirs.

But maternally, they have gone downhill seriously. They have lost their calving ability, milk and their purity, because of the myostatin influence.

If you get a double copy of either NT or Q genes in any animal, it is double trouble.

I am trying to stick to two copies of F94L for ease of management and calving. A cow must calf on her own and we are working with 5% assistance and 1% Caesareans for our herd.

No calving monitoring, no cameras, no Caesarean, how would we manage then?

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

Shorthorns. Purely for their calving ability, great tops, good temperament as well as being good mothers and of course easy on the eye.

What got you involved in showing?

It was always high on my agenda since I was 13. When I was farming in Southern Ireland, I would do around 20 shows a year both cattle and sheep.

We had pedigree Galway sheep at home, which are a native breed – I absolutely loved showing them and it really all went from there.

Best Highland Show?

Winning the Suffolk championship in 2006 was one I will always remember. The Highland is the place I want to be, if you win at the Highland, you’ve won it all ... it is the Olympics for me.

I have shown there since 1995, either for my employers or bringing out other breeders’ sheep. I go up there for my holidays and it is much more enjoyable to join in!

Biggest showing achievement?

I have won all the Irish shows with sheep as well as breed champions at the Royal Highland, Royal Dublin, Royal Balmoral, Royal Welsh and the Royal shows. In 1999, we had a Suffolk ewe lamb that one four out of five of the Royal Shows – that was some year!

Best sale day?

Stirling market in 2011 without a doubt. We took four Suffolk tup lambs, bagged the championship and group of three before selling a breed record of 90,000gns. Ardlea Arbennig was the lucky boy, with his name translated into Welsh meaning ‘special’. Myfyr Evans bought him for his Rhaeadr flock. A day to remember!

Best animal you’ve shown?

The Limousin home-bred bull, Whiskey Infinity. We sold him privately up to Aberdeen with Harry Emslie at 18-months. He stood second in his class at the Royal Welsh at 14-month and was only sold due to the demand for him, and the money was on the table that I just couldn’t refuse.

It just shows you the importance of showing – I gained a customer through our biggest shop window – and although he wasn’t a huge show ring success for us, he was all everyone spoke about at the time. Later he went on to be champion at the Royal Welsh and male champion at the Royal Highland Show in 2017 for Harry.

Best animal that you’d ever seen?

Millbrook Ginger Spice is by far the best cow I have ever seen. She had it all, from power, femininity, correctness, presence, outlook, breed character and her produce. She was just second to none.

The Hereford bull, Normanton 1 Laertes, which stood inter-breed champion at the Royal Highland Show in 2016, was the closest bull I have ever seen to perfection. He had a huge backend for his breed, his correctness and everything about him just made him stand out.

Abiding memory?

Stirling 2011. Everything came in the one day, having only established the flock the previous year, all my dreams came true.

Most influential person?

Jimmy Douglas, Cairness – he taught me everything I know about sheep and judging. I am still learning from him.

The breeder of Millbrook Ginger Spice, William Smith, has been the biggest challenger for me over in Ireland and if you could beat him, you would have no one else to beat.

Your choice of best stockman/shepherd ever?

If I was re-born in another life, I would like to be a son of Jim Goldie, Dumfries. What he has achieved and what he has done is just remarkable.

William Smith has got to be mentioned again and with sheep, Alastair Gault, of the Forkins flock, just needs to listen to me for another few years and he will be there!

Who has the best kist parties?

Dougie MacBeath wins that hands down.

The Royal Show in the 1990s I was in the company of four Scottish girls and three of them disappeared.

Being the gentleman I am, I escorted the last one back to her accommodation, which in turn she was locked out of, so being the good Catholic I am I went round the back of the accommodation to find the window open.

Shouting and bawling at her three friends, but they were all out for count, so I decided to push Ailsa McCallum through the window – she wasn’t a very big girl, but the window was very small. With a lot of moaning and swearing, we got there in the end.

The next day, the now Hazel McNee proceeded to tell the showground “would you get in the f******* window” in her best Irish accent. We have all remained good friends ever since.

Favourite quote?

There is a difference between particular and peculiar.

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

My age. I would like to be 21 again and have the opportunities and experience that I have now.

Best advice for someone starting off ?

Gain as much experience as possible, working on different enterprises, farms and with breeders to see how different herds and flocks do it.

Best investment?

A Cairness Suffolk ewe carrying twins which cost me 1200gns – the following year those two lambs made 100,000gns. There aren’t many about like that!

Has stockmanship taken you overseas?

As an Irishman, everywhere is overseas! Having shown and judged the length and breadth of the UK, I have also been over to France, Belgium and Holland for ‘work’. The real travelling is yet to come…

Are you involved in any committees or have any hobbies?

I am on the committee for Usk Show, as well as helping out Usk YFC at various sheep dressing demonstrations and stock judging events. My main hobby outwith the farm though has got to be horse racing!

The future of showing?

Covid-19 has re-energised people,showing will come back stronger than ever when it re starts. But the prize money needs to improve for all shows due to the expense of showing – it is just bonkers! You have got to do it for the love of it.

Embryo work has been a savour for a lot of show females and has massively lifted the standard of quality on the show circuit.

Anything done differently in Ireland?

The prize money at shows is on a different level. There was one year in Southern Ireland a good commercial beef animal brought in a colossal €7000 in prize money.

Could you imagine a life without showing?

I have experienced a year and a half without it and it’s been sad but hopefully we get back there soon enough. Shows must go on!