With lifetime experience as a stockman and a strong passion for Highland cattle, Stuart Campbell is next to take to the stage to share his achievements. He's based at Cladich, near Dalmally, where he's stockman for Jon and Queenie Strickland.


I grew up on a beef and sheep farm as my father was the farm manager at Keills Estate, in Argyll, where he started a fold of pedigree Highland cattle.

When I was 12, we moved away from there and I was out of agriculture until I left school at 16. I then managed to get an understudy shepherding job at a local farm in the Galloway hills, where I was brought up.

However, I gained my foundation in agriculture and grew my passion and love for Highland cattle when working for the Lithgow family on their Ormsary Estate. I will always be thankful to Archie McArthur and his team for the opportunities and valuable experience I gained in the seven years I was there.

But all good things must come to an end and although I loved working at Ormsary, I was always going to be ‘the boy’ and I wanted to pursue my career, so I took a leap… I worked down in Worcester for one year as a stockman/manager under the watchful eye of Ian Anderson. Although it was a great experience, it was just such a long way from home.

The day I was contemplating my resignation, I got a phone call from Queenie Strickland, of the Cladich fold of Highland cattle, offering me the chance to be their farm manager. I couldn’t quite believe it as I had always dreamt of following my father’s footsteps and managing Highland cattle in Argyll.

A decade on and I still love working here. It truly is as good as having my own place!

I am lucky to have three of my own pedigree cows here, which run alongside their 50 Highland breeding cows and 350 Cheviot ewes, of which 100 are crossed to the Bluefaced Leicester and 250 are kept pure on the hill.

Where did showing begin for you?

Although my dad did some showing when I was younger, I really caught the bug when showing in-calf heifers at Ormsary.

At my first sale in Oban, I had Archie’s third pick heifer and she won her class. At that point I took my white coat off and handed the rope to Archie. His response was: “The job is only half done, don’t give up now, don’t take your eye off the judge and enjoy every minute of it!”

The heifer got female champion that day and after doing so well the first time, I wanted to go on and do better. I really was hooked and love the thrill of showing.

What is it you like about your chosen breed?

The Highlander is just a great natured breed that can adapt to anyone’s operation. For us, she is a great hill cow, helping to keep the rough grass down and working our system well for the sheep. The breed doesn’t get enough credibility for her crossing ability, being able to rear her calf and still maintain herself in full condition.

Where is the Highlander in the commercial market?

Under-rated. It is an area we need to highlight as a breed and try to promote and advertise ourselves a lot more to get our name out there. Highland cattle are well worth a second look given the way farming is going. Farmers are already considering native breeds more and it's all down to their lower input costs.

Due to our success in the pedigree world, I couldn’t justify crossing them, however it is something we may think about in the future. The country will always need the pure Highland cow, though.

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

I really enjoyed my short time working with the Aberdeen-Angus, but I think there is no better breed than the Beef Shorthorn, as they go hand in hand with the Highlanders. They are a great combination of native breeds and are very docile cattle and beautiful animals in the show and sale rings.

Has the export market been affected by Brexit?

Brexit has certainly slowed it down just now because we can’t get cattle across to Europe and when we can, the regulations will be extensive. However, I think it will come right, it will just take time. My concern is the extra cost involved in exporting – for example vet costs, isolation and shipping could have a real impact on the market as it is already very expensive.

In the past few years, the export market has been strong. It is quite a specialist area that we seem to be hitting, with our strongest customers being in Germany. On average, we will export four to six animals annually to get new bloodlines into other countries.

Biggest showing achievement?

Taking the Craig Sellar Trophy for the male champion at the breed’s pedigree sale at Oban just last year. This was my main aim when I first started here after speaking to the late David Fellowes, who originally owned Cladich. He showed me a photograph of John of Cladich, which won the Craig Sellar Cup in 1960 and it was made even more special with the trophy returning to Cladich 60 years on.

K2 of Cladich then went on to sell for my top price to date of 6000gns, so it was an all-round cracking day!

Best RHS award?

Winning the MacRobert Memorial Cup in 2014 for the best group of three Highland cattle, as well as bagging the reserve male championship the same day. The following day, I also won the T and R Findlay Trophy with my own group of three Shetland sheep. It was great to win both trophies as I feel that winning with a group shows great continuity of your own livestock.

Best sale day?

At Oban, in 2018. We sold five calves at the age of 10-months to average a colossal 2394gns, with a top of 4000gns.

Which is the best animal you have ever shown?

That is Capleadh Buidhe Beg of Cladich. She was our show cow and did the circuit in 2019 and won the majority of shows she attended, including Beith, all the local Argyll shows and the pinnacle show for Highlanders, Dalmally.

She was a big powerful cow that showed herself really well. We always knew she had something extra special about her, and shee always had a great calf at her side. There are a lot of prima donnas about that all look the part, but they are here to do a job, so need to be producing strong off-spring as well.

But what is the best animal you have ever seen?

Skye of Little Rannoch was an outstanding heifer. I first came across her when I was judging at the Stars of the Future Show, at Stirling, where I picked her out as my female champion.

I was really pleased to see her grow and become the Royal Highland Show Highland champion the following two years. She was a very stylish all-round heifer, being correct on all four and extremely eye catching and elegant when shown. A terrific achievement for the McNaughton team, especially Donald, who always produces the goods.

Biggest disappointment?

When the estate my father worked on was sold and we came away from the farm. I was young at the time and was keen to get involved and had no chance to be hands on.

It made me even more determined not to give up and follow my dreams. It is through pure determination and hard work that I have got to where I am today.

Advice to any youngster?

Whatever your situation, if you work hard enough and enjoy what you do, you will be successful. Never give up and make sure you love the job you are part of.

It is all about who you meet out in the showing circuit, speaking to experienced stockmen and creating good contacts. This is how I have got my jobs over the years.

Best stockmen?

Angus McGillivray – he played a big part of where I am today, there is no better person who can bring out Highland cattle. But there are a lot of great guys out there and another I admire for bringing out cattle to perfection is Willie MacLean. When I started showing, he was always at the top of the game and a real inspiration.

Who has inspired you the most?

My mother and father have supported me in everything I have done and I’m always pleased to tell them my successes. I especially hope my father is proud of me for following in his footsteps.

Archie McArthur – he gave me the opportunity to start in the industry and allowed me to find my feet before spreading my wings and moving on.

As the late Jack Ramsay once said: “If you can work under Archie McArthur, you can work for anyone!”

Best investment?

My plane ticket to go and see Jon and Queenie Strickland for a job opportunity. I will always be grateful for the chance they have given me.

Are you involved in any committees?

I am currently a trustee of the Highland Cattle Society and I am really focused on making a difference.

I have been lucky enough to be appointed chair of the breed development and I am looking forward to helping the breed move forward.

The future of the Highlanders?

There is a strong future. You can see that from the new members coming forward every month. But, we must also look after our current members and remember what the society is about ... and that is Highland cattle.

We don’t need to re-invent the wheel, we just need to move forward and go with the times, and not get carried away with ourselves.

Keep it basic and simple, and we will get the results we want in the long run!

The future of the showing circuit?

I really do hope there is one as I have really missed it this last year.

It can be quite a lonely industry and the show circuit gets you out there, it is our shop window, our passion and our hobby all in one. We don’t get many days away from the farm, so the shows are our holidays. It is a big part of the culture of the industry nowadays, and you only get out what you put into it.

It is definitely a costly outfit, however it certainly has its benefits.

Could you imagine your life without showing? No! But you would get a hell of a lot more done at home!

Showing is a great aspect to all farmers, being able to get away from the farm, show off your stock and the hard work you have put in throughout the year. That is your time to shine!