Freelance stockman of multi-breeds, Allan Jackson of the Headlind prefix, is next to take the centre stage, and no better person for it after 52 years’ experience.


I grew up on Boat Farm, Thankerton, which was a mixed dairy and commercial farm, along with Blackface hoggs and lambs which we fattened we also grew barley, corn and turnips.

It was there I started, with mum, and bought my first Clydesdale horse at 16 years of age. I bought her at the Winter Fair and the following year I took her to the Royal Highland Show where she stood second in her class. That year we lost dad in the beer tent. My late uncle, Hugh Jackson, remarked: “If that’s the state you get into with a second, I’d hated to see you with a first.”

At 23, I moved to Loanhead, a rented farm with 200 Blackface ewes which were crossed with the 20 Bluefaced Leicesters along with 230 Mule cross Suffolks, this is where the Headlind Bluefaced Leicester flock was established.

I progressed in a partnership to another rented farm, Lindifferon, in Fife, adding three other rented farms to it with 300 Simmental cross cows along with finishing 1700 lambs and 1500 breeding ewes and hoggs. This is where the Beltex flock began by importing 10 Belgian ewe lambs. After the partnership was dissolved, some years later along with my partner, Senga, we bought Woodyett, at Kirkfieldbank, Lanark.

From there, I bought in British Blue cattle and embryos from the Ryders, at Moffat. Having a small acreage, we diversified, and I started prepping cattle away from home, as well as working with a landscape company in Edinburgh.

Prepping commercial and pedigree cattle led me to start our livery and exporting cattle to Ireland. This has expanded and resulted in my Beltex flock dispersing after 26 years due to the workload of the livery business and lambing clashing with sales across the country.

What is it you look for in an animal?

Everyone has their own idea of what they are looking for. I don’t follow fashion ... it’s better to try to create it.

I look for a well-balanced animal with good locomotion, breed character, and they must be stylish for the show ring. Over the years I have worked with horses and 23 breeds of cattle and sheep, all of which have their own attributes to suit their farm and every breed has a job to do.

Presently, we have Beef Shorthorns, they are good functional, mobile cows, easily fleshed and great grazers. They are easily adapted to hill and lowland, with a great nature and easy to care for which is why they work our system well.

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

I would probably follow my son, Cammy, into hill Cheviots. Lambing his ewes this year was a pleasure ... I had minimal input as the ewes looked after themselves.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

I showed dairy calves at six years of age and watched dad dress prime stock show cattle with a pair of hand scissors! He still thinks it has the best results …

Best Highland Show achievements?

Headlind Sapphire has to be that. She stood Bluefaced Leicester champion, as well as bagging the Queens Cup for the inter-breed pairs in 1997 at the Royal Highland Show.

I bought her mother, a Carryhouse ewe lamb, for £180 and her sire was an Old Parks lamb costing £350 – a very worthy investment.

Over the years, I have had many tickets both for my own flock and herds but also for bringing out customer’s stock.

Headlind Sapphire stood Bluefaced Leicester champion, as well as bagging the Queens Cup for the inter-breed pairs in 1997 at the Royal Highland Show

Headlind Sapphire stood Bluefaced Leicester champion, as well as bagging the Queens Cup for the inter-breed pairs in 1997 at the Royal Highland Show

Biggest showing achievement?

We only played a small part in this, but it has to be the Great Yorkshire Show this year, I was proud to be part of such an award-winning family.

We won the Beef Shorthorn title with Dunsyre Horatio and I was proud to show my son, Ali’s winning Beltex and help Cammy with his Cheviots, which he won too! It made us very proud to see mum, dad, nephew, Allan, Ali, Hannah, Cammy and Rachel all win tickets – collectively 55, including four champions and four reserve honours.

Fortunately, Fran Baird’s renowned Royal Welsh Show Bar was in attendance.

Best sale day?

Selling a Beltex shearling at Carlisle for 7000gns to Paul Slater, I bought him in for €150 out of a fat pen in Belgium.

Which is the best animal you have ever shown?

Headlind Sapphire.

But what is the best animal you have ever seen?

Kilkenny Celia – a Charolais cow shown by Jimmy McMillan, for Peter Donger. I don’t think she was ever beaten.

The South Country Cheviot, Highland Queen, won the Highland twice in the late 1980s, when you let her go she just said ‘look at me’.

Abiding memory?

Winning both the Beltex and Hampshire championships at the Royal Welsh Show along with the stockmanship award in 2007. Also, being asked to judge the Beltex at the Royal Welsh Show in 2010.

Biggest disappointments?

I have never been disappointed – you just have to learn from it, go home and look for something better.

Have you missed out on a big purchase?

No, I have always followed my grandpa Jackson’s advice: ‘Buy a big frame and build on it’.

Most influential person in your career?

Billy Glazebrook – he was a Young Farmers’ cattle dressing wizard. You had to learn by watching him over the dyke, though, as he told you nothing! Jimmy McMillan and Ian Anderson were masters too. Ian never quite realised how many secrets he gave away!

The late, Joe Thomson – a shepherd at Moorfoot – told me at 12 years – ‘sit doon oan that bale, take a haud o’ they shears – ye hive tae learn sometime’. They were too big for my hands but I soon learnt.

I have never been so proud to stand third at the Highland Show. That was to Robin Thomson with a Scotch Mule ewe lamb, he was an absolute gentleman.

Another I would have to mention is Willie Werebrouck, a genius Belgian Beltex breeder, he could teach the world about the breed.

Your choice of best stockman?

I have learnt and I am still learning from many tremendous stockmen over the years of all ages. I really enjoy working with commercial beef farmers, Brian Harper and Gary Bell, it is a pleasure dressing their show calves.

Who has got the best kist parties?

Fran Baird – brewer, distiller and mixologist extraordinaire to the official Shorthorn party – six blissful days at the Royal Welsh Show ably assisted by barman/ice runner, Tam Stevenson, making use of the late Jock Allan’s mobility scooter to replenish our beer stock.

Best advice?

The late Hugh Allan. My brother and I were sent to learn to dress Suffolks and were given the advice: “Look, listen and learn laddies and take oot o’ it whit ye want.”

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

I would change nothing. We learn through every experience.

Best advice for someone starting off in the industry?

It’s not what it is, it’s what you do with it.

Best investment?

Senga is my best trophy yet! She’s my secret weapon. A businesswoman in her own right, she keeps busy in the background, by working away quietly in the wings.

Her knowledge from her business makes me look differently at mine. She works quietly in the background supporting me and our families – a real team effort!

Has stockmenship taken you overseas?

Firstly, to Canada at 21 years old exporting Clydesdales for John Young. I learned to drive teams there with Dave Carson. I visit Belgium regularly buying sheep and cattle.

Are you involved in any committees or have any hobbies?

I am on the Scottish Shorthorn council, I also listen intently to Andrew Morton and Dye Clark’s moans – they need representatives each!

The future of the showing circuit?

Whether you’re showing hens, pigs, goats, horses, cattle of sheep, we are promoting our stock and entertaining the public.

The best shows have the most exhibitors. Show societies have to be mindful that if their entry fees are high and prize money sparse, they will attract fewer stock.

Could you imagine your life without showing?

No. Having shown for 52 years, mum and dad are still showing at 82 – it is addictive.