By Gilly Fraser
“The Royal Highland Show is special for its incredible atmosphere, but also for the quality of the stock being shown there. Winning prizes there is a real feather in the cap for stockmen and handlers.”
The speaker is farmer Andrew Stott, who is based near Canonbie. He’s no stranger to the Royal Highland, having won there in the past and this year he is hoping for success again with his 13-month-old Charolais bull Tophill Superstott.
The bull has already got his showing career off to a great start, making his debut appearance at this year’s Cumberland Show where he won his class and took the Reserve Championship.
Andrew’s parents farmed near Caldbeck and he has been showing various different breeds of cattle and sheep since he was just 16. His love of Charolais cattle was born when he worked as head stockman for the Edenhurst herd belonging to renowned breeder Peter Vasey at his farm near Wetheral.
When Peter retired in 2015 and dispersed the herd, Andrew bought a cow and calf and they became the foundation for his own herd. He says Charolais are good to work with, but like most animals they need a bit of training to make sure they can cope with the excitement of a showground.
“It’s a pretty quiet breed generally, but when they’re going to their first show, we will walk them out for weeks beforehand, make sure they have plenty of handling and take them to different places with different surroundings just to get them used to things.”
The Charolais was the first continental breed to be introduced to the UK, making its first appearance on these shores back in the 1950’s. That was initially met with resistance in some quarters but now it’s a popular breed here thanks to its sustainability and profitability. So what do judges look for in the showring? Andrew says they have very specific requirements.
“They look for good locomotion, good legs and feet, good body, plenty of size and correctness and flesh on them and character as well.”
This year’s Royal Highland Show is perhaps even more special than usual, not only because it’s making a return after a two-year absence, but also because this is its bicentenary. More than 4,800 livestock and equestrian entries will compete in a huge variety of classes over the four days of the show from June 23-26.