Gordon gears up for the return of the farm show circuit
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The show ring beckons once more for farmers across the strath as the sector's social highlights return after Covid.
One of them who will be rising even earlier than usual this summer to attend the North's circuit of agricultural shows is Gordon McConachie who farms at Culfoich, between Speybridge and Ballindalloch.
Mr McConachie established his fold of Highland cows 35 years ago and will next be showing at the big Turriff Show at the end of this month.
He has travelled there for many years with his Highland cattle and crossbred calves.
“The north-east is traditionally known for producing good stock,” says Mr McConachie.
“We started with just a couple of highland cows for around the house and expanded the fold to reach 40 at one point before trimming it back to the 25 we have today.”
Mr McConachie admits the fold was established as a bit of an experiment to see if the breed would utilise the rougher and poorer quality land, but the investment has paid off with the hardy breed proving their worth at making the most of the ground and wintering outside.
The Culfoich fold currently has five purebred Highland cows with the rest being put to Shorthorn or Aberdeen Angus bulls.
Having organised the first national show of Highland Cattle at the Black Isle show in 2015, Mr McConachie is not surprised at the 62 Highland entries at this year's National Show at Turriff.
“The National Show is great for promoting the breed and moving it around different shows every year gives the opportunity for everyone to compete that’s not too far from home," he said.
"It’s great for boosting the entries at local shows; there’s 62 I think this year.
"It really is the best of the best you’re competing against at the National Show.”
Mr McConachie added: “It’s important to try and support all the local shows, they provide a platform for the public to see the livestock and are very positive for the industry.
"It’s always good to get out and support local business and charities where we can."
Preparing for this year’s show, Mr McConachie has two bulls entered; Bryden of Culfoich bred from their 2019 Male Champion at the Royal Highland Show and a yearling bull by Bryden.
The Culfoich fold has done well in the past at Turriff winning Highland Champion on more than one occasion.
More recently, the McConachie family have had success in Oban winning overall champion at the Autumn Sale, with Carlin 6th of Culfoich, a yearling heifer - which sold to Germany with Falko Steinberg for 10000gns.
And in 2019, won male champion at the Royal Highland Show with Jacob 2nd of Benmore.
Not only showing this year, Mr McConachie has his hands full judging the groups, pairs and young bull interbreed later the Monday morning which he admits 'won’t be easy'.
He said: "The sections will be very strong judging across the breeds, but the fundamentals are the same.
"Good legs, good walking and good structure.
"It will be a difficult task but I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.”
Mr McConachie is confident that there will always be a place for Highland cattle at Culfoich and aims to keep a few pedigrees whilst cross breeding others.
“Now you’ve got to think about the cost of production more than ever, how to maintain high quality without spending a fortune on feeding, fertiliser etcetera which the Highland cattle are ideal for," he said.
"They produce good quality beef and cross with other breeds well but are lower maintenance and happy to stay outside.”
The Turriff Show is the biggest two-day agricultural show in Scotland and attracts around 24,000 people. This year the event takes place on Sunday July 31 and Monday August 1.