Farming: Highland Show live stream proves big hit on first day

With more than 35,000 views of the live stream of yesterday’s Royal Highland Showcase logged by 5pm, the organisers were both delighted and relieved by the uptake of the groundbreaking initiative.

RHASS chairman Bill Gray and chief executive Alan Laidlaw outside the new members' pavilion
RHASS chairman Bill Gray and chief executive Alan Laidlaw outside the new members' pavilion

“Such a high rate of uptake has provided proof of concept and showed that the ambitious idea of staging and live-streaming the event has been achievable,” said Alan Laidlaw, chief executive of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) which organises the show.

“Clearly our first choice would have been to stage a normal event, but to pull the showcase together from an idea originally conceived less than 80 days ago is a reflection of the hard work and dedication of the team who managed to do this while often working from home through Zoom meetings during Covid restrictions.”

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And with other major shows – such as the Great Yorkshire – which had proposed to run a public event on the expectation that restrictions would be further relaxed waiting with baited breath for the latest announcement, Laidlaw said that working closely with Scotland’s deputy National Clinical Director for health had seen the Highland showcase set up in such a way that it was unlikely to be affected by any changes to expected relaxations.

Serving as the nerve-centre for the broadcasting operations, the new £5 million members’ pavilion took on its first farming role, having served as a Covid vaccination centre. The show’s operations manager Mark Currie said that recent investment in infrastructure which included fibre optic cabling around the showground meant that the site was amongst the best provisioned in Scotland.

This view was supported by Simon Cousins, hired as executive producer for the broadcasts, who said that the equipment and manpower required for coverage of the showcase was comparable to that of a major international event such as the Commonwealth Games.

With a £750,000 investment in the showcase, the Scottish Government’s new Rural Affairs cabinet secretary, Mairi Gougeon was taking the opportunity to meet with farmers at the event.

But while policy development might have ranked highly on the agenda of those who spoke with her, other than a reaffirmation of the manifesto promise to set up an implementation board during the first hundred days, the secretary offered no firm timescale.

However she said that the farmer led group (FLG) reports – which were completed prior to the election – were all being reviewed as were the reports from the Farming for 1.5 degrees group and the recent update to the Scottish Government’s Climate Change plan, along with others.

But while names had not yet been selected to sit on the implementation board, Gougeon indicated that the body would be up and running by the middle of August, with pilot projects to be set up shortly after this to test new schemes.

Stressing that engagement with the industry was critical, she said that continuing the positive approach of the FLG reports would help to make Scotland a world leader in sustainable farming – and having held a meeting recently with the chairs of the groups, she was aware of the desire to move forward with the practical, industry led proposals.

On the often contentious issue in farming circles of rewilding, while the new cabinet secretary demurred from going as far her predecessor in promising lynx would only be introduced ‘over my dead body’, Gougeon said that she wasn’t looking at species reintroduction: “What we do with our land can be an emotive issue – and we hope that the creation of Rural Land Use Partnerships, some of which have already been set up on a pilot basis, will allow us to move forward on a collaborative basis.”

Cattle

The cattle native interbreed title went to T&D Harrison, Stocksfield, Northumberland for their champion Hereford bull, with the Galloway cow from J and A Finlay, Castle Douglas lifting the reserve.

In the native pairs section the title was lifted by the Aberdeen Angus toppers from Brailes Livestock, Moreton-in-marsh and Donald Rankin, Isle of Skye

Other winners

Beef shorthorn

Champion and reserve: Alan Jackson, Headlind Partners, Lanrakshire.

Highland

Her Majesty the Queen, Ballater; reserve – Kevin Carnegie, Angus.

Lincoln Red

Champion and reserve – Andrew Mylius,Fife

Sheep

The mv accredited sheep interbreed title went to the Charollais ewe from the Ingrams’ Logie Durno flock with the reserve being picked up by a Texel gimmer from Aberdeenshire breeder Robbie Wilson’s Milnbank flock.

Other winners

Hampshire Down

J&R McFarlane, Stirling; reserve – A Goldie and L Forest, Lockerbie.

Suffolk

Champion and reserve – Roy Hiddleston, Dumfries

Zwartbles

N MIllar, Dumfriesshire; reserve - N Henderson, Stirlingshire

Berrichon

E Burgess, Dumfries and Galloway; reserve – B Evans, Powys, Wales.

Border Leicester

Laidlaw, Drennans, Ayrshire; reserve – J Borrowman, Stranraer.

Blue Texel

K Watret, Annan; reserve – Corra Farms, Castle Douglas.

Bleu du Maine

L Daff, Renfrewshire; K O’Conner, Carstairs.

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