Eight in a row for Lilac

John McTurk with Mochrum Lilac 3rd
John McTurk with Mochrum Lilac 3rd

One of the highlights of this year’s agricultural show season has been the unprecedented success of Belted Galloway heifer Mochrum Lilac III winning ‘best of breed’ at eight shows in succession.

The Mochrum Estates herd is the legacy past down to Estate owner Mr David Bertie by his aunt, the late Miss Flora Stuart, who, along with her father, Lord David Stuart, established the herd in the hills behind Port William.

Much of the credit for her achievements must go to Mochrum Estates manager John McTurk, whose skills as a stockman have keep the nearly three-year-old in-calf heifer in the peak of condition from May through to August, winning at Ayr, Straiton, Highland, Yorkshire, Stranraer, Stewartry, Dumfries and Wigtown.

Fifty-nine-year-old John has a lifetime experience of working with and showing both Galloways and Hereford cattle with his father, the late Tom McTurk from Gateside, Lochfoot. However, 30 years ago he and his wife Monica got the chance to move back to Wigtownshire where Monica’s mother had the tenancy of May Farm on the Mochrum Estate. Monica had a few Belties given to her by the late Miss Flora Stuart (who established the Mochrum herd) and John began to show Belties at the local shows. Following Miss Flora’s death, John started to look after the Belties for her successor Mr David Bertie, who now owns and runs Mochrum Estates.

From a calf, Lilac stood out as having tremendous potential- she had a real ‘sparkle’. She was always inquisitive and would readily approach John as he worked among the cattle. She clearly stands out among the rest of the cattle and is an excellent example of the breed with great formation and temperament.

But there is still much work to do to turn ‘sparkle’ into show winning star quality. John says a stocksman need “a good eye” and infinite patience! Regular handling is crucial as well as an appropriate feeding regime to ensure steady growth. Washing and grooming nearer show time is also a necessity. Where the local shows are often only days apart, it is important to keep to the same routine for the stock to maintain consistency.

John added: “The principal challenge is trying to keep the animal in prime condition for the whole show season - May ‘til August. The aim is to peak for the National shows, but the challenge of maintaining this standard to carry through to the local shows is equally important. For the stocksman it entails long hours, constant vigilance, organisational abilities and travelling. This year having four show in eight days was a particular challenge for both man and beast!

“But I enjoy competing, especially the camaraderie of like-minded breeders and stocksmen and women, team spirit and being involved in bringing out animals in show condition.”

So, after the success of 2013, what does the future hold for the double act of Lilac and John?

John replied: “Winning shows, although an important advert for the breed, is great, but the on-going breeding element is crucial. To that end, Lilac is in calf and it would be hoped the her progeny will also be star quality and I hope to continue contributing to the ongoing development of the Belted Galloways as stocksman to David Bertie and Mochrum Estates for the forseeable future.”

The Dun and Belted Galloway Cattle Breeders Association was formed in 1921. The first herd book included just over 200 Belties registered by 17 Scottish and nine English breeders.

By 1951 the Galloway book at last accepted Duns so the newer association was renamed the Belted Galloway Society. Miss Flora Stuart’s late father- Lord David Stuart, developed a love for the cattle that lasted a lifetime and that love and dedication was passed onto his daughter. Both Lord David and Flora served as Presidents of the Belted Galloway Society and travelled extensively to research the breed worldwide. Today the stewardship of Mochrum Estates and the Mochrum herd of Belted Galloways is in the capable hands of Flora’s cousin, David Bertie, who fully intends that the legacy started all those years ago continues in good heart for the future, a truly fitting tribute to Miss Flora who built up the Mochrum herd to be one of the finest in the world.