AS livestock breeders both sides of the border prepare for the Royal Highland Showcase, Farmer meets three generations who will be venturing into the ring.

AT 82 Anne Bell is still running her 200 acre farm overlooking the Solway Estuary – a place which is also home to Ab Fab, one of her magnificent Belted Galloways.

The former Supreme Champion Beltie will be back in the ring in June at the Royal Highland Showcase.

Anne has a deep love of the breed and has passed on what she calls the “Beltie Bug” to the rest of her family, including daughter Katie Keiley and granddaughters Mollie (14) and Daisy (12).

So much so that the grandchildren will be venturing into the ring at the Royal Highland Showground for the first time this year – including with a Beltie bull named Red Admiral and a heifer called Joy.

All in all it’s a remarkable family, reflecting both a love of tradition and a desire to embrace positive change. Anne and her vet husband, Alastair, were from East Lothian but moved to Dumfries and Galloway to take up farming as a retirement project, and all because they had fallen in love with Belties and met so many friends due to their interest in them.

She said: “We came down here because of the Belties and all the wonderful people we had met from the region. Belties are such lovely animals, and such characters. All the family have ended up getting the Beltie bug.”

Over the years Anne found she had a knack for spotting show winners, having had four Supreme Champions, and one of her proudest moments was being presented with The Queen’s Rosette by Her Majesty in 2009.

She said: “That was a real honour, meeting the Queen and being presented with the rosette. She really talks to people and takes an interest in them.”

Katie describes her Mum as an “absolute inspiration”. The agricultural secretary and her dairy consultant husband bought a 15-acre smallholding not far from Anne, so they could offer their daughters an upbringing surrounded by animals.

They now have a herd of 30 Belties, Riggits and White Galloways, a flock of 70 ewes plus goats, pigs, hens, ducks and ponies. They also have a share farming agreement on an 80-acre farm close by.

The girls have grown up not just with the fun, but also the sense of responsibility, that goes with caring for animals. Lambing time is just one example.

Katie said: “We wanted to give the girls the lovely kind of childhood that Mum had given me, with lots of freedom and being round animals. And when children have to look after animals it’s something that gives them a real maturity and sense of responsibility.”

It’s something in which they take great pride and have taken place in shows in the past, including the Great Yorkshire – but never at Ingliston, which they feel is “the big one”, on a far larger scale than anything else.

Both are excited to be part of an event that globally showcases their home region and which is hopefully going help Scottish agriculture rebuild in the wake of Covid.

At shows Mollie tends to bring out the cattle and Daisy the sheep – though the Belties are a shared enterprise.

Looking to the future, Daisy currently likes the idea of a career in farming while Mollie is considering law. But whatever the future holds, they hope that showing Belties will always be part of their lives.

Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) honorary president, the broadcaster and Lord Lieutenant of Dumfries Fiona Armstrong, says she is overwhelmed by the dedication and support of so many people who are working to make the event a success under incredibly difficult circumstances.

She said: “This is such a wonderful part of Scotland, with so much to offer – and full of remarkable people like Anne and her family.

“It is marvellous that they have been linked to the Royal Highland Show for three generations, and that her granddaughters will be taking part in the Showcase as we start to come back from Covid – after all, young women like these are the future for farming and the wider economy.

“It’s tremendous that we have this opportunity to showcase the region’s farming, food, drink, culture and tourism at a moment when we all hope that recovery is on the horizon. It will be a real boost for the region, and the whole of Scotland.

“And while the public can’t come to the showground this year, we will be doing all we can to take the fun and the atmosphere of the Highland Show direct into people’s own living rooms – whether they are in Scotland, the rest of the UK or anywhere else around the world.”

In normal times the role of host rotates between the country’s eight regions. But due to the exceptional circumstances the RHASS directors voted to allow Dumfries & Galloway to remain as the host region for 2021 and deliver its President’s Initiative.

The strapline for the 2021 show will be “Dumfries & Galloway – Let’s Grow Together” reflecting the region’s ambition to build on its many strengths and showing the interdependence of its different sectors.

Fiona added: “We also want to let people know that we are an important, forward-looking hub for rural business and agriculture. For example we’re not only the heartland of Scotland’s milk production and renowned for the exceptional quality of our beef, but are leading the way in livestock genetics and research into making our cows ‘greener’ while improving yields.”

Fiona and her presidential team are working with local businesses, military veterans, the Men’s Shed movement, Young Farmers and many others. For full information follow the Showcase on social media @ScotlandRHShow.