The chief executive of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society, Ron McHattie, has died at the age of 63, only a month before his planned early retirement.
In spite of recent health issues, Mr McHattie continued to be actively involved in the running of the society, attending a meeting of the society’s council at the end of August and conducting business from his home in Lochussie, Dingwall, before his death last Thursday.
A statement from the society said Mr McHattie had died peacefully at home surrounded by his family.
“The news of Ron’s untimely passing will come as a shock to his many friends in the Aberdeen-Angus breed both at home and abroad,” said breed president David Evans.
“He played a huge and influential role in the phenomenal development and expansion of the Aberdeen-Angus breed in the UK and Ireland over the past 18 years and his wise counsel will be greatly missed.
“Our heart goes out to his wife, Christine, daughter, Laura, and son, Frazer, in their sad loss.”
Mr McHattie was appointed the society’s first chief executive in January 1997 and has played a major role in restoring the breed’s pre-eminent position in the beef industry, with annual registrations in the Herd Book more than doubling to a record 14,732 last year and the society’s financial reserves increasing five-fold to more than £2,400,000 during his stewardship.
The society is now the second largest beef breed society in the UK in terms of beef breed sired calves registered with the British Cattle Movement Service.
He was instrumental in developing a close relationship with leading retailers and the meat trade, which has been key to the breed’s expansion and the premium prices secured for Aberdeen-Angus and Aberdeen-Angus cross cattle in the market place.
He was passionate about maintaining the integrity of the Aberdeen-Angus brand, which saw the society introduce a ground-breaking tissue sampling programme last year to validate the pedigrees of Aberdeen-Angus cattle and ensure the authenticity of beef sold as Aberdeen-Angus.
The society was also the first in the UK to adopt the ABRI Breedplan performance recording system from Australia which has been rolled out to other beef breed societies through the society’s subsidiary company, Pedigree Cattle Services.
Mr McHattie travelled widely in his role as chief executive and represented the society on the board of the World Aberdeen-Angus Secretariat which meets every two years in different parts of the world.
He attended Aberdeen-Angus World Forums in Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand and in recent months was heavily involved in the planning of the next World Forum which will be held in the UK in 2017 for the first time since 1977.
A tenant farmer’s son from Forres, Moray, Mr McHattie graduated from the East of Scotland College of Agriculture and spent the early part of his career working with a dairy herd at Moffat and as a working farm manager on farms at Galashiels and north Fife.
He then moved to north to Brahan Farms, Conon Bridge, where he managed a large-scale suckler and beef finishing enterprise for eight years before moving to the cooperative development organisation, SAOS, as a project manager.
He was appointed chief executive of the society with the remit to improve and further develop all aspects of the society’s business and maximise the commercial opportunities for Aberdeen-Angus cattle.
Mr McHattie’s funeral will take place on Friday at 12pm in the funeral home of William T Fraser and Son, Funeral Directors, Culduthel Road, Inverness.