In the world of Highland cattle she is regarded, one might say, as the reigning champion. The Queen has been proudly raising Highland cows at her Balmoral estate for 65 years – and has repeatedly won prizes across the country for the quality of her livestock.But this year, Her Majesty’s animals have been conspicuous by their absence, as none of them has appeared at any of this year’s Highland shows.And the reason why is that the Queen is afraid that her beloved herd might become infected by disease. The stockman responsible for the royal herd has revealed that the queen’s cows have been kept away from the shows amid health fears – as she feels the risks of mingling with other livestock is simply too great this year.Dochy Ormiston said: “We have not entered any shows this year. We are a closed herd and we are very frightened over its health status.”–– ADVERTISEMENT ––The Queen founded the Balmoral fold of Highland cattle in 1953 and is considered one of the country’s top Highland breeders, with more than 50 animals on the estate.Winning prizes with individual cows and bulls attracts prestige, prize money and can increase the value of an animal enormously. One of the most famous royal bulls, named Coirneal, won the overall champion at Oban’s annual Highland cattle show in 2016, and was later sold for 7,000 guineas.The Queen also claimed the top spot at the Royal Highland Show in 2014. She won £75. The monarch, who is patron of the Highland Cattle Society (HCS), has been a regular prize winner with her cattle. Former HCS president Angus MacKay said it was ‘a bit sad’ that the monarch’s cattle were missing from this year’s show. The Queen and Prince Philip with cattle at the Balmoral Estate He added: ‘I can understand why. She is extremely knowledgeable about the breed and about her own fold and how it developed. She would have certainly been involved in the decision not to show them.”Breeders can take advantage of the demand from overseas if they have a high health herd.”Mr Mackay, who lives at Achnagoul in Argyll, said Balmoral had exported regularly over many years – including to Germany, Austria and even Australia, decades back. The Queen and Prince Philip with cattle at the Balmoral EstateCredit:Getty Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “There will be offspring from bulls bred at Balmoral at this month’s national show in Germany. It is all about prestige and the Balmoral fold is going to have a premium,” added Mr MacKay, who has judged the breed internationally including in the USA, Finland, Denmark, Australia and the prestigious Royal Highland Show.”The way to maintain such a fold like Balmoral is to have a closed herd and if you show your animals they risk being exposed to animals of lesser health quality.”Mr MacKay, 69, an official HCS field officer with nearly 50 years’ experience of Highland cattle, added: ‘Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis [a respiratory disease] is especially a problem. Another problem with maintaining a high health herd is that after each show your animals have to be isolated from the main fold for three weeks, and then re-tested by a vet before being allowed to return to the herd.’ read more