Scottish dairy icon receives lifetime award

David Yates is this year's recipient of the dairy sector's John Dennison Award
David Yates is this year's recipient of the dairy sector's John Dennison Award

Dumfries and Galloway farmer David Yates has been presented the John Dennison Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to the dairy industry.

Born in 1931 to a second-generation farming background, David Yates, from Castle Douglas, established renowned Holstein herds which his sons now run.

Harrison & Hetherington (H&H), which issued the award as part of the Borderway UK Dairy Expo, said he had an international reputation and his achievements were an inspiration to future generations.

This highly acclaimed award, established in memory of Cumbrian farmer John Dennison, recognises a dairy cattle breeder who is judged to be a high achiever.

It is given to those who demonstrate a combination of ability, sportsmanship, integrity, and character within the UK dairy industry.

Glyn Lucas, H&H auctioneer and one of the judges, said Mr Yates' career stood out as an 'outstanding example of exceptional work ethic'.

"He is an inspiration to his family, and to others, and presenting him with the award was a special honour," he added.

Throughout his life, Mr Yates has shown and judged shows across the UK, and his passion still inspires others to this day.

At first, he was farming two farms by himself: he purchased his first, East Logan, in 1971, and the second, Firthhead, in 1989.

In 1996, he handed the farms to each of his two sons, who continue to manage them today.

Tom Lomas, who nominated Mr Yates for the award, said he was 'a perfect candidate, because everything it represents is exactly what he is about'.

"He has had his own success within the industry, but also encouraged the next generation to progress and to take the business forward," he said.

"Talking about his farming life today, David says that he wishes he could still do these things, but that his body just will not allow it anymore.

"To me, this really sums up how great this man is - that even at the fine age of 87, he still wishes to get up, get out, and see the cattle world for how great it really is.”

David was initially a Dairy Shorthorn breeder but seeing that these were in decline, he decided to move onto Holsteins.

By the mid 1990s he had converted to 100% Holsteins. He established strong links with Canada, having first visited in the 50s when he helped export nine bulls across the Atlantic from the Perth Bull Sales.

In 1982, he established the pattern of an annual visit to Canada, where he had built relationships with Claud Picket of Pickland Holsteins and Peter Heffering of Hanoverhill Holsteins.

Regular imports of cows have continued, with the early ones by direct flights into the nearby Prestwick Airport.

Today, the East Logan and Micklefirth herds are built on cows that Mr Yates bought or had shares in from North America.

On being presented with his award, he said: “I’m highly honoured to receive the award. I’ve seen a lot of prominent people win it, and never dreamt it could be me.

"I can’t see what I’ve done to deserve it. It really is a great honour.”