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From Ayrshire to Australia
by Fiona Sloan
The Young family from Skerrington Mains have for Generations been synonymous with quality livestock and the development of agriculture in Scotland and also the UK.
Sir William Young, as President of the Scottish Milk Marketing Board, was a hugely influential figure within the Scottish dairy industry and as one of the original importers of Simmental Cattle, he also influenced the beef industry. Skerrington Border Leicesters have also made their mark in the sheep industry.
Over four generations, the success and reputation of the family is such that the current incumbent at Skerrington Mains – John Young – has been invited to judge the Royal Melbourne Show this month. He has been given a double honour judging both the Simmental cattle and the Border Leicester sheep, which are still widely used in Australia.
“It is an honour to be asked to judge at any show,” said John, “It doesn't matter whether it's getting involved at a local level or being asked to judge overseas and I am really looking forward to this rare opportunity to judge at Melbourne”.
A respected National and International judge, John has judged Dairy, Beef and Sheep all over the world as well as all of the Royal Shows in the United Kingdom and numerous county and local competitions.
John and his wife Betty are the fourth generation to farm at Skerrington Mains, Hurlford near Kilmarnock. The farm, originally a 320 acre dairy unit, is now a successful 700 acre beef and sheep unit, carrying 160 Simmental/ Aberdeen Angus cross suckler cows and 80 pure bred Simmentals.
There is also a commercial flock of 350 Halfbred and Suffolk Cross ewes and pedigree flocks of Border Leicester and Texel ewes. The progeny are either kept for breeding or sold at national stock sales.
The current flock of high yielding commercial ewes replaced a Blackface flock, from which a yearling ewe won the coveted Queens Cup at the Royal Highland Show in 1970. The renowned flock of Skerrington Border Leicesters has won the Royal Highland Show more times than any other flock and has also been champion at the Royal Show on several occasions.
John's son, William, is now running the farm although John still takes a keen interest in the business. With William in charge at home, John became Chairman of the Royal Highland and Agriculture Society of Scotland in 2004-2005 and although presently Honorary Secretary, John still seems to have the time to enjoy his judging stints with Betty, who will meet up with him in Australia, as she is currently in New Zealand seeing her new granddaughter.
Since he and his father first imported Simmental Cattle from Germany in 1970, John has had a real passion for the breed and their potential to improve the suckler cow in the UK. It has been a lifetime's support for a breed, which saw him serving on National Council before becoming President of the British Simmental Cattle Society and going on to represent the Society on the World Federation Council in the late nineties. He was also President of the Border Leicester Sheep Society in their Centenary year in 1996 so is well qualified to adjudicate in Melbourne.
“This year's show also has the added advantage of coinciding with the World Simmental Congress, which is being hosted around the Melbourne Show.” added John.
“It will be great to catch up with many past colleagues and friends from all over the world while enjoying the hospitality of Melbourne!”
There has also been success in the sale ring, with high averages for Simmental bulls and females, selling to a top of 12000gns. Skerrington Simmentals are now recognised in the ABRI Breed Plan System as one of the highest indexed herds in the UK and aim to keep or increase the terminal indexes as John & William believe the commercial farmers are looking more and more at these figures.
This year will see no less than eight Skerrington Bulls at the Perth Bull Sales at Stirling. Aiming for the commercial market has always been important to the family with stock bulls being an added bonus on many occasions.
This years' crop of bulls are sired by Corskie Proton, who was Male champion at the Royal Highland and Male and Reserve Supreme Champion at the English Royal 2008, with 25 sons selling at Perth, averaging £4350 and selling to a top of £10,000 twice. Popes Tonka was purchased for 12,000gns and his first crop is looking promising. Sons from another stock bull, Sterling Nelson 2, have sold to 20,000gns
John and Betty, who have been Presidents of their Rotary and Inner Wheel Clubs respectively, are both keen curlers and John has again skipped this year's winning team in the International Curling Fellowship of Rotarians World Championship. He is also the current President of this organisation. Betty's busiest pastime is looking after John!
P S John has also a good eye for birds – being a racing pigeon fancier – as well as judging beauty queens!!