After a busy week at Ingliston we still managed to catch up with David Gray of Drumtall, East Kilbride, who runs the Grayridge Holstein prefix as well as being a full-time foot trimmer, and clipping cattle has made him a worldwide sensation!

What’s your background?

Well, where do I start…

I have always been involved in the industry and having left school there wasn’t enough work on our small dairy farm based in East Kilbride, so I took a strong interest in clipping dairy cattle.

I would enter the odd Young Farmers’ clipping competition and I soon realised I had a naturally good skill for it having won the national Holstein young breeders award which the prize was a two week stay in Canada. In 1995 I took the trip, and I was very lucky to be hosted by such a welcoming family that the two-week trip resulted in me staying for four months. I made the request that I didn’t want paid but I wanted to absorb everything that John Buckley of the Salem Holstein herd knew.

From there I was religiously clipping cattle all over the world for 15 years, you didn’t know which country you would be in from one week to the next and I really was living out of a suitcase from travelling to Canada, America, Spain, Italy, Holland, France and Australia. I really was lucky to be working with top breeders from all over the world.

From there my home routes started to shine and I wanted to create a prefix for myself so in 2002 I formed the Grayridge Holstein herd. Having married my wife, Julie in 2003 I realised I wanted to be based in Scotland more, which is where I found the niche market of hoof trimming.

I bought my first hoof trimming chute 19 years ago and I am pretty much full time with that now, with our two children, Callum (14) and Erica (12) also coming in along the way.

My parents, Jim and Moira still run the farm which is now a heifer rearing unit having stopped milking 12 years ago.

Why the Holstein?

The Holstein is what I was brought up with, my father started with British Friesians and moved onto Holsteins after seeing them in the country at Robert Dobbie’s place, he was one of the first Holstein breeders in Scotland in the early 80s. He would always have magazines from Canada and America to show us and from that point I had a love for the Holstein breed.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

I am more type orientated. I am looking for a well-balanced cow that shows a wide chest, deep rib and a very square animal. Being a foot trimmer locomotion is a big thing for me, mobility is very important. Finally, I am looking for something that will really stick out to me being very eye catching in the show ring.

Judging experience?

These traits are essential when selecting your winner in the show ring, and I have been very fortunate to judge various shows across the UK and Northern Ireland.

I was also asked to attend the Canadian judging school eight years ago, which not many folk in the UK have done. It was a very informative three/ four days and a great experience, being in the classroom learning about creating an atmosphere and interacting with the crowd before even mentioning the animals.

I was placed the highest European and third overall so it was a great achievement and something I would love to help others do. Gaining that confidence in the show ring through experience and picking up those little words to help get the crowds attention makes it fun for everyone.

How do you select the best for sale?

We sell our stock 50:50 to surplus customers and through auction markets, predominately Carlisle.

Best sale day?

I enjoy the Black and White Sale in December, as we have so many good friends there and it is the last real sale of the year for Holstein breeders, so it is a big social gathering.

As for price, we have sold various heifers for five figure sums privately.

Holstein place in the commercial market?

The breed has a great ability of being able to convert forage into high values of milk. Buyers are getting more milk for their investment, and no other dairy breed can match their milk production at the moment.

If you look after their cow comfort and fed them well, they can produce a lot of milk for that commercial buyer.

Has the breed changed for the better?


Back in the day breeders wouldn’t communicate, now we all come together to help improve our herds from one another. We try to learn from neighbours, meetings, and open days, and it is great to get new ideas from feed nutritionists, vets and various other experts in the industry.

We all are fighting for the same message, which is to keep the cows happy, produce more milk to make the farm profitable which in turn keeps everyone in business.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

My dad used to show on a low level just at local shows on occasional weekends and one evening we entered the Lanarkshire Holstein Club event at Strathaven market.

Henry Griffes turned up with a pen of cows that won every class – the cows were exceptional and were well ahead of the times, he really gave me the bug to produce the best of the best.

Biggest showing achievement?

One of the first cows we owned, Grahams Legacy, she caught my eye when I was down clipping in Cheshire.

That same year, 2003 we took this Jersey to the Royal Highland where she stood champion and two weeks later took dairy inter-breed at the Royal Show, which is only the second Jersey to have ever stood supreme dairy at the Royal.

Top tips of the trade?

Get a good eye for show animals at a young age.

The diet is the first and foremost if you don’t have this right, you don’t have a show calf to work with. This is followed by grooming, you need to interact with a calf, you want it to trust you and you don’t want it to be afraid of humans.

Which was the best animal that you’ve ever shown?

My favourite cow I have seen in Scotland has to be Bonvale Broker Natasha which I showed on behalf of the Laird family of Blyth Farms. She was the total package she had a lot of strength and length to her, as well as the style when she paraded. She is a cow you could work with every day of the year.

But what was the best animal that you’d ever seen?

Thrulane James Rose in Canada and O’kilbra in Switzerland.

Both were true stamps of the Holstein breed, showing strength, width and just being the total package of dairyness with phenomenal mammary systems.

Abiding memory?

Proposing to my wife. I was offered a job over in Canada in 2002 and we went over to see what it was all about. On a stormy night I got down on one knee at Niagara on the lake.

Although the country was amazing and everything we could have dreamt of, mad cow disease hit Canada and my job was gone, it was a big disappointment at the time, but I don’t regret it now. We are lucky to have a family here in Scotland with the kids growing up with their grandparents next door.

Most influential person in your career?

The first and foremast must be my father, I would not be in the industry if it wasn’t for him.

Drew Wilson gave me a lot of contacts and encouragement from a very early age and really set the tone for me.

Across the water in Canada, it would have to be John Buckley and Dan Doner for the opportunities they gave me.

Your choice of best stockman ever?

A man before his time, Mike Farlinger, he would dominate all the national shows.

He was breeding, developing, and showing modern day dairy cows, I was honoured to be asked to clip his cattle for his dispersal as he moved over to Canada.

If you could change one thing in your career, what would it be?

Not to be injured as many times, farms are high risked.

Something you thought you would never achieve but have?

Seeing a lot of the world. I have met so many amazing families all over the world and created memories I never thought I would have.

Best advice for someone starting off in the industry?

It is all about discipline if you are reliable, hardworking and polite you will go a long way. Don’t be scared to ask questions as that is where you learn, communication is key in the industry.

Favourite quote?

The key to success is failure. The majority of times I have learnt something in my career has been from a mistake, but you have got to move forward from that.

Are you involved in any committees?

I have been involved with the Holstein Scotland club for several years, having completed four years as young breeder coordinator I have currently just taken on the vice chairman post.

I also enjoy getting involved with our local show, East Kilbride, which is celebrating their 250 year this year.

Problems in the industry?

There is a huge void in the industry at the minute with the next generation gap not coming through, it is a very worrying time.

The dairy industry is not going to be there in years to come if we don’t get other people interested to take over. Although the milk price has risen it needs to continue that way as it still barely covers the increased input costs.

Do you think your children will take on the dairy industry?

They are still at a young age so it is difficult to tell, I would like to hope they show some sort of interest, and both are very keen in the showmanship programmes at the moment, so it is promising.

Callum is doing well at school and has recently just been signed with Kilmarnock for ice hockey with Erica having undertaken her first figure skating competition in Blackpool where she won her group earlier this year.

The future of the showing circuit?

Unfortunately, the showing circuit is becoming a smaller pool with a tighter community, it is so easy for breeders to stop showing and not start up again, which is worrying after two years of no shows due to the pandemic. People realise the time commitment and they find different interests.

I really hope people come back out on force this year and not only support the shows but each other.