FEW farming families have made more of an impact in pedigree dairy circles over the decades than the Lairds and their well-known Blythbridge herd based on top cow families boasting generations of strong pedigrees, type, functionality and production.

A standout character and a role model that continues to thrive on his family farm is Colin Laird, based at West Linton, Peebleshire.

The family now milk 500 cows, with a rolling herd average of 11,000 litres at 4% BF and 3.1% P.

Along with Colin’s parents, Alister and Kathleen, and his wife, Izzy, and their two children, Chloe (2) and Gregor (seven months old), there is always a helping hand close by. Chloe is already eager to get out and lend a hand on the farm at such a young age and helps with the dairy calves.

Colin’s life really is through the showing circuit, he even managed to meet his wife through it! The experience he has gained over the years from showing, selling, and farming there is not much he cannot tell you about the dairy industry.

“My ideal Holstein should be sharp angular, dairy, set on a sound set of feet and legs, a snug silky dairy udder and a body with plenty capacity,” explained Colin.

“There are so many high-quality cattle brought out to the showing circuit now a days that it is making it a very difficult competition, but it is great to see the industry continuing to thrive. At some shows the dairy sections will lack the numbers, but the quality will always be there.

What got you involved in showing to start with?

Going to local shows was the initial attraction, witnessing local breeders coming together and bringing out their best stock. Having a calf was quite suited to growing up on a dairy farm, but it really does all come down to being born into a family dairy farm.

If you had to choose another breed to go into what would it be?

We have enough dairy cattle, so to mix it up, it would definitely have to be a breed of sheep as they always seem to be getting a good trade – especially this year.

Royal Highland Show experiences?

Due to there never being a dairy calf section at the Highland Show when we were younger, we were always involved in showing the cows, starting off nearer the wrong end of the class then eventually winning the dairy section in the mid-1990s.

We always aim to take four to seven milker cows each year, to show our support to the show.

As a family we have been fortunate to take a total of 10 Royal Highland Show breed champions, including nine in the Holstein section and one in the Jersey competition.

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

Illens Atwood Australia EX95, she is the one of very few cows to win all three major dairy shows – Dairy day, UK expo and Agriscot – in the UK in recent years.

She was just full of character and we were honoured to have her as part of our show team for many years, and she has done so well for our herd over the years.

Illens Atwood Australia also stood second at the European champion to Galys Vray in 2016, and she is an Atwood cross Lheros.

The Scottish Farmer:

The best animal Colin has shown, Illens Atwood Australia EX95, stood champion at the Dairy Day in 2017

But what’s the best you’d ever seen?

Galys Vray, the European champion 2016, which was in combined ownership with Junker, Stauf and Al-be-Ro Holsteins.

In her time, she was one of the greatest cows in the world and #50 PTAT cow in the world…

She is everything you would look for in a dairy cow, she spells the word style, shows great youthfulness, and has a near perfect udder.

Changes over the years?

Size doesn’t just get Holsteins to the top of the class anymore, but if you have a good big one you are on to a winner! You just need the style and shape to follow.

Unfortunately, the dairy section lacks in quantity at some of the shows, but it certainly makes up for quality now a days, everything that is brought out is brought out to perfection.

The farming industry as a whole, is moving forward with automation and technology playing a key role with it always enhancing. It is in our hands to keep it moving and staying with the times in order to produce the best produce that we can for the public.

Abiding memory?

Rewinding the clock back to 1994, that was the first time we featured in a championship at the Royal Highland Show. It was such a great achievement and one that could never be forgotten.

Even though we have won the Highland since, this was our first big award, when Raivue Astro Roxanna stood reserve in the Holstein section.

Biggest disappointment?

When my wife, Izzy, took the dairy inter-breed with the Jersey, Fourcrosses Anthony Carozza and I was reserve, with our Holstein, Blythbridge Jessy in 2017!

Most influential people?

Obviously, my parents have been very influential and have taught me most of what I know now. I would not be where I am today without them.

However, there has also been many industry peers and stockjudging trainers that have done their bit as well which I am very grateful of their help and advice.

Favourite show over the years and why?

The Royal Highland has always got to be up there, meeting up with so many like-minded friends that you haven’t seen for the year and making new memories doing something you love, will always be a hard one to beat.

It has always been our annual holidays and we have missed out this year, we will all just need to make up for it next year!

Best stockman/shepherd ever?

My father, Alister, by a country mile – his enthusiasm for the job never wears thin and he’s extremely passionate about the industry.

His ability to spot a good young animal is and has been a great skill to have and his expertise as a stockmen in this industry has been one of a kind. I have been lucky enough to learn from him first hand – I will always be grateful for the tips of the trades he has taught me over the years.

Who has got the best kist parties?

I wouldn’t say there was one in particular, often the best ones are when it’s not planned and you or someone offers a wee dram and before you know it the whisky bottles are empty and the cows have been lying in the sh-t and are needing milked.

We could write a book about stories and haircuts that were started at midnight then finished off the next morning!

Best advice?

Stick in at it … the things you can learn, the friendships you make and places this industry takes you are endless.

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

Get this virus to go away tomorrow and have a Royal Highland Show at the end of the year!

Biggest showing achievement?

We have had had great success nationally and at European level, but the friends that have been made are invaluable.

Showing wise it would have to be wining the Dairy Day in 2017, having been the first Scottish exhibitor to do so in almost two decades. That was exhibiting my favourite animal, Illens Atwood Australia ... she lived up to her reputation and has always done me proud.

Best investment?

A water hose so we don’t need to carry buckets of water to the cows several time a day at the Royal Highland Show … as they say, work smarter not harder.

The future of the showing circuit?

I think the future of the showing circuit lays with the likes of Holstein young breeders, when you are in that movement you aren’t long in getting the showing ‘bug’. It is crucial that the next generation continues to come through for the industry to continue to thrive.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way and I can’t imagine my life without all the shows and experiences along the way. It has made me the person I am today and I would encourage anyone to get involved in such an amazing industry.