Award winning livestock breeder, Billy Macpherson of Blackford Farm, Croy, is the 2014 recipient of one of the livestock industry’s most prestigious prizes, the Sir William Young Award.
The award, from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young, Skerrington Mains, Hurlford, Kilmarnock.
Billy’s interest in pedigree breeding started when he worked for the late Reid Walker amongst the Ben Alder Galloway herd when he was nineteen. It was a steep learning curve, but watching and listening to the many great stockmen at the Highland Show and Castle Douglas sales, he soon got immersed in his lifelong interest in genetics and livestock breeding.
It was the tough lessons learned on returning home to take over his father’s hill farm at Tomatin that gave Billy the very commercial view that has always been the basis for his breeding policies in both sheep and cattle. He has never followed “fashions” with his stock, but has strived to breed what the commercial producer requires.
Billy has never been biased towards any breed as he sees a place for them all, but he chose the Simmental in the late seventies as he could see their potential as the suckler cow that he needed to produce the quality calves that he regularly topped the local sales with.
Showing commercial cattle, Blackface sheep, and then the Simmentals at local summer shows soon became his whole family’s main interest. One of his cross calves went on to win the commercial section at the Highland Show for Billy Glazebrook.
The Blackford name became well known in the Simmental breed following the record priced sale of Trident at 14000gns to the SMMB in 1988. He proved a successful breeder in both dairy and beef herds. Following the German Fleckvieh lines, which provided the basis for the easy fleshing cattle which he wanted to breed, Billy studied all the old journals and catalogues to select stockbulls. 25 years after first breaking the breed record he achieved it again with Capercaillie in 2013 making 45000gns. What made this extra special was that Capercaillie’s pedigree was a blend of all the best cattle that had been at Blackford, going back to the original cow purchased in 1978. Capercaillie was the sixth Supreme “Perth” Champion for Blackford.
Billy was a founder member of the Highland Mule Breeders in the late eighties and has sold the top pen of ewe lambs at their annual sale in Dingwall on all but a handful of occasions.
Billy has enjoyed judging many breeds of cattle and sheep at shows and sales across the country including Castle Douglas Galloway sales, Perth Simmental sales and the Highland Show Interbreed Pairs, Salers and Bleu du Maines.
The number of times that the Blackford name appears in the bloodlines in Simmental sale catalogues in testament to Billy’s efforts to breed sound commercial cattle.
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Note to Editors – The Sir William Young Award was instituted in 1983. Previous recipients include Ian Gilmour, Jim Swanney, Dr Bill Martin, John Cameron, Jack Lawson, Prof. Ian Cunningham, Dr John Robinson, Harry P Sleigh, James Biggar, James Arnott Barron, John Ewart, Kenneth Mair, Mrs Margaret Runcie, Charles Scott, Neil Massie, Graham McClymont, Prof. Ian Wilmut, the Cadzow Brothers, Andrew Dunlop, James Jeffrey, Keith Jamieson, John and Allan Wight, the Waxwing Stud, Jack Rennie, Ronnie Black, Jim Guthrie, Drew Adam, Dougal Dick,William McLaren and Dugald & Jacky Low-Mitchell.