In 1975 the Logan herd switched from Dairy Shorthorns to British Friesians. In the 1980s, Canadian Holsteins were imported to Logan and by the mid 1990s the herd was 100% pedigree Holstein. Their business today has been built on big investments, recognised for major farming awards and what can only be described as pure passion for the Holstein breed.
East Logan Farm was purchased in 1971 by David Yates, Sr., bringing with him a herd of Dairy Shorthorns from his farm in Lockerbie. With the need to increase cow numbers, the Dairy Shorthorns were sold and the herd eventually switched to British Friesians in 1975.
The switch to Holsteins was encouraged with the support of the late Tom Carrick of Ullswater British Friesians. Tom introduced David to Claude Picket of Pickland Holsteins in Canada and David flew to Canada on the invitation of Claude visiting farms en route to Madison. David recollects fond memories of his time travelling with Claude; “I have never met such a generous man; he would help anybody,” said David.
With David Sr’s., two sons, David Jr., and Brian at home on the farm, the opportunity arose to purchase a neighbouring farm, Firthhead Farm, for David in 1991. For five years, East Logan and Firthhead were run together and in 1996 the farms split into two separate businesses.
Today, the farm is owned and run by Brian, wife Sheila, son Michael (26) with radiographer daughter Anna (23) also becoming a partner four years ago. Currently milking 250 cows, Sheila oversees all farm paperwork and rears the calves. Brian jokes that he and Michael are general dogs’ bodies who have to turn their hands to anything and everything.
Before Brian settled down to have a family, he was a rising star in the rugby world. Making a 126 mile round trip three times a week to play for the division one team, Kilmarnock, to then play for Glasgow district team – the next step was the Scotland team. Playing rugby from the age of 12 up until he was 41 years old for his local team, it was dairy farming that was always at the forefront of Brian’s mind; “Farming was bred into me through my father, he was into pedigrees before I was. It was always so enjoyable to milk good uddered cows and that’s what gave me the passion to continue with pedigreed animals. I believe you have to challenge yourself to have the best cows and the best yields – it costs the same to feed them, so you may as well feed a good one! It makes the job more enjoyable,” says Brian.
Favoring wellington boots over pen and paper, son Michael left school at 16 to work on the farm. At 19, with encouragement from Brian, Michael went travelling for five months and spent three months of his time working at Regancrest Farm in the USA. “I thoroughly enjoyed every minute working out there. It was great to see how other people do things on their farm, to learn from it and to bring some knowledge home,” said Michael.
With numerous show wins under their belt, ten shows attended in 2015 and a trophy cabinet to be envious of, it would be easy to assume the Yates family have always stood at the top of the classes. For humble Brian, winning shows was something but a long distant dream, “I remember watching the Holstein classes from ringside at the Royal Highland Show and thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice to win’ but never thinking it would ever happen to me. I have stood at the bottom of the line-up many times,” said Brian.
Putting Logan on the pedigree map by being tapped out as Supreme Reserve Champion at the National Holstein show in 2006 was Logan Outside Roxy EX-94 3E, a descendant from Hanoverhill Inspire Roxy that David imported from Canada. “No question this was my showing highlight. We never expected to win,” said Brian. Proving that sheer hard work pays off, the Yates’s have had numerous successes in the show ring ever since, including winning Interbreed at The Royal Highland Show 2014 and AgriScot SuperCow in 2012 with joint owned Dilandy Debonair Tabitha Red EX-92.
The Roxy family was one of the first families that David senior had invested in while overseas. It was at the second Hanoverhill sale that David attended in 1989 that he purchased Inspire Roxy for $35,000 as well as buying into the Barb family with Pickland Threat Barb. With other invested families such as the Belle’s, Lulu’s and the MarqI’s, it is obvious that having a good eye for great cows runs in the Yates family as the descents of the imported cows not only remain very prolific in the herd, but in the show ring as well.
Logan Silky Barb EX-93 5E (Gibson x Prelude) secured first place at AgriScot as a second calver in 2008. In the same year they had first place in the junior heifer in-milk class with Logan Mr Sam Hope – an offspring of another imported embryo, Logan SC Honour Hope VG-89 (Cousteau x Skychief). Logan Alexander Belle VG-89 3yr old is a descendent of Pickland Threat Belle PI EX-94. Doing well as a calf in the show ring, she continued her success with second place at the 2013 UK Dairy Expo as a Junior Heifer in Milk and followed up the next year with red rosette in the Junior 3 Year Old class. Her first calf, a Toc-Farm Goldsun heifer, was never shown as a calf but Michael says that they could always see potential in her. In her second outing at ten months calved she was champion heifer at the South West Dairy Show in 2015 and three weeks later she stood as champion heifer at AgriScot.
Following in his papa’s footsteps, Michael decided to invest in the Ambrosia family while visiting his girlfriend Emma Jones in Wales at Sahara Holsteins. Favouring show type from fashionable families and backed by generations of VG/EX, Michael picked out one of five Atwood Ambrosia daughters from Smiddiehill Toystory Ambrosia VG-89 while clipping for David Jones in preparation for their Stars of Sahara Sale in 2010. “I thought this heifer was a real bargain, but looking back it was an absolute steal as we have nearly 15 daughters on the ground. The Ambrosia’s are the most show type animals we have on the farm,” said Michael. Logan Numero Uno Ambrosia is a former #1 type heifer in Europe, and her daughter Logan Kingboy Ambrosia 2 (Kingboy x Numero Uno x Atwood) is one of the highest genomic type calves in Europe at 3.34 PTAT.
Brian not only strives to breed high type animals, but cows that fit the system. “We breed cows to fit our own system. Size is not the be all and end all, we like balanced cows here. The absolute aim at Logan Holsteins is to reach 50,000kgs with five calves or more,” said Brian.
Brian admits the construction of their new cubicle shed in 2005 was one thing that has resulted in a dramatic improvement to the working environment. With the old buildings sitting on a hill, the new construction on a level site has given them a capacity of 215 cows and decreased labour intensity.
The new-build also accommodates a 20×40 Westfalia swing-over parlour, a 60×40 collecting area, a 60×40 straw bedded area and curtains for ventilation, helping to create a clean and dry environment. Despite the sheer size of the 300 foot long x 110 foot wide shed, Brian recollects the reasoning behind the budget build. “Due to costs, we just concentrated on trying to make the shed comfortable and cow friendly, simple and easy to operate. The idea is that one man could go in and milk 200 cows efficiently and without assistance,” said Brian.
A new youngstock shed was constructed in 2013 adjacent to the cubicle building. It houses 350 head from 8 week old calves to in-calf heifers and dry cows.
In a bid to save money on electricity, heat and hot water, a Biomass Boiler was installed on the farm in May 2014. Burning on average 60 tonnes of woodchip per year, the boiler provides extra heating in the old farm house as well as providing hot water on the farm and heating in the parlour and offices. It has been a considerable saving for electrical costs and offers a better working environment.
Recognised for his efforts in 2015, Brian was a Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year finalist and Scottish Dairy Farmer of the Year finalist. Attention to detail within the business, the family were also runner up in the prestigious NMR Gold Cup.
Hard for the judges not to be impressed by the business’s notable fertility figures, the herd calves all year round and the in-calf rate 100 days post calving stands at 50%, with just 7% of cows not in calf by 200 days.
The mastitis rate stands at only 10 cases per 100 cows, but ever the optimist Brian is a true believer that things can always be improved. “The cell count has been below 100,000 cells/ml for the past 12 months and we’ve worked hard at it but I would like to see it lowered,” comments Brian.
To keep on top of digital dermatitis, an automated footbath is used two out of the three milking’s in a day, when cows exit the parlour. Foot trimming is done on a regular basis with cows being trimmed twice on all four feet in each lactation – before they dry off and at 100 days into the lactation. “The biggest benefit of this is that it keeps the shape of the foot to make sure all cows are walking properly leading to fewer problems,” adds Brian.
Leading on from Brian’s success, in January Michael triumphed winning the 2015 Holstein UK’s President’s Medal Award. Michael’s commitment within the Holstein Young Breeders and countless successes at HYB competitions have secured him a trip to Argentina for a youth conference at the end of March as well as a trip to The Royal Winter Fair on behalf of Semex.
Converting feed at 1.63 compared to a national average of 1.34 they continue to utilise the silage more effectively and although this means sacrificing the odd litre here and there, Brian believes that they are achieving results. With the Keenan Pace system in place Brian is now able to monitor what they are feeding on a daily basis to continue to improve these efficiencies. “It is so easy to operate that anyone can feed the cows. It is very detailed for what each load needs and you can set revolutions accordingly and it produces a consistent ration,” states Brian.
A few months ago the investment in a milk shuttle has continued their work mantra: simplicity. Despite a few bumps and bashes into the walls while Sheila got used to maneuvering the automated machine, Brian confirms it has made a vast improvement on calf health. “We are getting more milk in to them quicker, the shuttle is making the concentration of milk the same and they get a consistent feed daily. We can safely say the calves are doubling their birth weight by eight weeks,” says Brian.
When looking to the future, Brian likes to keep a positive mind-set despite the troubles that the dairy industry is currently in. “Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is the milk price. We are scrutinizing our business to see if there are any areas to cut costs on. We continue to analyze every animal to make sure she is profitable in the herd, and if she isn’t then we have to move her on,” says Brian. While the challenges may be vast, Brian does not rule out the possibility of having more Jerseys on farm, in addition to Sheila’s 15 head, because of the components their Arla milk contract is wanting. Looking to the next 5-10 years Brian sums things up, “I’ve made big investments and I want to keep my head down and keep working hard.”
The epitome of success, Logan Holsteins have used hard work and dedication to being the best they can be in all areas of their business. Their accomplishments are anything but over as they will, without a doubt, continue to be recognized for their passion for dairy farming and attention to detail of their business.