James (Jimmy) Gray Douglas from Fraserburgh, a sheep breeder recognised by fellow breeders and stockmen throughout the industry as an outstanding livestock breeder, judge and exhibitor, is the 2016 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 (RHASS), recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young, Skerrington Mains, Hurlford, Kilmarnock. Last year renowned Blackface and Charolais breeder, Archie MacGregor of Allanfauld, Kilsyth, won the award.
Jimmy (77) farms at Woodhead of Cairness, Fraserburgh, an arable and grassland farm which he bought in 1960 and started the Cairness Suffolk sheep flock. Acknowledged as one of the few truly exceptional breeders of Suffolk, Texel and Border Leicester sheep, Jimmy has been involved with sheep breeding since he was child, helping his father at Milton of Clola near Mintlaw with his flock of Border Leicesters, from which he adopted the Clola prefix for his own flock.
For 67 consecutive years Jimmy has sold rams in Aberdeen Mart. In 1960 Jimmy was achieving 1200gns when 200gns was a fair price. He has always had one of the top flock averages, selling rams regularly for sums in excess of £20,000 to £30,000 and, in 1994, he set a new breed record selling Cairness Court to John Sinnet for 26,000gns.
With a motto of “always buy the best, no matter the price”, Jimmy has always been at the front of the queue when it comes to buying sheep, paying 220,000gns for Deveronvale Perfection in 2009, the world record priced Texel sheep. In 1993 he paid 22,000gns for Pankymoor Prelude, who was the sire of the 26,000gns Cairness Court. In 1995 he bought Muiresk King of Diamonds, the sire of his most famous ewe, K55, for 68,000gn, a breed record at the time.
It’s unquestionably with his Suffolk flock that he has enjoyed the most success, dominating the breed for 30 years. He has achieved 12 champions and three reserve champions at the National Suffolk Sale and six champions and five reserve champions at Edinburgh (now Stirling) sale. The Suffolk Sheep Society is dominated by Cairness Blood, with all the top flocks benefiting from Jimmy’s bloodlines. The two top priced Suffolk sheep, Ardlea Ardbenning, £90,000, and Stockton Almighty, £75,000, are both sired by or out of Cairness stock.
Today, Jimmy’s flock numbers 40 ewes. The citation, written by Angus Howie who nominated Jimmy for the awards, reads: “Jimmy is still as passionate today as he was 50 years ago. His contribution to sheep breeding is immense: he is a highly talented individual and the most prolific and consistent Suffolk sheep breeder of our generation. His whole life has been the pursuit of perfection. His attention to detail is second to none. At the age of 77, he shows no signs of slowing down.”