15 Mar 2023

Hugh Kennedy receives John Dennison Lifetime Award

At the 11th Borderway Dairy Expo, Ayrshire dairy farmer Hugh Kennedy was announced as the 2023 recipient of the John Dennison Lifetime Achievement Award.
A passionate ambassador of the Holstein breed all his working life, Hugh Kennedy was presented with this highly acclaimed award at the UK Borderway Dairy Expo on Saturday 11thMarch. The accolade was established in 2013 in memory of well-known dairy farmer John Dennison, with the aim to recognise a dairy cattle breeder who is judged to be an exemplary role model and high achiever in the dairy industry.  
Known and highly respected throughout the dairy industry, Hugh Kennedy has been a  leading breeder of Holsteins since he began farming at East Carngillan near Tarbolton 54 years ago. From those early days Hugh has expanded his Stair and Stairend herds at East and West Cargillan into a leading dairy and breeding operation whose bloodlines have won prizes and plaudits throughout the UK, Europe and the United States.
On announcing this year’s winner, Harrison & Hetherington’s Senior Pedigree Dairy Auctioneer, Glyn Lucas said, “When this award was initiated its aim was to recognise high achieving individuals within the dairy industry who are admired and respected by their peers and Hugh certainly has all of these attributes.”
“As mentioned in his nomination, Hugh’s passion, knowledge and sheer joy in his cows, whether showing, judging, watching judging, attending sales or at home milking was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with him. So, on behalf the Dennison family and everyone here today at Borderway Diary Expo, I would like to congratulate him on this very well-deserved recognition.”
Born in 1943, Hugh moved with his family at age 4 to East Carngillan, Tarbolton. He was keen on farming from the get-go and left school at aged 15, as he would cheerfully admit himself with no academic qualifications but everything he would need to be successful in a life dedicated to dairying – a huge work ethic, drive, ambition and most importantly an eye for good cattle.
Having started with Ayrshires inherited from his father David, he made his own decision to convert to the British Friesian breed, one of the first in the area in the late 60’s. He travelled to breed sales and dispersals up and down the country purchasing pedigree stock which founded the Stair herd in the early 70’s and enjoying great success in production and in showing and herd competitions.
In 1991, with both his sons choosing to go into dairy and the neighbouring West Carngillan farm bought in 1986, Hugh moved into the Holstein breed proper. He travelled all over Holland and Germany buying in-calf heifers as the quickest and most economical way to build a Holstein herd that by 1993 was big enough to divide into the Stair and Stairend herds.
Having supported many shows and competed in West of Scotland Herd comps and the Scottish Club Herd comp many times he has won a raft of awards over the years: individual, progeny and the coveted team prize.
At the age of 79 and after the terrible passing of his son Jim a few years ago, the difficult decision was made to disperse the entire Stair Herd on 7th December 2022 at H&H Carlisle. This showcased the years of breeding and love that he committed to the breed – one of his greatest lifetime achievements.
On receiving this prestigious accolade Hugh said: “This is unbelievable, I am absolutely speechless. Cows have been my life, and I loved John Dennison, he was one of my heroes and one of the nicest gentlemen you could ever meet. I am so very humbled to receive this recognition.”
Previous winners of the John Dennison Lifetime Achievement Award are as follows:
2022    Harry Hodgson, Wormanby Farm, Burgh by Sands, Carlisle
2021    David Yates, from Meikle Firthhead Farm, Castle Douglas
2020    Blaise Tomlinson, owner of the pedigree Sandyford herd in Loughborough
2019    Bill Nadin, from the Sterndale Holstein herd
2018    Jimmy Wilson, from the Tregibby Herd in Cardigan, Wales
2017    Mark Nutsford, from the Riverdane Herd
2016    Alister Laird, of Blyth Bridge
2015    Sam McCormick, owner of the Hilltara Herd
2014    Mr John Gribbon, noted UK and international figure in the dairy industry
2013    Mike Miller, from Shanael Holsteins
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