15 Dec 2023

Holstein UK Announces Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

Holstein UK's Lifetime Achievement Award recognises individuals who have dedicated at least twenty years of service to the Holstein and/or British Friesian breeds. The award represents the ultimate honour for those who have made noteworthy contributions to the Society unassumingly.

The Board of Trustees were unable to narrow it down just to one winner due to the quality of applications this year, resulting in multiple winners for the first time since 2010. The individuals honoured with this accolade are Mary Mead of the Lakemead Prefix, Aubrey Greenhalgh of the Gorsfarm and Enchanted prefixes, and Dennis Smith of the Oakroyal prefix.


Mary Mead

In 1961, Mary and her husband Roger, who tragically passed away in a farming accident in 1990, purchased Holt Farm in Blagdon, Somerset, after they secured a loan from their bank. Located in the Yeo Valley, the 150-acre farm was home to just 35 cows. Due to the fairly heavy land and high rainfall, along with an abundance of grass, British Friesians were the obvious breed of choice for the Meads.

They commenced milk recording and joined the British Friesian Cattle Society, choosing Lakemead as their prefix. The local British Friesian Clubs were very proactive, and they were able to buy some good foundation families and their first breeding bull. In 1970, the adjoining 40-acre Lag Farm became available, and with yet more borrowing, the purchase enabled them to employ a herdsman and increase the size of their herd to 150 cows.

In 1972, Roger decided to venture into making yogurt with leftover milk from the clotted cream which they served in their tearoom. In the mid-1970s, they launched their first ‘own label’ yogurt products for major retailers, including Waitrose and Sainsburys. After Roger's death, it fell to Mary and her son Tim, to fulfil Roger's vision. Mary oversaw the farm as her particular interest was in the cows, and Tim, a recently qualified accountant, concentrated on the yogurt business. The decision in the early 1990s, to launch a range of organic yogurt, with milk supplied by two local farmers under the Yeo Valley label, really put them on the map.

The Lakemead herd is a closed herd, and their genetics can be traced back multiple generations. All replacements are bred from their best cows and artificially inseminated with carefully selected British Friesian semen, both from their own and other well-established herds. Mary has always been a keen supporter of pedigree breeding and has derived great satisfaction from providing breeding bulls to the major AI companies with semen, also for export.  She is a firm believer that there is a black and white cow to suit all systems of farming within the Holstein UK open Herd Book.

In 2012, Mary was awarded an OBE in recognition for her services to sustainable dairy farming, and in 2015, she received the RABDF Princess Royal Award for services to the UK dairy industry.


Dennis Smith

Born into the pedigree world of British Friesians as son of Len Smith, Dennis Joined Young Farmers and represented Somerset in the National Stock Judging Finals, winning it when he was 16. This led to later becoming the Stock Judging Trainer for the Devon Young Farmers team for many years. Dennis became the herdsman at the Pottrells herd for R Stafford-Smith where his father was Farm Manager. When saving up for a car he was given the opportunity to keep a cow at Pottrells so the car did not materialise and a well-bred Terling heifer was purchased instead. This was the start of the Oakroyal herd with the prefix registered when Dennis was 16 years old.

After college, Dennis was offered a job with United Cattle Breeders in establishing this new AI company. The company then became part of CBS where Dennis eventually became a Non-Executive Director.

Over these years, Dennis took up cattle photography for CBS, other AI companies, individual herds nationally and the Society. Cows were purchased, bred, developed and sold including Shopland Edleet Ruth 6 who went on to win The Royal Show Championship 1975 and then Champion at the massive World Conference Show. She is the only cow to have been classified EX100 points. In the early 80’s a tenancy of a farm was taken, together with photography carrying on for a period of time alongside acting as a Buying Agent for cattle for export for British Livestock and LMS.

The herd was developed and entered into the very first Devon Club herds competition winning the small herd section which it continued to win until the entire milking section of the herd was sold to Lanhydrock Estate. A couple of years after selling the milking herd, the small herd section was won again which continued every year until the herd dispersal. Oakroyal represented Devon and won the southern region of the UK Premier Herd Competition 7 times, gaining 2 x 3rds and 2nd in the Final before winning Champion Herd in 2018. The herd was successfully dispersed the following week averaging £2002 per life which was an extremely high trade at the time.

Dennis judged many shows throughout the UK and Ireland culminating in judging The Royal Show, The Royal Highland and The Irish National. Two of the proudest moments in the history of the Oakroyal herd would be winning The Premier Herds competition and receiving Master Breeder awards in both 2007 and 2017.


Aubrey Greenhalgh

Aubrey has been an integral member of the Lancashire Holstein Club for the majority of his adult life. His pedigree journey began with his first purchase in 1960 and in 1967, he went on to represent the Lancashire Club at the Young Judge’s Competition at the Royal Show. Aubrey has just stepped down from his position of Vice President of the Lancashire Club having been elected to this position in 1999. He was first elected to the Executive Committee in 1981, became Chairman in 1985 and president in 1986.

In 1985 he was elected as the first Club Coordinator for the Young Breeders Club which was formerly known as the YMA. During his time as Coordinator the club received an award from Holstein UK for being the first Club in the country to gain 100 young members.

He is a regular attendee at sales as both a vendor and a purchaser, having purchased over 15,000 animals for breeders across the UK and Ireland, which resulted in increasing the Society’s membership. Aubrey sourced all of the cattle for the Ballygowen herd of Messrs Lilburn that won Champion Large Herd in Northern Ireland in 2001.

Aubrey was Chairman of Great Eccleston Agricultural Show from 1975 – 1985, President in 2001 – 2002 and is still a Trustee of the Society, having seen the show grow from its small beginnings to a very prominent two day show in Lancashire.


Wallace Gregg, Chairman of Holstein UK concludes “The Board of trustees felt that the calibre of entries this year was exceptional and to narrow it down to just one winner was impossible. All three winners have given so much time, knowledge, and dedication to the Holstein and British Friesian breeds."