National award for Borders Aberdeen Angus breeder

John Elliot at home on his farm Roxburgh Mains, near Kelso with an Aberdeen Angus.
John Elliot at home on his farm Roxburgh Mains, near Kelso with an Aberdeen Angus.

Former Duns farmer John Elliot has received a national award for his contribution to livestock breeding.

The Aberdeen Angus breeder, now of Roxburgh Mains, Kelso, is this year’s winner of the prestigious Sir William Young Award from the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).

Mr Elliot, who also writes a column for The Scottish Farmer, said: “My reaction was extreme surprise, but it’s pleasing.”

The former commercial cattle and sheep producer of Rawburn near Duns decided about 50 years ago to concentrate more on breeding pure-bred Aberdeen Angus and he started his herd with stock from the Cape Wrath herd founded by his grandfather in 1913, which he boosted with quality females from other herds.

Mr Elliot started performance recording – regular weighing and ultrasonic scanning – more than 30 years ago and sourced top genetics worldwide to work with the highest performing cattle within the breed.

“We have used a lot of embryo transfers and modern techniques where we could,” he said.

His work paid off when in 1997 he bred Rawburn Transformer, a bull that broke every record as a yearling and recorded a Signet Beef Value of £55, unheard of at the time. Over the next decade, Transformer outperformed all other contemporary sires with a third of the top 100 Angus bulls in the UK, including the top 10, sired by him.

The citation for his award states: “Top drawer Rawburn cattle continue to command the premium that they have built up over many years through the strict criteria that has been the backbone of John’s breeding policy. His success with his beloved Aberdeen Angus cattle is legendary.”