Scotsman Obituaries: David Dick, livestock breeding pioneer and businessman

David Dick, livestock breeding pioneer and businessman. Born: 25 April 1936 in South Langdyke, Airth. Died: 16 December 2021 in Throsk, Stirling, aged 85

David Dick was a familiar figure at Scottish cattle shows
David Dick was a familiar figure at Scottish cattle shows

Not long after his seventh birthday, David Dick competed in his first ploughing match. One observer that day commented that the young boy could hardly reach the clutch pedals on his tractor but that ignored David’s skills as he drew a straight opening furrow and followed it up with some neat ploughing. The resulting work saw David pick up a prize ticket; one of the youngest ever to do so at a ploughing competition.

While he followed in his father’s footsteps and went on to further successes in competitive ploughing, it was in the world of beef cattle breeding that he left a bigger legacy to UK agriculture. In this highly competitive world, his attention to detail and his concentration on beef-producing stock helped bring record-breaking sale prices and prizewinning performances

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Over two decades from 1980, Limousin cattle from his Ronick herd based at Mains of Throsk, Stirling, picked up most of the top trophies in the beef cattle world. In the sale ring Ronick-bred cattle regularly featured at the top end as other producers bought into his herd’s bloodlines.

He was also prominent in promoting the breed through the Limousin pedigree breed society when he was appointed chairman (1988-1992) at a time when this native French breed was establishing itself as a major influence in UK beef production.

His support for the Limousin breed started a few years earlier. He recalled buying his first bunch of Limousin cross suckled calves out of Lanark Mart. “They out-performed any other cattle I had bought. From then on, I not only aimed to buy Limousin crosses, but also converted the suckler herd to Limousin x Friesian cows put to Limousin bulls.”

The next step came when David attended a Limousin sale in Carlisle and came home with two pedigree females. The Ronick pedigree herd of Limousins was registered in 1980 and in a major indication of his ability to spot and acquire the best, David bought a cow, Broadmeadows Ainsi, at Douglas Crichton’s dispersal sale in 1988. Ainsi had already shown her quality in the show ring, and she had also already bred a bull called Broadmeadows Cannon, destined to be the most prolific sire in the history of the British Limousin breed. David bought Cannon in 1990 from Matt Ridley of the Haltcliffe herd after judging the North West Limousin Club Herd competition where Cannon’s offspring took the progeny award.

This was but one of many stints as judge that took David to all corners of the British Isles, including the Royal Show in 1992 and the Highland Show four years later. He even judged at the prestigious Royal Melbourne show in Australia.

Under David’s ownership, Ainsi not only won glory for the Ronick Herd when this classy cow took the breed championship at the Royal Show, she also went on to grab the glory for the entire Limousin breed, by becoming the first Limousin to win the prestigious Supreme Interbreed Individual Championship. This was just one of her many top show successes.

The success of the Ronick herd was not just down to one animal as David had shrewdly bought three imported Limousin heifers. From them came Ronick Danita, the 1997 Royal Highland champion. There, to make David’s day, she beat her daughter Ronick Janita into reserve spot.As David observed at the time: “To win as we did with Broadmeadows Ainsi was absolutely wonderful, but nothing can beat the thrill of winning a big show with one of your own home-bred animals. That gave us thrills, which we’ll never, ever forget.”Janita became one of the most successful show cattle in Limousin history. Her outstanding show career between 1997 and 2000 included twice winning the overall championship at the Highland show along with twice taking the reserve placing. She also had similar success at the Royal Show in twice taking the overall award and twice winning the runner up placing.

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There was also Ronick success in the male side with Ronick Hawk, A son of Cannon was bought by a top AI company where he sold some 800,000 straws of semen to producers worldwide.

Throughout all this success and expansion of both the cattle enterprise and the whole farming organisation, David was accompanied by his wife, Alison, whom he had met at a young farmers’ dance held in the Golden Lion hotel, Stirling, They were married in June 1960. Alison became part of the team behind the success. Not only did she bring up the family, she helped with the running of the business; especially at times when David was away on Limmy Society business

David and Alison had three children, Ronald, Christopher and Wendy; five grandchildren, Isobel, Iain, David, Stephanie and Christina; and three great grandchildren, Sophia, Pippa and Harvey

Such was David’s enthusiasm for the Limousin breed that no fewer than three branches of the family tree now have their own pedigree Limmy herds; namely Carse, Lodge and Stephick.

David was born on the small tenanted farm of South Langdyke, near Airth, where he attended the local primary school of Carronshore and where his father, William, ran a grass seeds and contracting business in addition to farming. The family moved to the larger Mains of Throsk farm in 1948, by which time David was attending Stirling High school. But as soon as it was possible, he came home to farm.

The family business was successful in building up to its present size of 3,000 acres, growing a range of crops including Scots Timothy grass seed, a speciality grown in the Carse of Stirling.

A range of cereals are grown as certified seed and are either sold bulk or processed at the family’s own seed processing plant.

Apart from the above, what happened to the boy who entered his first ploughing competition aged seven? With his Ransome plough, he won the British championship in the 1950s, then followed that up with no less than four successes in the Scottish championships.

But it was a runner-up placing in the British championship in 1969 that led him to represent Britain in the World Ploughing Championships in Denmark in September 1970.

His expertise in these competitions saw him asked to officiate at many ploughing matches over the years.

And to keep his own hand in, he did most of the ploughing at Mains of Throsk up until a week or so before he died, making it more than seven decades on from his earliest appearance.

Despite his high profile in life, David was essentially a private man. He was upright, honest and practical and was held in very high regard by many who met him in the various strands of his life.

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