Donnie Beal-Preston 1914 – 2006 by Charlie MacGillivray Donnie can best be described as having been “The Dapper Doyen” of the South African Holstein Breed, and he left an indelible mark on the industry which he served for many years with foresight, passionate enthusiasm, clinical attention and inimitable style. His contribution to the progress of our beloved Black and White breed is legend, and bears the following testimony. Born on the 16th January 1914, Donnie attended St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown where he held the distinction of representing the senior Eastern Province Cricket side at the tender age 16 whilst still a scholar. His sporting prowess extended beyond Cricket and he played a great game of Tennis until age 80 when he converted to Bowls. Donnie married a tall and elegant lady called Wendy (nee Puttick) and together they were instrumental in carving the success and indeed the legacy of Exwell. The couple produced three children though sadly two succumbed at a very young age. John (Upper 1965) now lives in the United Kingdom. Exwell situated in the Waqu district near Cathcart, was a household name in the Sixties and Seventies and was not only a well respected herd prefix, but also a farm which to many foreign visitors, friends and neighbours, was renowned for it’s warm, charming and gracious hospitality. Donnie, whilst the son of a Friesland Breeder, overcame many obstacles along his way to becoming a premier breeder, and his success can almost entirely be ascribed to his determined, astute and uncanny ability to envisage a need and seize the opportunity. Having grown up in the Great Depression years, the Friesland cattle owned by Donnie’s father had been deregistered out of the necessity to ensure the education of his three sons could be afforded. Ten grade cows were given to Donnie to start him off and he was given permission to sell them if he so wished, and use the proceeds to buy animals of his own choice. Not content with being a “run of the mill” thornveld farmer, Donnie began his career some five years before the outbreak of World War 2 with the desire to breed “good cattle” and to succeed in pursuit of his own identified mark of excellence. The ten inherited animals were sold for between ₤5 and ₤12 each and the Brakfontein herd at Bedford was then chosen as the preferred source of two stud cows that the proceeds afforded. As funds allowed more cows were bought from herds visited and scrutinised by this fastidious and astute cowman, who had a clear vision of what he wanted. At the outbreak of World War 2, along with legions of fellow South Africans his age, Donnie signed up for the war. He found himself at a place known as Andalusia where he was assigned the dull duty of guarding Prisoners of War. The inevitable boredom of such an assignment led him to research the subject of genetics and breeding to maintain his sanity and as history has shown us, the legacy is our enduring benefit. Joining the Friesland Cattle Breeder’s Association (FCBA & now SAH) in 1938 and in the years following the War, Donnie ensured that few stones were left unturned in his pursuit of what he was looking for and he made several trips to Holland. With his acquired knowledge in genetics, his inherent skill and as a cowman possessing an uncanny sense for the right opportunity, Donnie imported bulls from carefully identified bloodlines. The influence of these imported animals saw Exwell climb the selling order at the annual September sales, displacing some of the big names whose dominance had been enduring. From that time on, Exwell would forever be etched in the annals of Breed history as being a pace setter. As President of the Cathcart Show, Donnie invited the Canadian Trade Commissioner to open the show. In 1963 Six heifers were imported from Canada (first from that country) and the significance of this and what followed, most probably from Donnie’s original intent, is probably best remembered by the name Exwell Enterprise. This Bull’s impact in AI and the spectacular genotypic and phenotypic influence he had on the many herds, had a catalytic effect that included the more widespread use of AI in South Africa. Our industry remains indebted to the vision and the courage that led to the introduction of the Holstein as a significant variation on the traditional NRS and FRS Friesland from Holland. Donnie served 12 years on the Friesland/Holstein council and 6 years as President. His intellectual contribution coupled with his competitive nature, and tempered by his intuitive sense of innovative opportunity ranks him highly amongst the names in the proud history and tradition of the Breed Society he served with such distinction. He was accorded Honorary Life Membership in 1984. The passing of Donnie Beal-Preston marks the end of a lifetime of endeavour, a remarkable career, a significant legacy and an era that those of us who earn our livelihood from and indulge ourselves with a passion for our Noble Breed, can thank this great Breeder who changed the face of our Breed forever and I believe for the better, Reunited with his beloved wife Wendy, may their partnership resume and may you both forever be remembered for the positive difference you made to the well-being and lives of so many. Rest in peace in the knowledge that you made a difference, and touched us all with your charm, sense of humour and the twinkle that was your hallmark.