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Lleyns Leading the Way at Over Whitlaws
by Eilidh MacPherson
Tourists and heavy rain drove the farming partners Brian Walling and his cousin Robert Hudson out of Cumbria sixteen years ago.
“We weren’t prepared to do B&B and now sometimes wonder why we wasted so many years farming rocks and bracken in Cumbria,” laughed Brian Walling. “We were South of Windemere and the Vet was North and in the summer he couldn’t get to us! People peering through the house windows got on our wick completely.”
“We’ve enjoyed every minute of our 16 years in the Scottish Borders,” commented Brian, who now due to his health is semi-retired and just tends to the bookwork. His cousin Robert is a workaholic, son Ian has taken to the sheep and Tom is the cattleman and tractor driver.
Positioned on a hillside, down a long farm road, the Wallings and Hudson are enjoying seclusion and fantastic views of up to 35 miles. They farmed Dalesbred and Swales in Northern England and were assessing their options when they moved to Scotland. Lleyns were the chosen breed. “They are self perpetuting and have a lot of the hill hardiness, but are also prolific with weaning percentages of 180% the norm,” said Brian.
“They are easy keeping sheep with no lambing problems. As we have discovered over the years there is no point crossing them.”
“The killing out percentage from a pure Lleyn is as good as a crossbred sheep,” added Ian as he joined us in the farmhouse beamed, living room.
“We have everything in one sheep that we require,” reiterated his father, who experimented with Blackface, Greyfaces and cross Texels before settling entirely for the Llyens in 2000.
“We can run 3 Lleyns to every 2 Greyfaces as they eat less,” commented Ian, who is also a trained gamekeeper.
“Father believes in a bit of in-breeding and always has done as long as there are no faults, but Tom and I aren’t keen,” stated Ian.
The first ‘expensive’ ram purchase at Over Whitlaw was in 2003, a 4500gn sire from David Alexander. The following year they spent 4000gns for one from Edenhall, which was their most successful sire to date. He was Champion at the Royal Highland, the Great Yorkshire and the Border Union in 2006.
In 2007 they purchased a 2000gn tup from Laggas Farms in Orkney and they are now winning with homebred males and females.
“I team the smaller tups with the bigger ewes and vice versa and tighter skinned tups with looser woolled ewes to match and produce a good consistant lamb,” explained Ian. Crystalyx blocks are put out at this juncture.
“We are now known for producing big numbers of even ewe lambs,” added his father.
“After tupping the ewes head to the hill, split into lots, by colour. The ewes that will lamb in the first 10 days are grouped and so on,” continued Ian. “They are fed haylidge on the hill. They are then fed pre lambing nuts from BOCM, six weeks before lambing.”
In the last week in March the cows are turfed out of the shed, it is mucked out and the sheep go in. “They are back out within 5 hours of lambing. Brother Tom does the night shift. We don’t scan but do a lot of twinning on as there are a lot of triplets.”
A Britmilk automatic feeder is used for pets as there is limited space in the pens. Last year there were 70 reared in this manner – this year there are 40.
“The lambs are very vigourous, similar to the Saler cattle that we run. They are up in a matter of minutes and shoot away from there,” added his father, who was the first to import Saler cattle into the UK 30 years ago.
All lambs are shorn by Geordie Bayne and Una Cameron mid July, wormed, Clicked and left entire. They are weaned mid August onto foggage.
The ewe lambs are prepared for sale, with a lot heading off farm privately to Ireland. The top end average £90 while the bottom average £70.
Farmstock Genetics has a market in France for the entire lambs. At the beginning of October around 1000 go live as store lambs in two Dutch Livestock Transporters. They go for a set price, usually £5- £10 over the store price in the UK.
In F&M year the lambs were hung up and surprised Ian as the 95% graded as R3L’s.
Future plans are to improve the flock and Ian would like to take on a rented farm, but they are few and far between in the Scottish Borders!
Farmers: Brian Walling in partnership his cousin Robert Hudson
Trading as: Farmstock Genetics
Farming: Over Whitlaws
Location: Selkirk, Scottish Borders
Area: 500 acres owned
2-300 acres rented
Sheep: 1100 lambing Lleyns
Cattle: 70 Salers with followers
Horses: Small Arab Stud
+ 20 horses at livery
Labour: Brian’s two sons Ian and Tom and Robert