This week's spotlight shines on the pedigree Aberdeen-Angus and former dairy cattle breeder, Andrew Hodge, of the well-known Rulesmains herd.

Here he spoke with Kathryn Dick about his career highlights, most admired cattle and his hopes for the future of this native breed:


I was born in 1960 and brought up at Blinkbonny Farm, near Kelso, where my father, Tom, bred his renowned Ayrshire cattle. My father always showed Ayrshire cattle and as a youngster, I used to show calves at the local shows, which would be how I got my interest in showing.

Moving into my teenage years, Young Farmers played a huge part in my love for showing, with the stockmanship programme giving me an insight to beef and sheep, as well as expand my dairy knowledge. I was also influenced by the great trainers we had and through the stockmanship programme, became part of the Border Federation team that won the Glasgow Herald Trophy.

Later in my farming career, I wanted to move into breeding Holsteins as I could see the benefit, however my father wanted to keep Ayrshires. so it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that I got my way and, with my brother’s help, we bought our first red and white Holstein bull – Shormar Jewelstone. We also used the AI bull Horizon Ranger, which led my wife, Jill and I to found the Cheviotview Holstein herd.

We were milking 150 cows at that time and it came to a point where I had to make a decision about the future of our enterprise. With pressures on dairying, staffing shortages and had two daughters unsure of what they wanted to do in life, I made the decision to convert the cattle side of the farm to beef.

The Cheviotview herd dispersed at Carlisle, in May, 2007, and we had bought our first Aberdeen-Angus heifer in October, 2007, from the Deveron herd, before going on to privately purchase a few more from Rawburn. We now sit at 180 suckler cows, with 130 of those being pure-bred Aberdeen-Angus cattle.

What got you into your choice of breed?

Holsteins are a milk machine on four legs, and it was purely down to profitability and efficiency that I wanted to introduce them. Crossing the Holstein with the Ayrshire resulted in a great cow and allowed us to breed red and white Holsteins.

First big breed sale or show?

Probably the Royal Highland Show, or the National Holstein Show.

Best animal you’ve ever bred?

With dairy cattle, it would be Cheviotview Talent August, which won the junior heifers in milk at the National Holstein Show in 2007, as well as the All Britain award for heifer in milk.

Among the Aberdeen-Angus, the bull Rulesmains Egbert, was probably the best. He stood champion at the October, 2018, Stirling Bull Sales and sold for 10,000gns.

Best animal you’ve ever seen?

In the Holstein world, it would be Dalesend Storm Maud – she had super springer ribs, a great frame and was a very correct cow. Another would be the red Morwick Sand Queen, which won the 2002 Royal Highland Show and was everything you would look for in a Holstein cow.

One of the best Aberdeen-Angus, for me, would be Blelack Lord Hackford – when I saw him, he had sheer ring presence and stood out, as any show animal should.

Best animal you’ve been out-bidded on or lost?

That was only recently at the Blelack dispersal sale, when Blelack Princess Carina and her calf sold for a combined price of 62,000gns. I really liked the mother and the calf and would’ve gladly bought either, but lost out.

If you could change one thing about your breed ...?

Not so much within the dairy breeds, but in regards to beef breeds, in my opinion the Holstein is streets ahead in recording. Within the Holstein world, cattle are scored on everything from locomotion, legs and udders, and with the help of genomics we are now breeding for what the industry needs.

The beef industry needs to follow in same direction and all beef breeds need to look at legs, locomotion and growth in order to survive. It’s all about efficiency and we need to breed more efficient beef cattle.

Abiding memory?

In 2004, we stood champion and reserve within the Ayrshires at the Highland, while Jane Steel and her father Robert won the Holsteins – it was one hell of a party.

Biggest disappointment?

The foot-and-mouth crisis would be the worst thing and there were some dark days. We had to re-stock the herd completely in 2002. However, we were fortunate to be in contact with Willie Whiteford, Middle Farm, Brampton, who bred Holstein cross Ayrshire cattle and were producing the same type of cattle to those we lost.

We bought 14 cows that day and in that batch was Middle Jessie 125. She calved in 2003 and was one of the best cows of her type. She went on to win the red and whites at the National Holstein Show and Northumberland Show – however, her biggest achievement would be winning the Highland Show as an Ayrshire, which caused some controversy at the time. She was one-quarter Ayrshire but the rules were changed following year for animals to be 50% Ayrshire in order to qualify for the class.

Most influential people?

My family. They stood by the decisions I’ve made in regards to breeding cattle. There are many sacrifices when it comes to breeding and showing cattle. Over the last 10 years, my daughter, Emma, has had a great influence with our Angus cattle and is driving the herd forward.

Favourite sale and why?

In the dairy world it would be the Black and White sale at Carlisle, while February Bull Sales would be my favourite Angus sale.

Best breeder ever?

Neil and Graeme Massie are two of a kind. To be able to see their accolade of Perth and Stirling champions has been something we have aspired to achieve. It is phenomenal what they have accomplished and that drives us to get to that level of quality ... if we ever can.

Best and worse advice?

The best would be: “There’s good and bad cattle in every breed, but buy the best because they’re all bad enough.”

And, there is nothing worse than showing cattle and overhearing someone at the ringside saying they’ve got a better animal at home.

Biggest achievement?

It would be selling three bulls for more than 10,000gns in 2021.

If you could have gone into another breed which would it have been?

I’m in the best beef breed there is and I’m very happy with them – I just love the quality they offer. The native breeds have a big part to play going forward, especially the Angus.

Anything you would go back and change?

I don’t think so. When went into Angus, maybe I should’ve bought a dispersing herd instead of picking and choosing females at various sales. In all breeds, there’s good lines but we need to concentrate on breeding the best cow family lines as that’s where you’ll find success.

Any hobbies or interests outwith farming?

I used to compete in ploughing matches and I still judge a few. One ploughing achievement would be winning the reversible championship at the 1987 Scottish Ploughing Championships.

Future of the breed?

Both breeds have a great future and it’s phenomenal to see so many keen youngsters out there. I must say, the young breeders really are passionate and talented about what they do – both dairy and beef cattle are in safe hands. With regard to my own herd, I think Emma will keep the Rulesmains herd intact and put her own stamp on the cattle here.