Ever increasing costs of production coupled with ex-farm prices that fail to keep pace with inflation, are resulting in a growing number of farmers having to look to secondary occupations to make ends meet, and while pedigree breeding is a hobby for some, it is the ease of management and fleshing ability of the Aberdeen Angus that has not only allowed two former school friends to follow their dream, but also bolster their pensions.

Meet Borders duo, Ian Watson and Jim Ford, better known to some as the Jack and Victor of the Angus world. While both went their separate ways after school, a chance encounter at an Aberdeen Angus breed sale at Borderway Mart, Carlisle, some 35 years later, resulted in the formation of the Kersquarter herd.

"We got chatting and both of us admitted we always had a fancy for breeding Aberdeen-Angus cattle," said Jim, who up until 1987 was working for Keith Redpath breeding Hereford and Limousin cattle before going into the meat processing industry first with FMC and then AK Stoddarts, where he has witnessed the growing demand for Angus beef.

"Aberdeen-Angus beef is sought after by all the supermarkets and high class restaurants with demand on the up as consumers look for superior quality beef which for them means Angus," Jim added, pointing out that AK Stoddarts, the largest processor of Certified Aberdeen Angus beef in the UK, relies on 250 Angus-sired cattle per week.

With Ian having his own busy, livestock feed business, now known as Performance Feeds, and Jim also having a extremely hectic workload, any new venture had to be relatively easy to manage and maintain which is where the Angus, again 'ticked all the boxes.'

"We always knew that if we were going to have cattle, they had to be docile, easy kept and easy to feed, when we can't be here all the time," Ian added.

"Initially, when we bought our first two foundation cows, we thought they would be an ideal 'hobby' to breed cattle for the shows and sell a few bulls, but they have proved so easy to keep and flesh that cow numbers have risen to 40. We've never had any bother with them at any time and while we do both take our holidays around calving time, there have never been any problems – I've never actually seen a caesarian."

The first two cows were bought at the Cheeklaw reduction sale at the old Perth Market in 2006, with a further nine cows bought privately from the Moore family's The Moss herd from Formby, Liverpool. All were kept in rented fields on Peter and Caroline Church's 750-acre unit at Kersquarter, Kelso.

Quiet and extremely easy on the eye, they also won the hearts of Mr and Mrs Church, who were keen to join this new venture, with the result being they have become third partners.

Hence, the business has grown arms and legs, and while the 'boys' are not only enjoying their found youth, securing numerous tickets at the Border Union, Peebles and Duns in recent years, their Angus are also more than paying their way in private bull sales while heifers not good enough to keep for breeding are cashed through AK Stoddarts.

Ian added: "More and more farmers are looking for bulls with length and good ends and bulls that can go out and work that day because far too many have had bad experiences buying overfed bulls that don't last."

"We have retained most of the heifers when we have been expanding the herd, but any heifers that fail to hold to the bull to calve at two are cashed and they'll easily produce carcase weights of 300-320kg at 18-20months of age."

Calved in March in straw bedded courts in the spring, cows and calves are put out to grass as soon as possible, with creep feeding only introduced at six months of age. Speaned in October/November, when all are housed, heifers are provided with 3kg of a bought in blend, with bull calves receiving up to 5kg. All cows and calves have access to a barley straw and distillers dark grains mix which is a lot cheaper to produce and feed than silage.

Such is the growth potential of the cattle at Kersquarter that bull calves gain on average 1.5+kg per day from birth, with heifers able to calve at two years of age, but then our Jack and Victor, have always looked to breed easy fleshing cattle.

"We have always strived to have a really nice herd of modern, uniform cows that are pleasing to the eye, and cows with depth of rib and plenty of length," said Ian.

Echoing these statements, Jim added: "You do need cattle with some size but you don't necessarily need cattle with long legs. We want to breed cattle with plenty length and loin for the modern meat trade which is where the steak meat comes from as it can be a struggle to sell roasting meat."

Twelve years down the line and they've pretty much achieved most of their goals, having been extremely fortunate in the stock cows and bulls acquired.

To date, one of the most successful females has been the foundation cow, Cheeklaw Jo Erica, which bred a lot of top breeding cows, along with The Moss Fenecia and The Moss Passendina, by the imported Canadian sires, MVF Stockman 15K and TC Stockman 365 respectively.

Noted bulls used include Rawburn Lord Ross, which the boys feel indebted to John Elliott, Rawburn, for allowing them the use of his senior stock sire.

"We used him for a couple of years and he really put the shape into the herd," said Ian, adding that they then bought Hallington Evo, privately as a proven sire and one with good figures, with his progeny retaining the shape with additional length.

More recently, Kersquarter went to 8000gns to buy the former Carlisle champion, Gretnahouse KP, which has already bred two show heifers, and last year, they bought a share of judge Jim Ford's choice of junior male champion at the Black Beauty Bonanza, Blelack Blackadder.

Sadly, the duo don't have any bulls for the forth coming bull sales, but they will be up looking for a prospective new herd sire and maybe, just maybe the odd female to add to their new found 'hobby/business venture'.