Gone are the days when the Welsh sheep, the Kerry Hill, was classified as a rare breed – this charismatic, cocky lugged white sheep is becoming increasingly popular in all areas of Scotland and one that is certainly doing a job for relatively new breeders, Stuart and Angie Burgess from New Abbey, Dumfries.

The family run a total of 260 acres over two rented units – Maryfield and Carse farms, where Stuart and Angie do most of the work with occasional help from Stuart's father Ian, while his mother Alison, is in charge of the paperwork.

Their Topspot flock has just 21 breeding Kerry Hill females and five ewe lambs which are run alongside 200 commercial crossing ewes, a small flock of 12 Texels and a newly established Beltex pedigree flock on the up roar.

"Kerry Hill sheep are perfect for us as they are an easy managed breed and cheap to keep with minimum feeding required. They're easy finished off grass, but they're not a beginner's sheep – they do have a wild side to them!" said Stuart.

The couple were also initially drawn to the breed's easy lambing characteristics which they felt would prove ideal for crossing over the farm's Texel cross ewe flock. And, with both breeds easy fed off grass, only twin and triplet-bearing ewes require small amounts of concentrates on the run up to lambing, inside, mid-February.

Stuart and Angie's Topspot Kerry Hill pedigree flock was established in 2016 when they bought five ewes and two ewe lambs, privately from Louise Dixon for a total of £850.

"It is these two ewe lambs that have been our best breeding ewes so far," said Angie.

The first tup bought was a tup Lamb, Wrotham Clifford purchased for 600gns at Melton Mowbray Rare Breed sale in September 2016, he was the highest selling sheep that day.

"However, after a bit of a catastrophe with him and some ewes being left un settled we were on the hunt again for a tup.

"Catherine Kewley, Crochmaid came to the rescue and offered us a loan of an aged tup. Cath also took all of our ewes for tupping in 2017, she has been a great help with our breeding programme and we wouldn't be where we are today without her," said Angie.

It is crucial to breed lambs with the correct markings around the eyes and mouth.

"If the markings on the sheep are not right, they can be rejected from a sale – getting a balance of both markings and the correct shape and conformation, is something we find very challenging," said Angie.

Last year the couple made their first trip to the society sale at Ludlow where they purchases a Calcot ram from Tom Evans at 600gns.

This year's stock tup was purchased privately from Daryl Brown of the Polaris flock.

"He caught our eye as soon as we saw him as he has the size, power and character we need," said Stuart.

Such has been the popularity of the breed in recent years, that the couple bought another 10 gimmers from Katherine's Crockmaid flock at £180 per head, to enable them to sell more either privately or at future sales.

"We want to increase flock numbers as the breed is proving very popular. We've had a huge number of enquiries over the past year from people looking to buy, but at present we just don't have the numbers available to sell," said Angie.

Stuart added: "We're also seeing several new breeders get into the Kerry Hills."

Although relatively new to the breed, the Burgess' have already made their mark at a breed sale at Carlisle, selling the top priced female at £460 for Topspot Alison, purchased by Tomos Gwynne and averaging £246 for four ewe lambs.

To help promote the breed and the flock, the Burgess' have been showing their sheep at four shows this year where they have secured three championships and three reserve trophies from their show team compromising two ewes, a gimmer, two ewe lambs and an aged tup.

Kerry Hills are not the only new breed to the business though as just last month the family decided to introduce a Beltex pedigree flock for their two-year-old son, Angus.

"Beltex are smart looking sheep with great crossing potential and are also slightly quieter so are easier for the kids to handle," said Angie.

It is hoped Angus and his younger sister, Georgie will be keen on the sheep with Angus already showing an interest. Just last month, a gimmer and a tup lamb were purchased at 400gns each from Jock McMillan's Clary flock and Ross Campbell's Cree flock respectively to establish their pedigree flock.

Along with the sheep, Stuart's passion is Aberdeen-Angus and the farm is currently home to 12 pedigree Angus, along with 100 suckler cows.

Aberdeen-Angus are kept for the same reason as the Kerry Hills – being easy calved with the ability to finish off grass thereby suiting the farm.

"Aberdeen-Angus are an easy breed to manage and they can be crossed over dairy and beef cattle," said Stuart adding that he aims to breed animals with plenty of breed character.

Former dairy farmers up until foot-and-mouth in 2001, the couple also believe having a hi-health beef herd is providing a far easier way of life.

With the aim to expand further, they are nevertheless still buying in females for their up and coming Abbey herd, and recently forked out £4000 for a heifer from Martin McCornick's McCornick's herd which was bought at Stirling bull sales in October 2018 and has since had a heifer calf.

Likewise, the herd has never sold at a society sale, with all stock sold privately for around £2500-£3500 per head, an often on the back of show success at their local Dumfries and Stewarty Shows.

They have also purchased frozen embryos from Neil Mutch which have resulted in the birth of Abbey Quinsy and Abbey Queen, both of which are destined for the breed's National Calf Show at the Borderway Expo at Carlisle, in November.

A huge fan of young farmers, Stuart is vice-president of Lower Nithsdale and currently produces their annual variety concert and talent spot as well as hosting beef cattle dressing to help youngsters develop in the farming industry.

"Young farmers are the ones we need to preserve this industry, therefore, we have a role to direct youngsters' interest to the love of farming and keep them heavily involved," explained Stuart.

No strangers to the limelight, the Burgess' have also featured on Border life, an ITV programme, covering a day-to-day guide to farming which again is used as publicity for the firm as a whole as well as promoting the farming industry in a positive light.

For now though, the Burgess family aims to further develop their newly established Kerry Hill and Beltex sheep breeds along with Stuart's passion, Aberdeen-Angus. In the very near future, with all three breeds expanding, they hope to have something good enough to exhibit further afield either at The Great Yorkshire or the Royal Welsh.

Just watch this space ...