Enticed by their longevity, high fertility and easy calving potential, father and son duo, Roy and Adam Crockett, are firm converts to Saler cattle and believe they have found the ideal when producing the ultimate suckler cow.

Based outside Melrose, in the scenic Scottish Borders, the Crockett family manage a herd of 100 pure-bred Saler cattle, of which 24 are run under the well-known Bacardi prefix. Roy, who is a full-time foot-trimmer, alongside his son Adam, ran a herd of pure-bred Charolais cattle, before switching to Salers.

After encountering the breed whilst working on other farms, the Crocketts decided to sell up their Charolais and invested in 22 pure-bred Saler cows from Rob and Kath Livesey's Cleuchhead herd – famed for producing the most fertile cattle in Scotland in 2012 – which is located in Melrose.

It was made clear by both Roy and Adam that, since the switch, life has been made a whole lot easier with the breed. "The Saler is the ideal animal if you are looking for an easily managed breed that is hardy with a good temperament – as well as producing top quality breeding and fat cattle," said Roy.

"Adam and myself are both busy with other enterprises, so we needed cattle that didn't require monitoring 24/7 and could just get on with calving by themselves. The Saler proved to be the perfect breed for us."

Since the initial purchase of their foundation cows, the Crocketts have bred all of their own herd replacements, with the exception of bought-in bulls from herds abroad and in the UK, including Seawell Highlander, a bull from Peter Donger's Seawell herd, from near Towcester, Northamptonshire.

One other bull that has made his mark on the herd was the French import, Gulliver, purchased as a yearling in 2012, which went on to stand as Royal Highland champion in 2013. He has since produced some of Roy and Adam's best cattle, including their highest priced Saler bull to date, Bacardi Legend, which was sold at Castle Douglas for £15,000, in 2017.

Other progeny by Gulliver included the 2018 Royal Highland reserve champion, Bacardi Ludacris, as well as Bacardi Jessie Jay, the 2018 Great Yorkshire and Royal Highland champion, and this year's Royal Highland champion, Bacardi Kesha.

On average, Roy and Adam aim to purchase one bull per year to ensure the genetics of their herd are continually mixed and improved. When picking a bull to buy, it seemed that the pair have very high standards and the old saying goes – behind every good man, is an even better woman!

"We never buy a bull without looking at the mother. We are breeding with the aim of producing the ultimate female that has good udders, a quiet temperament and easy calving potential," said Adam.

"We want to be able to breed a cow that can be put to any breed of bull and will produce a good calf. If the mother of the bull has all those attributes, then we hope to see that follow through in the offspring of the bull."

To back up their claims for the commercial abilities of the pure-breds, a few years ago the Crocketts decided to put some of their Saler cows to a Simmental bull, and the results were as foretold.

"The Saler cow put to a Simmental bull worked well. The calves thrived off of the mother and had a bit more muscle about them, from the sire. We were able to get bull calves away quicker than the Saler, and heifer calves sold well too," stated Roy.

"However, the Simmental cross breeding heifer wasn't as popular when we took them to market, compared to the pure-bred Saler heifers, which were making around £1000 more, per head."

After year's of breeding their own replacement stock, the Crockett's are now in a position where they can sell some of their top quality cattle, and demand for their Salers seems to be high.

"We tend to keep the best cattle from all age groups for replacements and then open the doors for buyers to take their pick," Roy said. "We sell the majority of our pedigree stock privately off the farm, with the rest heading to Castle Douglas for commercial use."

The rest of the cattle that are not reared for breeding purposes are finished on the farm and then sold deadweight to ABP, hopefully at around 300kg hanging up.

In the winter months and during calving, the cattle are housed at Prieston Farm, which Roy and Adam rent from Philiphaugh Estate. Calving occurs in two batches, with 50 of the cattle calving in January, and the other half calving in mid-April, all of which occurs indoors and requires little input due to the Saler's easy calving abilities.

They are low maintenance in terms of feeding, too, with cows receiving a silage and straw mix, plus the addition of a soya concentrate three weeks prior to calving.

The cattle are then put out to 200 acres of rented grassland – owned by Buccleuch Estate and Church of Scotland – at the beginning of April, until the end of October.

The Crocketts have a strict policy when it comes to ensuring only the best of the best are retained in the Bacardi herd. "Firstly, we muscle scan everything, particularly eye muscle scanning, which helps us detect if the cattle have a good top and back layer," pointed out Adam.

"As well as this, we record testicle size and daily weight gain. On average, our weaned calves should be gaining 1.6-2kg per day. If the calves don't meet this benchmark, then they are reared for beef."

It follows, then, that Roy and Adam also have a strict culling policy. Any cattle showing signs of bad temperament, as well as poor udder, daily weight gain and overall appearance, are sent 'down the road'.

When asked about the myostatin ban (double muscling gene) within the Saler breed, Adam commented: "This really isn't an issue to us. We have, in the past, tested all our cattle for traces of the myostatin gene and all have come back clear.

"None of our cows have been bred with the gene and we have no intention of introducing it. If we had a bought-in bull that did have this gene, then we would need to remove him and any off his offspring."

Touching on the future of the breed, Roy concluded: "As long as the cows can be used to breed a calf off of any breed of bull and milk well, then the Saler breed will be fine. However, I can see people wanting to introduce a bit more muscle to the cattle, which, in turn, will reduce their ease of calving abilities and the breed won't survive."