Producing high quality stock for contract farming is exactly what the hill-type Cheviot flock at Attonburn does for Robert and Becca Rennie, Kelso.

Robert and Becca started contract farming two years ago on behalf of Roxburgh Estates, where they run 2200 hill-type Cheviots across 2500 acres between Mowhaugh and Attonburn, both based next door to each other in Kelso. The great surroundings and scenery reaches a top of 1847ft.

“Cheviots are the hill-breed for us, they are real flashy, well fleshed sheep, that are hard to go past. They work well for our system having easy care and big strong hardy bodies,” said Robert.

The team run 400 of the Cheviot flock to cross with a Texel to produce good fleshy lambs and nice ewe lambs to sell. Before taking on the estate the couple dispersed their flock of Beltex and Texels, to pay for the machinery and labour of the upcoming contract farm. However, they have since purchased a few unregistered Texels to produce tups to use on the Cheviots.

Along with the sheep, Becca’s heart lies in the cattle enterprise, where, alongside Robert’s father, Andrew, they run 22 Limousin crosses and often produce great show potential calves. They are looking to build the cattle numbers up over the next few years, with just now having half Limousins and half Limousin crossed with the British Blue.

All the livestock on the farm are fed by Davidson Animal Feeds products, which Robert and Becca cannot criticise, they stay loyal to the one business.

“The order and delivery service at Davidsons is excellent, they will never see you stuck and really care about you. It is a simple system for ordering, and we have never had any complications, the customer care is exceptional,” said Robert.

The Cheviots are fed on Ewelac rolls, with a 18% protein it is a high energy feed, whilst the lambs are given Pearl lamb pellets, 16% protein, to help support them through the winter, to fatten any cull tup lambs which didn’t make the grade. The Texels need strong power to compete in the industry, so they are on the TNT Nut, to give them the final condition they require for sale time.

“With the Cheviots, we have found they have fewer prolapses and the ewes are a lot milkier, whilst the TNT Nut brings out the Texel tups seriously, it fills them out, and produces big strong powerful tups,” said Becca.

As a result of this feeding, the couple have managed to produce top-end sale prices, travelling all across Scotland – Lockerbie, Lairg, Oban, Dingwall and Kelso – to keep their markets wide and gain new customers constantly.

It was worth the trip up to Lairg last year as they sold their best, the two-shear, Attonburn Watch Out, for £3800 to Andrew Elliot. Another two-shear, Mowhaugh Warload, made the same money at Lairg, this time heading home with Murdo MacDonald.

On the flip side, Robert and Becca buy in two or three tups each year. Their first purchase for the estate was Thistle Venturer, which cost them 2100gns from Rosemary Cameron. The team have eight sons to sell next year which are looking ‘very promising’.

“Venturer has shown strong breed characters, confirmation and good skin, so we are hoping the sons will develop over the next few months,” said Robert.

Last year, the flock bought in 11 new stock tups to make their own stamp on the flock and to get the flock going. One of the stock tups this year is Woodside Wahoo, which came from Michael Elliot, Kelso, when they both ventured up to Lairg. The two-shear is a son of Inkstack Victor, and took the second top price that day.

The flock’s store lambs are mainly sold privately, with the bottom end going through United Auctions, Stirling. Last year, the ewe lambs averaged £75 for 620.

Lambing is always a busy period for the Rennies and a part-time worker from Ireland comes over to help them through the busy time. Everything is lambed inside so that all sheep can be recorded, everything can be kept an eye on more through a shed than it can be out on a hill.

Across the two farms, the flock scans around 157%, with only an 8% loss from scanning to weaning. The couple believe this is due to watching everything so carefully, there is someone with the sheep 24 hours during lambing. For hygiene purposes, they put shavings down in lambing pens rather than straw to reduce the risk of spreading any diseases.

“Not only is this a cleaner method but it is better for lambs for getting up on their feet,” said Becca.

There is many things Robert and Becca wish to change to make things more practical and to suit their way of doing things. The future of the contract farming arrangement for the Rennies is to produce high quality stock, get them hardier quicker and cull anything that brings problems to the flock, for easier management in later times.

As for the breed, the couple believe there is a strong demand, with many new breeders jumping ship from other breed to join the Cheviot bandwagon, plus a lot of existing breeders are expanding.

“It is easy to see the benefits with the breed, whether crossing or kept pure. They are hardy, well fleshed and flashy sheep, they are easy management and produce plenty of lambs,” commented Robert.

With just being newly into the current contract, the couple will only be taking on a few shows to get their name out there, including the Royal Highland and Kelso. There is a lot yet to happen for their contract farming arrangement – so watch this space…