Salers are renowned for their ease of calving, fertility and longevity – attributes that not only enticed the late Bryan Walling to import the first of these hardy red cattle into the UK but also ensure the profit margins remain well up to the mark for sons Ian and Tom, from Over Whitlaw, Selkirk.

Strong patriots of the Salers since their father imported such females into the UK in 1984, they believe this easy-care female will always be the ultimate suckler cow.

“After previously working with Herefords, our dad was looking for something different to introduce to the farm that was hardy and easily managed but could also produce a good calf for the commercial and pedigree farmer,” said Tom, the current chairman of the Salers Cattle Society.

“Our Dad was very forward thinking and whilst in France he came across Salers and thought they looked the part, so arranged to have several loads of them brought over to the UK, to establish the Cumbrian Salers herd.”

Brother Ian added: “They are a true female breed with easy calving abilities, fertility, milkiness and great maternal instincts. They can also be crossed with any continental beef breed and produce a quality calf.

“Charolais cross Salers calves have always been impressive and are still known as the ‘Golden Egg’ for their golden appearance when born, whilst also being easy calved and retaining a good carcase. They also attract premium prices in the market place when sold,” he added.

Having built up pedigree cow numbers to 70, the Walling brothers are focusing on breeding a good, deep female that can convert roughage into milk and beef, while also having a leg in each corner and a good top for showing purposes.

“Depth and balance in an animal is important and if you look after your females, your bulls will naturally come along and perform,” Tom stated.

Calving takes place outdoors in May and early June, with calves proving vigorous and quick to their feet. Low maintenance in terms of feed too, they come through the winter on silage and minerals only, while calves are introduced to a store mix after housing and young bulls are finished on a fattening blend from Tarff Valley.

Ian added: “We lamb 900 Lleyn sheep in April and prefer to have them out of the way before calving begins. Our system works well, as calves up and suckling in no time so there are next to no problems. All we have to do is weigh and tag the calves,” said Ian.

One of the biggest challenges at Over Whitlaw is the wet ground, therefore cattle are in-wintered from November, with calves being weaned in January. Cows are, nevertheless, back out at grass before calving gets underway in May.

“We recently invested in a new slatted cattle shed that can hold 120 cows and calves, which was a big investment for us, but it’s something that should see us through our farming careers,” Tom commented.

“We were previously renting sheds away from farm and buying in straw, so it was all starting to add up and became harder to manage. This investment will save us time, money and allow us to utilise the slurry as fertiliser on the land, so it was a no brainer.”

This new investment has also allowed the brothers to increase herd numbers, with 20 heifers now retained every year as replacements. At present, all are bred pure, but the brothers have considered other breeds.

“We currently don’t cross our females to any other breed, but if we were, the Shorthorn would be a good fit due to the extra premium commanded, as well as producing a good female,” Ian stated.

“The Charolais would be another option to improve shape and conformation of the resultant progeny, however, we are currently producing bull beef and are pure Salers are grading out well, with 80% achieving U grades with rest labelled R’s.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to look at live calf percentage and with the pure Salers there are always more calves than cows! We are calving well over 100%, with our herd this year producing six sets of twins,” he added.

Young bulls are fattened at home and sold at 14 to 16-months-old at 400kg deadweight through ABP, to achieve around £1450 for U grade cattle. The remainder of bulls and heifers are sold for breeding purposes between 18 months and two years of age, either at United Auctions’ Bull Sales at Stirling, or through the breed sale at Wallets Marts, Castle Douglas.

Selecting superior quality bulls to produce top end breeding stock is nevertheless far from easy, but the Wallings have invested in a few over the years that have certainly made their mark on the herd.

“One of first bulls we imported from France was Bruno which has had a huge influence on the breed and is responsible for producing some of the best breeding lines in the UK to date,” commented Tom.

“Another favourite would be Lataster Hector that we bought from southern Ireland, in 2008. He was the All Ireland Salers bull calf champion, and now aged 13, he is breeding well for us.”

The Walling brothers have found success in the sale ring over the years too, having sold the former record priced bull, Cumbrian Capermello, at Castle Douglas, in 2015, for 10,000gns.

They have also focussed on breeding polled Salers, from their established Ladybird female line, which was responsible for the family’s first Cumbrian polled bull, Thunderbird.

Cumbrian Lieutenant – a son of Capermello which was exported to France – bred the family’s best polled bull to date in Cumbria Olympia Poll, which privately sold for £16,000, see page 30, to Geff and Olwen Lawrenson of Parkfield Salers, last week.

The Cumbrian herd is one of few in the UK to export Salers back to their native homeland in France too, with the homozygous polled bull, Cumbrian Joker, proving to be one of the most successful and influential bulls to leave Over Whitlaw when selling to a syndicate of French breeders and Dick Bradley from Ireland.

“It’s a slow process as we keep having to purchase horn genetics to introduce new blood lines, but we will keep pushing down the polled route,” said Tom. “We’re now seeing a lot of good polled cattle coming through that are winning shows and are becoming more popular due to their ease of management and high welfare attributes with no de-horning required.”

Tom and Ian are also big fans of local and national shows, having enjoyed notable successes at the Royal Highland Show, where on top of a kist full of prize tickets, they have also won the breed title at Ingliston in 2011 with a heifer and again in 2014 with a three-year-old polled cow.

It’s not just about winning either, as such events are a huge shop window for fellow breeders, with the brothers having sold their male and junior champion from last year’s Royal Highland Show, Cumbrian Moonraker, to Colin McClymont, Cuil.

The boys regularly enjoy a few prize wins at Harrogate too at the Great Yorkshire Show.

But it is the breed’s ease of calving and fertility that ensures this breed will always remain at Over Whitlaw for the two brothers, who remain adamant the Salers is the breed for the future being able to meet the need’s of today’s busy farmer.

“Salers will always have a great future when you look at their ease of management characteristics and ability to match the expectations of other big beef breeds. They don’t require the same feeding or time inputs other continental breeds demand and will always produce a quality calf at the end of the day. More importantly, they will always produce a live calf,” said Tom,

He added added that the decision to keep myostatin genes out of the breed is also game changer as people can have confidence in Salers to use as a sire or as a female and not have calving issues.

“Keeping myostatin out of the Salers will keep them one step ahead of other breeds,” Ian concluded.


Over Whitlaw is farmed by brothers, Ian and Tom Walling, and managed alongside uncle, Bob Hudson.

Family moved to Over Whitlaw in January, 1996, from Cumbria and now farm 500 acres of permanent and rough grazing, and rent 200 acres for young stock. The hill farm sits at 1000ft above-level.

Own a pedigree herd of 70 Salers, as well as 900 Lleyn sheep and a handful of Texels and Beef Shorthorns.

Calving is in May and June and lambing in April.

Retaining 20 females per year as replacements to increase numbers to utilise the full potential of the new shed.

Beef bulls sold as deadweight through ABP, with remainder of livestock sold for breeding purposes both privately and through breed sales.


Best advice?: Our dad used to say "Live like you'll die tomorrow, farm like you'll live forever".

Best investment?: Ian – I would say having Jacqueline as my partner, as she does all our paperwork!

Kist party?: The Great Yorkshire Show Salers line is fantastic. The difference at the Royal Highland is that you know everyone so you’re constantly jumping back and forth to different lines but at the Yorkshire we all stick together.

Favourite restaurant?: There's a restaurant in France, in the hills of Claire Mon Peronne. We couldn't speak a word of French and the waiters couldn't speak English but it was one of the best nights we've ever had out!

Holiday?: The family holiday to Zimbabwe, in 1995, was a memorable one. Dad had sold Salers embryos to Zimbabwe and we couldn’t take payment from the country, so instead, they paid for a holiday – six weeks of safaris and a house boat.