There is no doubting the high stakes at play producing top end pedigree livestock of any breed. Concentrate on the best of commercial stock coupled with improved efficiency and functionality and you have a much more sustainable business and one which is more appealing to the masses.

It is a policy which is undoubtedly bearing fruit for the Ingrams from Logie Durno, as over the past 15 years, they have transformed what initially was a well-known pedigree Charollais unit into a massive ram breeding enterprise delivering quality performance recorded rams throughout the UK.

Such has been the success of this new venture that the family – William and Carole, sons Gregor and Bruce and daughter Amy – now sell in excess of 700 home-bred shearling rams per year, and that figure is rising.

More impressive is the fact that most are sold as grass fed through their on-farm sale mid August and privately. The remainder are fed, dressed and cashed at various events, to include next week’s Kelso Ram Sales and the NSA Ram Sales at Builth Wells.

“We used to dress about 100 Charollais and cross-bred tups for the Kelso Ram Sales, but when so many were selling to the same customers every year and many were keen to buy privately, the natural solution seemed to be to start an on-farm sale,” said William.

Add to that the family’s enthusiasm for performance recording and a Quality Meat Scotland workshop at Logie Durno on the topic and the family’s first on-farm sale was born.

That year, some 40 shearlings were sold, whereas the Ingram’s sale last month, saw 351 grass-fed, undressed, uncoloured tups forward, comprising several breeds and crosses, which met an 80% clearance.

At the on-farm sale, tups are penned up in their breeds/crosses according to their performance figures – scanning weight, eye muscle and fat depth – and overall commercial attributes, with each pen having an offset price that ranges from £450 to £675 per head. All rams are sold individually by Gregor, through the sale ring which this year saw prices peak at £1500 for a Texel.

Gregor added: “The sale has proved a huge success as it allows people to see the type of sheep we are breeding and gives us prices to work for with direct orders. It also also us to see what type of sheep people are looking to breed or produce lambs from.

“Most of our sales have come from word of mouth and trust. A lot of farmers now just phone us up, tell us their location and the type of tup they are looking to buy and they’re happy for us to send down their requests,” added Gregor.

There are some buyers whom the family has never met too, as they are too busy to attend markets and trust the boys’ to send down the type of tup they are looking for after speaking to them on the ‘phone.

Catering for all types of producers from as far north as Orkney and Shetland, right down to the south of Wales, the family has developed a range of cross-breds to suit various farming systsems and climates which after 15-20 years, are now a breed in themselves and unique to Logie Durno.

Outwith the traditional Charollais, Suffolk, Texel and Bluefaced Leicester, the family also breed the terminal sires, the Durno and the Durno Beltex, the maternal sire, the Logie Fronteira and Logie Blue, which are a dual-purpose hybrids.

Famed for their Charollais in the early years, the Durno sire was created when crossing to a Texel to produce lambs that are easily born and progeny with plenty of vigour which in turn grow quickly to achieve premium payments with high numbers of E and U grades.

Cross a Beltex over the Durno females at Logie Durno and you get the Durno Beltex ram which according to the Ingrams produces the highest killing out percentages of all the breeds with great shape and hind quarters.

Fronteiras are bred from traditional-type Bluefaced Leicesters and Texels, which in turn produces lambs with increased weight gain and meat yield.

Then, for those who looking for an out and out female breeder, there is the Logie, which has become extremely popular in recent years as this stabilised cross bred from the Lleyn and Durno, requires the lowest inputs and yet produces the highest profits per acre.

“All our Logies lamb outside in May and they don’t get any concentrate feeding what so ever,” said Amy who is currently studying genetics at university but works at home during the holidays and weekends.

“They’re tremendous mothers as they are so easy lambed and won’t leave their side for the first 24 hours. They won’t even leave their lambs to go for a drink they’re such good mothers.”

Bruce added: “People want a Logie for breeding a closed, low cost flock that is fit for purpose, as they lamb away themselves and still produce a 21-22kg whitefaced lamb off grass hitting processor spec.”

With some 3200 ewes of all the above breeds and crosses, plus their offspring all of which have to be weighed at eight weeks of age, and then weighed and scanned at 14 weeks, there is never a dull moment at Logie Durno, especially when you consider the fact that most of the sheep are kept on rented ground away from home. As it is, Logie Durno, which is located just outside Inverurie in Aberdeenshire comprises 330acres, with a further 1170acres leased further afield. “Basically we are lambing six months of the year and marketing sheep for the other six months,” said Carole, adding that holidays, albeit busman’s are taken at the Highland Show, where they regularly secure the championship amongst the Charollais, and this year, bagged the reserve male amongst the Suffolks with a home-bred two-shear ram.

No strangers to the silverware at Royal Welsh either, the family is also well accustomed to landing the top awards at Builth Wells to include numerous inter-breed titles, alongside breed and supreme sheep championships at local shows to include Turriff, the Black Isle and Angus in the past.

All shows provide an ideal shop window for selling their sheep, but it is the various sheep events to include all the ScotSheep, NorthSheep, Highland Sheep and even the Welsh Sheep events, where the family believe the most effective promotional work is done.

Lambing itself is nevertheless the busiest time with the terminal sire breeds lambed inside to ease recording. While the Logies lamb outside in May, the remainder of the other breeds lamb inside, with the pedigree Charollais kicking off the proceedings in December, while the Texels, Suffolks and Bluefaced Leicesters lamb in February.

Most years, the terminal sire breeds produce scanned lambing percentages of 180-185% with the maternal breeds at 195-205%. Weaned lambing percentages range from 165-175% with the Logies nearer 185%.

While the majority of the diet is grass-based all year round, multiple rearing terminal sire ewes are fed a TMR ration outside, according to the number of lambs they are carrying, six weeks before lambing. Single bearing ewes have access to hay and minerals only. Terminal sire ewes are brought inside to lamb a day before they are due and shipped outside as soon as weather and grass availability allows.

All lambs are tagged and weighed at birth and alongside their mothers, recorded on ease of lambing and number of lambs produced. Any sheep with mastitis, lameness and poor lamb growth rates are also recorded and culled out. It might be a strict policy with large numbers of sheep culled over the past decade, but it is one which has virtually eliminated lameness and mastitis.

“We don’t have the time to work with things that are not working so they’re just culled out which has worked away fine when most will sell for more than £100 per head,” said Bruce.

The females are producing the goods at the end of the day too, with the majority of the lamb crop sold off grass with 79% producing E and U grades and the remaining 21% Rs at an average of 21.07kg.

“We don’t sell a lot of females, mostly Logies privately, but we wouldn’t sell anything we wouldn’t use ourselves,” he added pointing out that such sheep have been exported as far afield to Germany, Switzerland and Russia, with embryos selling to Mexico and semen to New Zealand, North America and Brazil.

With the best of the tup lambs retained for shearlings, which are outwintered on turnips, the business also has a ready supply of tups to use over their own breeding females, with only a handful of pedigree stock tups bought in every year as an outcross.

Bruce added: “We look for good big correct tups with good performance figures and tups from hi-health status flocks, which is essential when we have a closed flock. We’re also selecting rams with a slightly higher fat cover too as they tend to cope with the poor weather better and they finish that bit quicker. Ewes bred from such rams are milkier too.”

With a large number of rams already sold, the family still have 40 mostly Durno shearling rams up grabs at Kelso, which have proved extremely popular over the past couple of years. In 2017, they sold 25 Durnos to average £954, and last year, they produced a new cross-bred record at Kelso, selling a shearling ram at £3400, which added to another at £2800 boosted their flock average to £910 for 32.

This year they will also be selling Suffolks for the first time at Kelso to include their reserve overall champion from the Royal Welsh, which went on to make up part of the winning inter-breed pairs. Sunnybill, a massive home-bred two-shear ram was also reserve male at the Highland and champion at the Black Isle.

There are nevertheless only a few remaining rams left for private purchasers, although there are a good selection of Logies of which more were born this year.

Regardless of whether tups are sold privately, on farm or through the public auction, customer service is key to the growth of the business, and it’s one which the Ingrams believe is a must for further expansion.

“We like to look after our customers at all times when we are aiming to provide a supermarket service to supply terminal and maternal sires at competitive prices and with free delivery. We’ll happily exchange a sheep too if the customer is not entirely satisfied with what they have bought.

“I do think the whole buying system is changing. Some farmers don’t have the time to stand at the ringside all day to buy a tup. Some want to be able to phone up someone they trust to provide the ram they are looking to buy for their system at a price and with free delivery,” Gregor added.