After last year’s 32,000gns Texel high-flyer, all eyes have been on relatively new breeder, Danny Hair and his Stranraer-based Drumbreddan flock, on the run up to this year’s breed society sale at Lanark.

Danny’s up and coming pedigree Texel unit runs alongside an already well-established 550 Blackface ewe flock which is split 50:50 breeding pure-bred Blackies and females to cross to the Bluefaced Leicester to breed replacements for their 550 Scotch Mule flock.

“Our sheep have to be fit with good mobility and locomotion and a good strong shoulder which is key to the workings of any animal, with the ability to look after themselves.

“Texels are hardy sheep that get to their feet quickly and sell well when culling – they really are the answer to most questions. We have worked with a lot of other breeds as terminal sires in the past and the Texel is proving to be one of the best for us so far when crossed over our Scotch Mule flock,” said Danny, who established his pedigree unit, which now numbers 15 females, in 2010.

The Scottish Farmer:

ONE OF the stand out gimmers being retained for breeding at Drumbreddan Ref:RH060820378

The three females with the most prominence in the Drumbreddan flock are a 1500gns Tophill ewe, a 2800gns Baltier ewe and a 600gns Millars which was purchased at their reduction sale.

Since then, Danny has been doing a bit of embryo work every year to improve the uniformity and overall quality of the flock.

It was an ET that produced last year’s 32,000gns tup lamb, Drumbreddan Centre of Attention, when the first flush from a show gimmer by Knap Yorkie, produced two strong gimmers, and some ‘exceptional’ tup lambs.

One of those was Centre of Attention, a lamb sired by the 24,000gns Midlock Yorkie – a tup bought privately from Halbeath and Arkle for his size and power – that sold to Mike and Melanie Alford, Foxhill Farm, Devon.

The Scottish Farmer:

TUP LAMBS bound for Lanark sired by Garngour Vintage and Midlock Yorkie

“Our main aim among the Texels is to hit the tup lamb market, although it is all still a learning curve for us being new into the breed – every day is a school day,” said Danny.

The top end of the Texel ram lambs are sold at the breed sales at Lanark and Carlisle which last year averaged £4000 for 10, however Danny added that was an exceptional year and he would be delighted to average anywhere between £800 and £1000.

He said Centre of Attention was easy seen at just three weeks of age but was never shown in the case he got hurt, although his full ET brother did take the male championship at Wigtown Show.

“We don’t look to buy the best tup at the market, but one that will help our faults and of course that differs year on year.

“Springwell Venom is another stock sire that has made a stamp on our flock for his pure correctness and flash of character as well as breeding some exceptional females,” he added.

Danny looks to take sheep from his Drumbreddan flock to three local shows – Ayr, Stranraer and Wigtown.

“We want to support our local shows and the standard at these three shows is always top notch, so it is really encouraging when we have done so well, and it’s enjoyable,” said Danny.

The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the gimmers to be retained for breeding ensuring a good female base is kept in the flock Ref:RH060820373

Flushing some of his top breeding females has, nevertheless, been key to winning at such events.

“My main logic behind embryo work is breed development – I am trying to establish a good female base without having to buy in a lot of good ewes. I believe that if you get the ewes right, the tups will appear by themselves,” said Danny, who buys in a new Texel stock tup ever second year.

“I don’t like using more than one tup in a season as I want to get consistency and uniformity within the flock and currently, we have too much of a variation in the ewes, so we need to buy tups to suit them.

However, while Danny has undoubtedly made his mark at last year’s Texel sale at Lanark, it is Blackface sheep that are also a real passion.

The Scottish Farmer:

BATCH OF Black-shearlings bound for sale at Newton Stewart and Dalmally Ref:RH060820393

In 1985, Danny’s parents, Lamont and Sally. left the family dairy farm at High Balyett and moved to Cairnhandy, which soon saw the neighbouring farm Drumbreddan being added, just five years later – both rented from Ardwell Estates.

The well-known hill farm of Bellimore on Tig was rented in 1994 and the Blackface flock was taken over, this didn’t last long with the tenancy given up in 2001, however, before this with the help of shepherd at the time, Andy Seaton, the best 30 ewes and 160 hoggs were drawn at the term and moved to form the foundation of the current flock.

More recently, in 2007, Stair Estates allowed the team to take back the running of the family farm at High Balyett, which has been in the family now for 54 years and is where the Blackface flock is now based.

“We always intended in renting another hill farm – we just haven’t got there just yet! In the meantime, we have kept our Blackface ewes on the lowland unit to breed our own Scotch Mules thereby reducing the need to buy in replacements and any disease,” said Danny, who runs a closed female flock, with only stock rams bought.

The Scottish Farmer:

Some of the ewe hoggs out on the grass 

All Blackface ewes lamb outside in April with the Scotch Mules also lambing in April but inside, whilst the pedigree Texels are lambed inside in March to get out to the grass as soon as possible.

Scanning percentages vary among the breeds with the cross ewes scanning around 195-200%, the Texels between 150%-160% and the Blackface ewes scan at 170%-175%

Among the Mules nearly everything will run out as a two, by marrying up triplet-born lambs with singles, with any remaining put onto the bottle. Pedigree Texels rear what they have born unless it is a triplet.

“Tups are only out with the ewes for a turn and a half, so lambing is usually by with very quickly. I prefer to work hard for a shorter period rather than have lambing drag on,” said Danny, who added that they are aiming to AI all their Texel ewes this year for the first time. Previously all were tupped naturally.

“I don’t see it being a long-term solution but I wanted to tighten up our Texel lambing because we calve around 130 cows at the same time, so the less time I spend in the lambing shed the better,” joked Danny.

The Scottish Farmer:

Bottoms to the camera! 

To keep the flock consistent and to breed the best the family can they run a very strict culling policy – curled toe, bad legs, anything lean, all goes.

“It certainly has worked for us, anything that gives us problems is put away as well as their off-spring, it’s the only way we can out breed our problems.

“When we first started this strict culling policy four or five year ago – our Blackface ewe numbers dropped by 80-100 ewes, but we knew it would be for the best in the long run. By retaining those bred from females that haven’t caused any issues, we don’t have many problems coming in to our replacements and the flock does seem to be flourishing,” said Danny, who added that being right down by the sea can cause problems at lambing time with seagulls attacking new borns.

“We tried lambing the Mule twins outside three years ago, but the seagulls were taking the lambs before they were even fully out of the ewes, so we reverted back inside!” said Danny, who added that being a very exposed farm doesn’t allow for early lambing.

Six weeks prior to lambing all ewes are given a high energy tub and at three four pre lambing, the Texel twins get 0.8kg ewe roll feeding a day with the singles at 0.4kg a day. The Blackface ewes only get the high energy tubs.

“We want to keep feeding as low as possible, to avoid having over fat ewes and laziness at lambing time,” said Danny, who does not feed any of the cross lambs, they are all finished on grass.

The family has had a strong relationship with the Morrisons supermarket chain, so everything to include all cattle is finished through them. Cross lambs are finished at around 40-42kg off grass.

The Scottish Farmer:

Ewe lambs, of which some will be retained for breeding with the remainder sold at future sales

There is a strong future ahead of the Drumbreddan flock with the growth potential in front of them, although the farming industry is not going through an easy time.

“The sheep world is heading into the most challenging time, hill sheep are disappearing with fewer farms around, and they really are the basis to all lowland sheep.

“The big cloud of Brexit is still hanging over us, which has the potential to really knock our sheep markets. However, there will always be a place for livestock farming in Scotland to feed the nation, so anyone that is good at their job has a strong future ahead,” added Danny.

“We just have to hope that the autumn sales go smoothly. We have been fortunate that Coronavirus hasn’t affected our business so far, but sales from now on are vital for us!

“Farming in general is more of a lifestyle choice and you either love it or hate it – I am glad to say I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world, despite the hours being long and repetitive. When it comes to the sale ring and your hard work pays off, you know it has all been worth it,” concluded Danny.

Farm Facts

Livestock numbers: 15 pedigree Texel ewes; 550 Scotch Mule are put to the Texel and 550 Blackface ewes where 300 are kept pure and 250 breed their own Mule replacements – nothing bought in apart from odd tup now and again. Along with a 350-sucker cow herd, mainly dairy cross Aberdeen-Angus and Limousin cows that are put to the Charolais and Limousin bulls.

Number of acres: 1400acres on a lowland farm, in which 300 acres is grown with grain.

Who is all involved – Danny, and his father, Lamont Hair along with four full time staff – shepherd, Marty Grant, the main tractor man, Richard McCrindle; cattle man, Andy Kilitie; and tractor man/ stockmen, Robin Galloway.

The Scottish Farmer:

DRUMBREDDAN FARM located in the Rhins Of Galloway Ref:RH060820390

On the Spot

Best investment? Wind turbines … diversification is going to be key for farm success

Best advice received? Work smarter and not harder … both also work!

Biggest achievement to date? Without a doubt it has got to be selling the Texel tup last year for 32,000gns. Biggest personal achievement is my two children, James (3) and Mollie (1).

If you could change one thing, what would it be? The weather.

Biggest threat? Public perception of farming – they could do a lot of damage when they don’t know their facts.