Producing pedigree Texels for use in both pedigree and commercial flocks is the name of the game for the Orr family, from Wester Walston, Carnwath.

Very much a family affair, with the fourth generation now coming through – James now runs the business alongside his wife, Mara and son Jamie, with the help from their other children, Alison, Robbie and Emma.

“I took over the running of the farm at 20 years of age, so I feel it is really important to let the youngsters express themselves. It does you a lot of good having to make decisions at such a young age and you learn from your mistakes. If the kids want to explore different avenues, we will let them.

“Just because it has always been done a certain way does not mean it’s right,” said James, who stressed that Mara, will turn her hand to anything, she is the ‘boss’ and if it wasn’t for her, none of them would be where they are today.

The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the Wester Walston ladies. These Texel gimmers will form the future of the flock Ref:RH310820063


The team runs a 50:50 split between registered and unregistered Texels, as when they established their flock in 2004, none of the females were registered. Purchasing registered gimmers from noted flocks like Woodlands, East Middle and Scrogtonhead, commenced in 2011 and it has been a work in progress ever since to become fully registered.

“We try to keep more registered gimmers every year, even though the unregistered ones are every bit as good but without the paperwork!!” said Mara, who added that this autumn the team will have 15 registered home-bred pure gimmers going in to the flock.

James added: “It is all still a learning curve for us, but we are always looking to improve. We’re not into the performance recording at the moment, although it is something we will look to do in the future – we just look to breed attractive commercial sheep and if we can sell them into a pedigree flock, then that’s a bonus.

“Texels work well for us as they produce lambs with high killing out percentages and lambs with good grades when crossed with a Mule or a Texel cross ewe,” he said.

The Scottish Farmer:

A TOTAL of 25 Texel shearlings are heading to Lanark this year as opposed to Kelso Ref:RH310820070


With the cancellation of Kelso Ram sales this year, the Orr family will be selling their normal Ring 7 and 19 consignments of Texel shearling rams at Lanark, on Friday, September 11 and non-registered on Wednesday, September 16.

This year, they have 25 entered, 10 registered and 15 unregistered, which include sons of a £16,000 Blackadder Albertz tup purchased at Kelso in 2018 jointly with Jim Gibb, Toftcombs, and Iain Minto, Townhead; and Clarks Acrobat, acquired the same year in partnership with Dougie Fleming, Meikle Jackson and Tom Cockburn.

One tup that really stamped his mark on the flock and in particular on females was a Moss-side ram bought from Hugh Guthrie, for just 1000gns at the second sale at Lanark.

On the flip side, the best sale to date for Wester Walston was last year, when their best, Walston Batman, sold for 4400gns to Neil Harvey. He is a son of Kingside Yogi Bear and helped the family attain their best average of £1118 for eight shearlings.

“Our priority is to breed a big lengthy animal with a good skin and carcase with a leg in every corner. They do say the head doesn’t matter, but they do have to show a bit of character and hold their head up in the air. We also look to breed sheep with a good flat shoulder and deep spring of rib,” said Jamie.

The Scottish Farmer:

Flashy headed gimmers distracted by all


Lambing kicks off in the middle of March for the Texels, whilst the commercial flock begin the first week in April in two batches.

All the ewes are tupped with Texel rams, with 150 home-bred ewe lambs put to the Beltex for the first year and thereafter back to the Texel.

All ewes are lambed outside although they are brought in at night for ease of management. Extra pairs of hands are required at this time, with their usual night lamber, Willie Linton, unable to assist this year, so James Gibb stepped in. In addition, Rowan Stewart is a key worker at peak time and assists with a variety of roles throughout the day.

To minimise miss mothering, ewes and lambs are kept in the ‘nursery’ for a few days before being put outside in a small field in batches of 40.

Commercial ewes are fed eight weeks prior to lambing, with a For Farmers’ 18% Protein ewe, purchased via Galloway and McLeod, up to 1lb per foetal life daily.

“They need to be fed to be able to take their lamb and keep their condition, we need a high-quality cake to utilise their milk, when twinning on lambs,” said James.

The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the favourite shearlings that will be for sale at Lanark Ref:RH310820076


Ewes only get to rear twins with triplets split meaning they could end up with 20-30 pet lambs on an automatic feeder when scanning percentages normally work out at about 190%.

Pure ewes are fed a smaller amount of the same ration, with twin-bearing ewes getting about 0.5lb daily.

Texel tup lambs are fed half a pound of Davidsons Animal Feeds’ Reiver nuts twice a day during the winter months, whilst ewe lambs retained for breeding are out-wintered with John Bannatyne, and are grass fed only.

All commercial lambs are sold through Scotch Lamb Marketing and go to Dunbia, Preston, aiming to hit the 21.5kg deadweight mark, and will be doing around 44-45kg live. 95% of the first lot of lambs away this year finished as U grades. Last years, some 1500 lambs were cashed to average in excess of £85 per head.

As the season progresses, the last batch of lambs are kept until December/ January and are brought inside when they hit 38-40kg for 10 days to a fortnight to get them away a lot quicker with creep feeding, which last year saw the last of their lambs average £93.50. However, 85% of the lambs sold fat will be finished off grass alone.

“We find lambs use a lot of energy to keep themselves warm when the weather gets colder and wetter so we now bring them in and finish them on Davidsons Animal Feeds’ pearl lamb pellets and they kill out a lot better for us,” said James.

The Scottish Farmer:

BLUE TEXELS are a recent addition to Wester Walston, and these gimmers are posing for the camera Ref:RH310820060


The youngest member of the family, Emma, shows her own Blue Texels at their local Carnwath and Biggar shows, and last year won the any other breed section at both.

She now runs 16 ewes with five gimmers retained this year, with the emphasis here more on quality as opposed to quantity. Their stock tup, Strathellie Benjamin – which stood third at the Royal Highland last year – is shared with Gavin Scott, of Gateside.

“Blue Texels are an up and coming breed that we can use on our commercial flock. They are an easy breed to work with and finish with good grades and to heavy weights,” said Mara.

The family also run 70 Limousin and British Blue cross cows to a Limousin bull, with the resultant progeny sold store at 10-months of age.

“We try to keep the odd heifer of our own to retain in the herd, but at the moment it is financially better for us buying in cows and calves to maintain the consistency throughout the breeding,” added James, who buys four to six cows and calves every year from Andrew Baillie, Carstairs Mains.


The Scottish Farmer:

LIMOUSIN CROSS suckler cows pictured with their May-born calves at foot – with both generations having summered well Ref:RH310820069


Calving starts at the beginning of May until the end of June, with calves weaned the following January. This year, the team sold 12 bullocks to average £919 and six heifers at £880, at Lanark, in March.

The aim is to have calves gaining 1.2kg gain per day from birth to sale from a mixed feed ration comprising barley, soya and silage, which was devised by SAC experts.

Cows are fed a little bit of high protein cake which has more starch in it, to help them come to the bull that bit quicker as well as tighten up calving. During winter, cows are on slats and are fed a silage mix with wheat straw and barley.

“We have found that 0.5kg of barley per head daily, boosts their vitamin E levels and has helped prevent long bone disease, and through time it gives the calves a lot more get up and go,” added James. “The cows are scanned in February and given a high iodine bolus, that we feel give the calves the get up and go.”

The Orrs aim to breed growthy, stretchy cattle and one bull that has helped to achieve this is Maraiscote Morgan, purchased privately at 16-months of age from Ian Nimmo, in 2016.

With the fourth generation now very much up and running, they feel they are at a stable point, after boosting their sheep numbers and reducing their cattle numbers, it has been less intense on the machinery side of things.

“We feel we are at the full potential for the farm capacity at the moment, however if the right land came up in our local area we would give it a go just to expand that little bit further, especially when the kids all show a strong interest,” said James.

“We don’t want to be farming for no reward, it is a 24-hour job and even a small reward, like a wee cheque from Kelso Ram Sales, helps along the way. We are just trying to make a consistent job and get value for money for our stock.

“The one issue that has been swept under the carpet, Brexit, doesn’t bode well for the future of the sheep industry, when there are potentially 50% tariffs on lamb prices. However, who knows what the future holds for anyone?

“The industry has been thriving these last few months which no one would have predicted, it is just a pity that it is on the back of a pandemic, everyone is on ‘staycation’ and continuing to support local which has encouraged strong prices.

“However, no matter whether the trade is good or poor, whether we have a strong future or not, we still need to put tups and bulls out and keep trimming costs.

“If we look after the land it will look after us. We just have to hold our nerve now,” concluded James.


The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the Wester Walston ladies. These Texel gimmers will form the future of the flock Ref:RH310820063


Farm facts

Livestock: 80 pure Texel ewes and 16 pedigree Blue Texel ewes, along with a commercial flock of 920 ewes and 150 hoggs. The cattle side of things hit the 70 mark with just 10 being Autumn calvers and remaining are spring calvers.

Acres: 560 acres based at Wester Walston, rising from 750 to 1000ft.

Involved: It is a very much a family – James and Mara, along with four children, Jamie (25), Alison (24) who is a physiotherapist at the Borders General hospital as well as for Biggar Rugby Club, Robbie (20) who works on a local dairy farm, as well as just coming back from playing rugby in New Zealand for a year and Emma (17) who is still at school.


On the Spot questions

Best return on investment: Maraiscote Morgan, the offspring he has bred for us has been phenomenal, he was purchased just as a young bull and has turned into a real big lengthy powerful bull.

Best advice ever received: Love a lot, miss a few but always paddle your own canoe. Sometimes we think we can go no further, then we go into a higher gear.

Biggest achievement: Watching the kids grow up and achieve what they want to do and give them a helping a hand along the way. We have got to go through tough times to appreciate the good times. Farming wise it would have to be replacing 500 Blackface ewes with 1100 Texels by improving the hill ground and grassland.

Any hobbies out with farming? Anytime we are not found on the farm we will be down at Biggar Rugby Club. All the kids are involved in the club and play rugby along with James being president this year. Alison also plays with Watsonians, so it is a big part of the family’s life.

Biggest threat: The uncertainty that lies ahead for the industry. The 50% tariff on sheep meat if there is a no deal Brexit is a real worry to any sheep farmer. Never mind the climate change, things seem to be getting wetter, if April is a bad month it is a disaster for us. Everything hinges on the weather, we are very exposed to the east winds so it can kill or cure us.