Getting lambs away finished early and with top end grades is exactly what the Sloan family aim to achieve from Scotland’s most southerly farm in the Mull of Galloway.

Harvey and his wife, Angela, and his parents, Billy and Morag, originally came from Ayrshire and moved to Mull of Galloway 27 years ago, and along with son, Bryce (19) farm in this tourist and remote area.

“I have always worked with the Scotch Mule and I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are great mothers and seem to breed us good replacement lambs when they are crossed with the Texel sire. They produce that hardy cross that are quiet, and are reasonable quick to finish,” said Harvey, who buys in 50-80 Scotch Mule gimmers each year usually from Ayr or Castle Douglas auction marts.

“Scotch Mules produce similar scanning percentages and lambs that finish within the same time scale to our Texel crosses, so it really was an easy decision for us to continue with the 250 Scotch Mule ewes that were here when we took the place over. We have just gone on from there and expanded to where we are now.

“When putting Mules to the Texel tup we are looking for a ewe with a tight coat and good confirmation, to get some nice lambs out of them,” said Harvey, who retains around 100 ewe lambs to tup as gimmers the following year, which are put to Beltex cross tups, for better grades and weights.

The Scottish Farmer:

THESE GIMMERS graze in fields with views over to the Isle of Man Ref:RH290820026


The team look to buy three tups a year and also use a few of their own Texels from their small pedigree flock. Most years they are purchased direct from farmers which, over the years, include several from Peter and Lynn Gray’s Scrogtonhead flock, from Galston, as well as Ian Galloway, Clantibuies.

Since they are lambing as early as February, with it all passed by mid-March, everything is lambed inside for the ease of management as well as the short days at that time of year. “Ewes are always in big form, so we need to be on hand to assist any lambs – when they are worth up to £120, we want to make sure and get as many alive as possible,” said Harvey, who brings in assistance at this time to ensure someone is with the ewes more or less 24/7.


The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the Texel crosses that are part of the breeding flock Ref:RH290820019


The intention is to have all ewes leave the shed with two lambs, with triplet-born lambs rubbed onto singles.

“That means we hope to have 95% of the ewes running out with two lambs at foot. There is no point in us running triplets at this time of year as you end up with wasted lambs.

“It is easier taking one off to allow the ewe to make a good job of two,” added Harvey. The ewes are usually scanning between 190-200%, whilst the gimmers scan at 180%. At sale percentages work out at 175-180% and part of the reason for that high survivability is a result of a strict hygiene policy and navel spray at birth.

“Spraying a lamb’s navel is the most important part of lambing when it helps prevent joint ill, because if they get it, there really is not much that can be done for them. Everything has to be sprayed before it hits the ground,” added Harvey, who also has all his ewes on the Heptavac P system.

Feeding is kept to a minimum among the sheep front, prior to being brought into the shed before lambing, the ewes run on a stubble field and are fed a silage, molasses and barley TMR mix – provided just to get them used to their ‘inside diet’.


The Scottish Farmer:

MULE EWES are part of the breeding flock and are put to Texel rams for lambing in February Ref:RH290820021


Ewes are brought inside three weeks before lambing, and they are introduced to a little ewe rolls morning and night, along with the TMR mix. “I think it is important to feed purely for the ease of management, as you can see if any ewes hang back or hold off from the feed, and perhaps require attention. If you can catch issues early on, they’re usually easier to solve,” added Harvey.

When the ewes are put to the grass after lambing they are fed just 0.5kg of ewe rolls a day, along with the early grass that grows mostly all year round due to being in an area affected by the Gulf Stream. All lambs are finished solely off grass, with the exception of pet lambs which have access to creep feed to help them along.

Most lambs this year were sold direct to Scotbeef for sale through Marks and Spencer’s, with heavier lambs sold liveweight to Ayr market, and occasionally Newton Stewart, or Dumfries.

“Lambs are usually in demand by early May, which is why we lamb that little bit early to try and catch that change over trade,” said Harvey, who had 640 lambs away by June 4 this year. Selling them early certainly has not affected their trade or weight, with on average weight is between 42-44kg liveweight at market or kill out at 20.5kg deadweight at abattoir, with trade balancing out at over £100. The first few lots this year were put away at £118 average.

The Scottish Farmer:

GALLIE CRAIG Coffee House was built in 2004. The cafe menu includes all of their own meat and is perched on the Mull of Galloway cliff top with amazing views Ref:RH290820011


Being on a typical tourist location, situated in the most southerly point of Scotland, Harvey and Angela, knew there was room for expansion with the number of cars passing their road end! That saw them diversify into starting a café, Gallie Craig Coffee House, in 2004.

The café’s menu includes all of their own meat and is perched on the Mull of Galloway cliff top with amazing views overlooking Luce Bay, Ireland and the Isle of Man, plus it is very much a family affair, where their two daughters, Sarah (25) and Gemma (23), lend a hand where possible. Sarah is an ambulance technician, whilst Gemma is just newly qualified in interior design.

Beef comes from their 300-cow spring-calving suckler herd, with up 40 dairy-bred heifers bought in every year as replacements, they also retain about 30 home-bred heifers for bulling with the remaining calves all finished. “I want a bit of dairy in the herd for the milk and growth rates, as we would keep the best heifer calves for breeding,” Harvey said.

The team also grow 120 acres of winter/spring barley, which are crimped and clamped for cattle to feed along with 160 acres of silage cut twice. The pH of the farm is all above 6 and with the reasonably young grass leys, the ground works well for the family.

The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the 300-strong suckler cow herd Ref:RH290820031


At weaning, they are fed a TMR comprising 3kg of crimp barley, 0.5kg of molasses, 1kg of protein blend and straw and silage, along with Harbro Rumitech mineral and rumen buffer, which helps with feed efficiency, and as they grow frame the barley content is increased accordingly.

Fattening cattle are weighed on a regular basis to ensure daily liveweight gains of 1kg per head per day at growing stage after weaning, at a cost as close to a £1 per head per day, which is not always easy.

“Weighing works well for us as we have been able to reduce the number of days on farm while also producing cattle with improved grades, using as much home-grown produce as possible,” said Harvey, whose cattle are all in wintered.

Heifers finish at 342kg deadweight and bullocks at 387kg through ABP, Perth, where their cattle regularly attract bonuses of up to 20p per kg for carcases that suit the VIA (Video Image Analysis) grading system.

“The key to making money from beef is finishing them quicker and heavier, but everything needs to be right from genetics to housing and feeding,” commented Harvey.

The Scottish Farmer:

SOME OF the fattening cattle that are weighed on a regular basis to ensure daily liveweight gains of 1kg per head per day at growing stage after weaning Ref:RH290820030


The farm is in full expansion mode, though it has come through a lot over the last 20 years and a lot of hard work has finally paid off for the Sloans, with their cattle and sheep consistently hitting the grades, weights and values they want.

“For the sheep job, we aim for that early market when abattoirs are just switching over from hoggs to lambs, trade can be flying if we get it right. It is important that we keep things fresh, fit and with a tight lambing pattern to get it right.

“This year, 85% of our sheep and cattle produced bonus grades, so it is a promising future,” said Harvey. “As for predictions, I think food safety will start to play a big part, with the public hopefully realising that a full balanced diet – red meat included – from British produce is the route to a healthy future. If anything, this year has shown that anything can change up or down dramatically, making it difficult to predict any future.

“I think there will always be a strong market out there for quality beef and lamb. It is all about producing your product as efficiently and cost effective as you can, before worrying about the price,” concluded Harvey.

The Scottish Farmer:

The cafe is situated on a very tourist spot


Farm Facts:

Livestock numbers: 540 sheep and 100 ewe lambs, about 50:50 Scotch Mules and Texel crosses, along with a 300 suckler cow herd, which are mainly Limousin crosses

Acres: 650 acres at Mull of Galloway and renting 180 acres from neighbouring farm, Cairngaan

Involved: Three generations of the Sloan family – Billy, Harvey, and Bryce (19), along with their full-time worker, Willie Lowrie, who has been with them for 23 years. The team are also enlisting a second worker to join the farm.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE CATTLE and sheep graze on the cliiff tops Ref:RH290820017


On the Spot:

Best investment: Along with the café which has got to be No 1, as simple as it is, it would have to be the fattening shed. That has been the best investment on the farm ... the cow comfort mats keep the cattle content no matter what the weather and allow the cattle to finish earlier. Out on the field they were gaining 96kg from May to August but in this shed they have been doing 180kg. Although there is a slightly more cost of feeding, we are saving 500 round bales of straw and 100 acres of rented ground a year.

Best advice ever received: Don’t scrimp and save on feed, make sure you are getting the quality and minerals required which can help clear up a number of problems.

Biggest achievement: Buying this place and turning into what it is today, having built 14 sheds, miles of fencing, reclaiming scrub land, liming regularly and ploughing areas that hadn’t been touched in more than 50 years.

Any hobbies out with farming: I used to like football, but I now don’t have much time for anything other than farming! I enjoy the socialising at farm sales and shows, catching up with everyone from all over! As well as farm tours and visits, I have been over to Ireland and Orkney, it is great to get about and see what other people are doing.