It's a sad day for anyone forced to sell their pride and joy for health reasons, but when it involves a lifetime devoted to pedigree dairy cattle, it can be heart breaking, as Matthew Armour has discovered in making the decision to disperse the family's well known Annandale herd.

The Armours have been milking dairy cows for more than a century and while the herd originates from the Torr, Bridge of Weir, the Annandale prefix wasn't established until 1947, when the family moved to Woodend, Dumfriesshire. Eleven years later, and they moved again to the bigger unit at The Milton, Moffat, which has been home to this well known black and white herd ever since.

The Annandale herd was always one of Scotland's best known Friesian herds, producing lead priced bulls and heifers at the old Paisley Auction Market, for decades. Even when the family slowly but surely introduced Holstein genetics into the equation, their cattle continued to shine, but then they never lost their herd's ability to breed milky, functional, high butterfat and protein cows that would last for a good two/three lactations more than the average.

Selection of top cows from the Annandale herd which is to be sold on farm on August 24

Selection of top cows from the Annandale herd which is to be sold on farm on August 24

And, despite the fact they lost their entire herd – 150 milkers plus youngstock – to foot-and-mouth in 2001; they have, with careful selection and breeding, been able to build up an equally notable herd boasting the same high milk yields and components as they had pre FMD.

Initially, Matthew restocked with 200 head of youngstock bought from noted cow families from several herds throughout the UK, with a large number of embryo-born North American genetics also imported from Holland.

Matthew was also able to source a Pearl from one of the Armour's leading cow families when the herd was based at Bridge of Weir in the first World War.

"We have never gone down the route of breeding extreme Holsteins," said Matthew, who lives with his wife Angela and their 13-year-old daughter, Jasmine, who has a few red and white Holstein calves for showing.

Annandale Mayday Oriole which classified VG88 as a second calver

Annandale Mayday Oriole which classified VG88 as a second calver

"We look to breed middle-of-the-road Holsteins and cows that can breed bulls to produce bullocks with power and strength that always sell well in the market place. Before we introduced the Holstein, we had the heavier-type of Friesian which milked really well and that's the type of cattle we still look to breed without the length of thigh of the Holstein."

In contrast to most leading dairy breeders who use top AI sires, the Armours rely more on home-bred bulls bred from some of their best cow families, which they believe have helped to produce the type of cattle that will last longer and produce trouble free milky females into the bargain.

It's a breeding philosophy that's certainly paid dividends, as the Annandale herd is probably better known now than ever, having been crowned the highest yielding herd in Scotland on no fewer than seven occasions in the past 20 years of which five were in consecutive years.

More impressive is the fact that the family was awarded Master Breeder status in 2016 – an honour presented by Holstein UK which acknowledges high standards on classification scores and production traits as well as having trouble-free cows and herd longevity. As it is, the family has also bred in excess of 200 50-150tonne cows since 2001, with the herd at present comprising in excess of 55 Excellent, and 120 VGs cows and heifers.

One of the star performers is Annandale Abbott Kim which classified VG88 as a two-year-old and is by Willsbro Abbott. Bred from 16 VG or Ex-classified females, her dam is the Ex91 2E LP100 cow, Annandale Lucky S Kim.

Annandale MVP Sindy and a maternal sister to the sire of many of the youngstock for sale, Annandale Santos which classified a maximum Ex93 for his age

Annandale MVP Sindy and a maternal sister to the sire of many of the youngstock for sale, Annandale Santos which classified a maximum Ex93 for his age

There are also a few top females amongst the cows to include Annandale Gerrard Kimberley Ex93, which is due with her fifth calf this week, having produced in excess of 14,000litres in her fourth at 4.65%BF and 3.26%P.

It therefore comes as no surprise that the Annandale herd continues to prove a force to be reckoned in the market place producing top sellers at bull sales even though the bulk of dairy farmers rely on AI.

However, with Matthew desperately in need of two new hips, and two new knees, he and his brother Bill, have made the heart wrenching decision to sell their award winning herd which boasts an average annual milk yield of 12,000litres at 4.1%BF and 3.25%P on a twice daily milking regime – and that's without any fancy feeds.

Cows are very much housed and maintained on a traditional silage-based TMR and fed according to yield through the parlour, during the winter. In spring, summer and early autumn they are out at grass and buffer fed, with concentrates provided in the parlour.

The Annandale herd is to be sold on farm on August 24, and will feature no fewer than 220 milking cows of all ages and from some of the herd's best breeding families to include the Kimberleys, Millies, Hopes, Lizas and the Adas.

Annandale Maisie Doetje VG86-2yr

Annandale Maisie Doetje VG86-2yr

In-calf cows will mostly be sold sexed to either Lambda, Haniko or Willsbro Abbott, with others due to home-bred bulls bred from leading cow families.

In addition, some 250 youngstock and 12 breeding bulls will be up for grabs.

It's a sale not to be missed especially if you are looking for cows that produce more milk than most, will last, and are extremely easy on the eye.

As for the farm, the brothers are looking to finish the beef-sired cattle and probably buy in a few store cattle and sheep over the next year until Matthew is back to full health. After that, who knows... The world is his oyster.