An efficient business that creates a monthly beef cheque and is as self-reliant as possible, is the name of the game for this year’s AgriScot Scottish Beef Farm of the Year.

By calving in three distinct seven week blocks, Lamont Hair and son Daniel have created a system that generates a consistent cash flow throughout the year – something Lamont was used to and was keen to replicate from his dairy farming background.

“There’s wages and bills to pay every month. If you can sell 30 fat cattle per month, it makes paying your bills easier,” he explained. "It also makes more efficient use of the farm’s facilities."

The Hairs have named their calving strategy a '20/10' system. Bulls go out from April 20 to 10 June 10; August 20 to October 10; and December 20 to February 10, to give that year-round effect.

By running 120 cows in each block, the aim is to produce around 60 heifers and 60 bulls which are born and can be finished in a short period. The idea is to have 30 animals ready to go for slaughter at one time, providing the perfect number to go on a lorry.

“It’s all about efficiency,” Mr Hair explained. “We are a long way to any slaughter house, so if we want a lorry, we want to fill it each time.”

Bull selection is taken seriously, with Mr Hair sourcing most of his stock bulls from the Stirling Bull Sales and spending around 6000-8000gns per head. Estimated breeding values (EBVs) are assessed, as well as going by the look of the bull, with particular emphasis placed on calving ease and 400-day weight gain.

All cows are dairy cross Aberdeen-Angus, or Limousin that are bought from neighbouring dairy units, of which there are plenty in the area. The family have also come to an agreement with one neighbour which allows them to choose the Aberdeen-Angus semen to be used on the dairy herd.

This enables them to use data to look closely at calving figures for future herd replacements. Buying-in replacements in this way means they can focus entirely on producing beef.

Mr Hair is also keen to focus on maximising milk production per cows with the view to making the most of calf performance off the dam. “I see a cow as something that’s there to produce milk. If I want her to produce 20 litres of milk, I’ll feed her grass silage and whatever barley she needs to get that so I don’t have to feed creep,” he explained.

This is particularly necessary considering most cow are out all-year-round. In fact, the herd is out-wintered on barley stubbles and fed silage from feed trailers, with home-grown Maxammon treated barley on top. Mr Hair believes in feeding the cows well and providing plenty of minerals helps maximise health, which in-turn benefits longevity.

Stock are only housed for finishing. The family aims to be as self-sufficient as possible, using home-grown barley for that job and straw bedding, which goes on to produce muck and in turn, this means a reduced need to buy-in fertiliser. Feed-grade urea is also used to top up ration protein levels.

Bulls are weaned at 7-8 months old and finished on ad-lib barley, whilst heifers have a 6-8 months store period on grass or silage. They are then moved onto an ad-lib barley ration with straw.

Their efficient strategy is also proving beneficial to the bottom line, with their Scottish Farm Business Survey benchmark report showing their total farm income, including subsidy, is almost three times the average of the upper quartile. Which was a major contributory factor in their Scottish Beef Farm of the Year award.

The lead assessor for the award, QMS head of industry development, Bruce McConachie, said: "What Danny and Lamont have built is dynamic, working with other businesses to create its own supply chain. The system itself is innovative and provides sustainability and simplicity, coupled with a close relationship with the processors and retailers they work with.

"They have a clear business model and a focus on cow health and fertility for longevity, with an eye on succession and the long-term vision for the business.”

Farm facts:

• Drumbreddan Farm, Stranraer.

• Family partnership between Lamont and Sally Hair and son, Daniel.

• 550ha (1360 acres) farmed (rented) including 97ha (240 acres) of spring barley for own-use.

• 360 Holstein cross Aberdeen Angus or Limousin cows.

• Charolais, Limousin or Saler terminal sires.

• Cows calve in three, seven week blocks.

• Everything is finished with most sold to Morrisons.

• Bull average 400kg DW at 13-14 months and U and R grades. Heifers average 380kg DW at 18-20 months.

• Some 357 calves were claimed under the SSBCS last year.

• Sheep – 1000 ewes.

• Five 15kW wind turbines producing 50% of farm’s requirements, with the rest sold.

• 90 calves produced per bull - as one bull covers 30 cows in each of three blocks.

• 300 tonnes of live meat sold off farm annually and 300 tonnes of fertiliser bought-in annually.