Creep feeding lambs as early as two weeks of age for the prime market may sound ambitious but it is a policy which is working wonders to reduce the number of days on farm for Ali Gordon and her partner David, from Northfield, St Abbs of Eyemouth.

Very much a scenic, tourist area of Berwickshire, the 380-acre farm is surrounded by stunning coastal views, with an additional 120 acres rented from the National Trust Scotland (NTS).

Home to 250 North Country Cheviots, 750 Cheviot Mules and an 80 suckler cow herd, lambing starts at the end of February with home-bred Cheviot Mules which are put to the Suffolk as gimmers and the Texel there after. All are lambed inside through the sheep shed which can only hold 280 at one time, therefore tups go out in groups for a staggered lambing, with teasers used for a tighter lambing.

In contrast the pure Cheviots which includes 80-100 drafts bought in every year, lamb outside from April 1.

“We originally ran Blackface ewes, but switched to the Cheviot 15 years ago because as a cull ewe they are worth a lot more, and as well as having good conformation, they are also good milky mothers,” said Ali.

To breed home-bred Cheviot Mules which regularly produce scanning percentages of 200%, traditional-type Bluefaced Leicesters are purchased from Ian Smith, West Bolton, at the Kelso Ram Sales. Cheviot ewes normally yield lamb crops of 170%.

Prior to lambing, all ewes carrying multiples are fed Davidsons Animal Feeds Ewelac rolls.

“It keeps the ewes in good condition on the run up to lambing and they milk well off the Ewelac 18%.

Lambs are fed Davidsons Animal Feeds Rapid Start from 14 days of age and everything is

finished on farm and sold through Farm Stock, of which Ali is a director of, as well as being chair

lady of Scott Country Lamb.

“The lamb creep is an exceptional product for us and it works well in our system by allowing us to get more out of the lambs. I feel it is vital to creep feed lambs earlier as that is the most important growth

stage in their lives."

Last year, the majority of lambs gained on average 500grams per day, with batches killing out at 21.3kg, and some 'tremendous feed conversion rates,' Ali said.

The first of the lambs were sold the third week of May at 36-37kg, and thereafter are finished at

12 weeks onwards at 40kg.

“The ground can dry up here really quickly, and the fewer mouths we have through the summer the better. We can’t afford to carry too many. This year has been the worst we have seen for grass growth –we just hope to get a big burst of rain to save our crops,” said Ali.

The cattle enterprise comprises 80 Limousin Friesian cows – bought privately from Scottish producers – of which all calve in the autumn.

“Limousins are bought for their shape and conformation, and the Friesian through them adds that bit more milk,” said Ali.

Heifers are put to the Aberdeen-Angus to calve in the spring and the following year are bulled with a Charolais to join the autumn calvers.

“We use the Angus on the heifers for ease of calving and because the calves are quick on to their feet to suckle. But, it's the Charolais cross that the finisher wants as Charolais cross calves have the highest growth rates."

Although calved in the autumn, calves are not weaned until July to reduce the risk of mastitis in the cows.

Most of the cow’s calves are sold at 12-14 months of age, with the heifer's calves sold at 12months. Just last month Ali sold the first batch of bullocks weighing 570kg for £1430 at St Boswells – up £150 on the year.

While livestock numbers are at capacity, Ali also hopes to increase total farm income with the introduction of a small caravan site last summer.

“We had a really busy spell to start with last year but of course had to close down over the winter due to the lockdown restrictions. We are however looking forward to a busy summer again.

“We have just five plots but it allows us to see how successful it would be without having to go into all the planning permission to provide facilities. It is a great diversification for the farm when we're in such a tourist are,” said Ali, who’s sister, runs the café at the farm.