ONE of UK’s most renowned breeders of pedigree livestock, Bryan Walling, passed away last month. He was 82.

Throughout his life Bryan tackled everything with energy and lively enthusiasm. He was ambitious and had a single minded determination as he built up pedigree herds from nothing. Herefords were his initial love, and latterly, Salers.

Born and brought up at Crosthwaite, Cumbria, an area where his family has been for generations, Bryan was determined to get into farming and animal breeding from an early age. This was despite his family’s wishes as his father was not a farmer but a cattle haulier, and there were no farm buildings or land for him to use.

His lifelong journey with livestock began when he was given a Northern Dairy Shorthorn heifer calf, while he kept a few White Leghorn chickens to earn some money. He rented some land, built up his Dairy Shorthorn herd and milked them through a portable milking parlour.

Such was his ability to breed pedigree cattle that the milk from his expanding dairy herd soon began winning awards for top butter fat percentages, while the cattle secured top awards and prices at breed shows and sales throughout the country, including the Great Yorkshire.

It was in the 1950s that he began to breed Hereford cattle and eventually, with his cousin Bob Hudson joining him, formed the Cumbria Cattle Breeders partnership. Bryan and Bob were soon unrivalled in the show ring and recognised for the quality of their cattle and the way they were turned out.

Bryan was a perfectionist. He maintained that it was his skill at art, coupled with a good eye, which led to his expertise in animal conformation and breeding show cattle. Some may remember from the early days the Hereford stock bull Haven Ben, whose progeny won top prizes for Cumbria Cattle Breeders at most of the major shows in Scotland and England.

Always forward thinking when it came to cattle breeding, Bryan imported a Hereford bull and 20 heifers from Canada in 1975 to introduce the poll factor to the herd and to breed the larger more modern type of Hereford to suit commercial breeders.

This importation included the polled bull Battledore Challenger, which after 12 months was sold to FW McMordie and Son, Northern Ireland, where he became Bull of the Year on several occasions. Another famous Hereford stock bull used in the Cumbria herd was PF 1 Landscape, which was overall champion at the National Poll Show in 1977.

Bryan had a keen eye for top quality breeding in any animal and although he was never involved in the Aberdeen-Angus breed, when looking for Polled Herefords to purchase in Canada, in 1975, he spotted an Angus heifer that he liked the look of. She was imported alongside his Hereford purchases and was shown on behalf of the breeders.

That heifer, Cee Bar Favourite 8, later sold for 20,000gns having stood supreme champion at the Royal Show in 1980 and at the Highland Show in 1981. Notably, she has more show winning descendants than any other female in modern times and is listed as one of the most influential Angus females in the world.

Bryan also saw the potential in the Dutch, dual-purpose red and white Meuse Rhine Issel. He believed it could make a contribution in the UK dairy herds, particularly in improving the value of the dairy bull calf. Consequently, he imported the first MRI cattle and launched the MRI Cattle Society of the United Kingdom, with his wife Fiona taking on the role of secretary. He also travelled to Australia and brought in the llawarra Shorthorn – an extreme dairy type – which were used in several local Shorthorn herds.

In the 1980s, Bryan managed to purchase the land he had been renting in Cumbria, but around the same time the market for Herefords collapsed due to the competition from continental cattle. Undefeated, Bryan imported 60 Salers cows and four bulls in 1984, after being impressed with the French breed which originated in a region of France not unlike the Lake District. As a result, the Salers Cattle Society of the UK was set up.

Amongst this importation was the well-known bull Vainqueur, as well as a heifer that would be the foundation of the Ladybird polled female line. A later import, Bruno, also became famous in the show ring and as a stock bull. Thanks to his foresight and hard work the Salers breed is now firmly established across the UK. Bryan also established an embryo unit and embryos and semen were exported from Cumbria to countries all over the world.

After markets and fortunes changed, Bryan and his family decided to look for a farm in Scotland with a greater acreage and better quality land for livestock. Five years later, the partnership of Bryan, Fiona and Bob, now known as Farmstock Genetics, purchased Over Whitlaw Farm, Selkirk, and the whole family moved there in 1996. A small nucleus of the Salers genetics was the foundation of the new expanding herd which was run alongside a flock of pedigree Lleyn ewes.

For a time, Bryan also extended an interest in rare breeds of cattle with Belted Galloway, Longhorn, White Park and Kerrys roaming the fields at Over Whitlaw – and there would always be a small herd of his beloved Shorthorns.

Bryan was well travelled. He said he’d travelled the equivalent of four times around the world, visiting Chile, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Iran, Thailand to name but a few. He was president of the International Salers Federation in the late 1990s and judged in many countries.

He made lifelong friends as a result of his love of western Canada and his annual pilgrimage to the National Western Stock Show in Denver, USA. Success in the show ring continued with winners nearly every year at major shows with both cattle and sheep. Bryan also became a well-known face at the Lleyn sheep sales in Scotland, where Farmstock Genetics would regularly achieve the top prices for ewe lambs.

One of the greatest achievements within the Salers herd was recently when Farmstock Genetics bred and sold back to French breeders the homozygous polled bull Cumbrian Joker. Joker was well accepted in France and now his semen and embryos are selling worldwide. The Salers herd at Over Whitlaw remains one of the most prolific in the breed.

Bryan always made it clear to others that he was indebted to Bob Hudson for his commitment and for his expertise in turning out cattle to high standards at shows and sales. He was also grateful that his children, Katie-Jo, Tom and Ian, had inherited their father’s eye and standards when it came to breeding top quality animals, that not only made their mark in the show ring but also in the sale ring, where they regularly command premium prices. They are his legacy, and will be carrying on his life’s work in the Scottish Borders and beyond.