With the Royal Highland just around the corner, there can be no one busier than Robert Paterson of Upper Auchenlay, Dunblane.

Not only does he have both British Blue cattle and Beltex sheep entered for the show, he also has the honour of judging the Charollais sheep, and as if that wasn’t enough, Robert and wife Kirsty have just welcomed baby son Rodrick into the world, and he and two-year-old sister Reeva, will join them at Ingliston for the event!

“The Highland is the highlight of our farming year and we have never missed it”, says Robert.

Robert farms the 340-acre unit alongside his father, Robert senior, and mother Maimie who is currently vice-chairman of NSA Scotland and President of the Beltex Sheep Society.

The farm is now home to 30 British Blue cows plus followers, and 570 breeding ewes.

Originally the cattle herd comprised Aberdeen-Angus and Simmental-cross cows and in 1999 the first British Blue bull joined the herd to bring in the muscling and carcase that the breed is famous for. This was Park Organiser, bought from Danny Wylie in Perth and bred by Joe Adams.

So impressed were the family by the bull and the type of calves he left, that a pure heifer was bought the following year.

Codicote Rose was to become the foundation cow of the pedigree herd and her influence is still very much felt today with a lot of the herd tracing back to her.

Rose was the dam of the Paterson’s highest selling bull to date, Auchenlay Vagabond, the Organiser-sired 2005 Carlisle sale champion which sold for a record breaking 21,000gns.

She is also the great granddam of current stock bull, Sandyvale Jagerbomb a son of Auchenlay Coll, out of Tamhorn Flowergirl.

Jagerbomb quickly made a name for himself, taking the 2017 RHS male championship and the 2018 RHS breed championship and is without doubt leaving his mark on the herd, with two sons and two daughters entered for this year’s show.

“Coll sold in 2011 for 13,000gns to Balfour Baillie and its been great to see him not only produce Jagerbomb, but to work well in Balfour’s commercial herd,” said Robert

“We have only bought in a further five females since Rose, two were bought at the Peel dispersal, two from the Lawns dispersal, and then Herts Octavia, bought at the Caley market in 2007 from Jim Miller of Dundonald who was dispersing his herd.

“We flush once a year for November calving, and that has helped us to build up the herd quickly using top quality genetics.

“The last cross cows went in 2010 and we are now entirely pure.

“I wanted to try and increase our income and saw the great potential there is for the Blue in both beef suckler herds and in dairy herds. I strongly believe that the Blues have improved most of all the breeds over the past 15 years.”

“When buying a bull, I’m looking for structural soundness, mobility and of course the muscling. We want to produce good commercial bulls and we have been fortunate to produce a good few that have gone into AI companies.”

Maternal brothers, Auchenlay Hitman and Auchenlay Judge have done well at Cogent, indeed Hitman is currently Cogent’s top British Blue AI sire in the UK.

Robert added: “I follow the figures but I’m not reliant on them, first off I always want the animal to look good.”

“We don’t push the bulls hard, I want to see them go on and thrive for their buyers, so they are brought on very naturally and in their own time.”

The farm which sits 400ft above sea level is also home to 150 Charollais and 80 Beltex breeding ewes, with a further 250 cross ewes and 90 Shetlands.

The Charollais flock started back in 1987, when two females were bought from Ian Innes, while the first three Beltex gimmers were bought from John McIlwraith, Balig, in 1994.

“Prior to that it was Blackfaces”, said Maimie. “But we are very low on copper here and got a lot of swayback, so we decided to try continental breeds which can thrive on low copper.”

“The breeds we chose have done us well over the years and we are happy with how they do. Bringing in the Shetlands to put to the Beltex tup has also worked well in providing a nice Spring hogg.”

While the Patersons have done well in the pedigree sheep world, with some great show wins, including winning the Royal Highland on four occasions, the decision was made more recently to run everything commercially and reared off grass.

“We have sold Charollais tups to £3500 in Lanark, but we don’t look for the big tup trade and would rather sell grass-fed shearlings through Kelso to commercial breeders,” explained Robert.

“We start lambing on March 20, and we will sell 130 Charollais, Beltex and cross-bred tups a year, and breed our own replacement females, with everything else being sold fat.

“We supply Blairdrummond Smiddy Shop with Beltex-cross lambs up to 30kg deadweight and they go down well with their customers.”

Destined for the show are Beltex tup, Tip Top Bob, a three-shear which was bought from Ally Jackson and is shared with the Blacks of Collessie, and a home-bred gimmer by a Beechcross ram.

Four 13-month-old British Blues by Jagerbomb, are entered for the show. One of those, Auchenlay Nimrod, took the championship at Drymen and at Central and West Fife shows earlier this month. The other bull is Auchenlay Noah, while the heifers are Auchenlay Nippy Sweetie and Auchenlay Naomi, who along with Nimrod won the interbreed pairs and Central and West Fife.

But before the cattle and sheep judging, Robert has the task of placing the Charollais on the Thursday morning, following in his father, Robert senior’s footsteps as he was the judge in 2010.

“There are people who claim that the show ring has too much influence on breeders, but it’s a showcase for your stock.

“You have to take every opportunity to let potential customers see them, and the ringside’s often harder to please than any judge. Besides, the show’s a chance to meet up and socialise and for some it’s their annual holiday. We all need that now and again,” Robert concluded.