A stockman that needs no introduction – Ayrshireman Danny Wyllie, of the Tamhorn British Blue herd, shares his passion this week for the industry, having travelled across the Border to fulfil a lifelong ambition to farm in his own right.

A little bit of background?

I was born and bred at Holms Farm, Dalrymple, being the oldest of nine – five boys and four girls – there was never going to be enough work for all of us with our Ayrshire pedigree herd at the time.

I flew the nest in 1985 to become a shepherd with Robert Graham, Bridge of Allan, where I spent a good six years, being part of a team that was amongst the first Scottish importers of the Rouge de L’Ouest breed, along with working with pedigree Suffolks. There was always something new on the horizon for me then.

I then moved south to manage the Coley pedigree Charolais herd for 2½ years, before being offered the tenancy of Pessall Farm, Edingale, Staffordshire, where my wife, Jane and I, have been ever since.

Originally running 12 Charolais females, we switched over to breeding British Blues in October, 1995, and these were run alongside 80 pedigree Suffolk ewes.

The Blues became what we were always best known for and having worked with them commercially, I knew it was something I could be passionate about.

We built our herd up to 180 females, with the top 12 females being used on a heavy flushing programme to maximise the bloodlines that have bred so well for us.

One bull, Tamhorn Ringmaster, really made us. He won a lot of championships and inter-breeds over his time and bred exceptionally well.

We took him to Carlisle, where he bagged the pre-sale championship before selling for the top price of 7000gns to Frank Page Brothers. His cross-bred progeny went on to win multiple shows as calves, including the live and carcase competitions at the Royal and the Royal Welsh shows.

What is it you are looking for in an animal?

Call me old-fashioned ... but style, presence and mobility are the three crucial components in any breed of cattle.

Personally, I think there are too many cattle in all breeds that are structurally unsound. We have to remember that they have to walk to their work!

Place in the commercial market?

From the store ring, on the hook or in the calf ring, the British Blues have always had a strong place in the commercial market.

There is nothing to touch the dairy cross-bred British Blue.

There is a shortage of white bulls about, which is needed in the dairy calf industry. Crossing the Holstein with a black bull you will produce a black and white calf – but getting the ‘blue’ calf that breeders and feeders want from a white bull, can be as much of a difference as £50 per head.

Has the breed changed for the better over the years?

You just need to take one look at the mobility of the cattle now and see the improvements.

In the last five years, the British Blues have come back and more breeders are getting back into them. The white ones were getting overlooked but are becoming more popular again now.

There is far more loin in the breed now. The meat is on the top of the animal, so we have to watch the core skills of breeding what’s best for our business.

If you had to choose another breed, which would it be?

Herefords – they have made a significant improvement in the breed in the last 10-12 years. It is the up and coming breed that I would definitely choose now.

What got you involved with showing?

Ever since a kid I was always showing dairy calves, but the beef side of things arose when my uncle, John Kerr, of Craigskean, Maybole, encouraged me to take part in the Young Farmers’ overwintering competition.

The first calf I bought won the championship and from there I was hooked.

Best Highland Show success?

We took the British Blue championship twice and reserve junior inter-breed in a different year.

Biggest showing achievement?

Going up the red carpet at the Royal Show to collect the Burke Trophy is every stockman’s dream.

We managed to bag the reserve champion at the very last year of the Royal Show, in Stoneleigh, in 2009.

It was even more special to win with a Charolais breeder judging!

That competition was just one of a kind. Folk used to travel from all over the world just to see the quality of beef animals on display at the Royal.

Best sale day?

It has got to be selling the bull Tamhorn CrackerJack, which stood reserve intermediate champion at Carlisle in May, 2009, before selling for 16,000gns.

We've also held three production sales over the years which were all a huge success.

Best animal you have ever shown?

Tamhorn Oriana – she was reserve junior inter-breed at the Royal Highland Show and everyone wanted to buy her then. She was full of style and presence, you could just tell at 24-hours-old that she always had that little bit extra.

In 2003, we sold her at our production sale for 6800gns.

What’s the best animal you have ever seen?

Kilkenny Celia, her presence the minute she walked in the ring plus her mobility, as if to say ‘look at me’. Everyone knew she was going to be champion. The able man at the end of the halter, Jimmy McMillan snr, showed her to perfection.

On the dairy front, it would have to be the Ayrshire cow, Lowmilton Dorothy, she did her rounds in the show circuit a good while back and became a bit of a legend! It was down to her well-placed udder, beautiful legs and strong locomotion that got her to the top of the class for Jim Guthrie.

Tamhorn Formidable made 13,000 gns at the 2012 dispersal sale at Newark Market

Tamhorn Formidable made 13,000 gns at the 2012 dispersal sale at Newark Market

Abiding memory?

The good old days at the Royal Show. As soon as you walked out of the caravan, you could just feel the place buzzing.

Biggest disappointment?

Losing our best female in the herd, Captive Defooz. She was unbeaten, winning both the Royal Highland and the Royal Shows and was going for the hat-trick at the Royal Welsh Show, when she got kicked in the wash bay at that event by a Holstein cow and went down on the concrete. We never got a chance to show her. She went straight home in a horse ambulance and was dead the next morning with a haemorrhage.

I certainly drowned my sorrows that night!

Most influential person in your career?

My uncle John Kerr. He inspired me to be where I am today.

Best stockman?

Over the years there has been so many good stockmen and women. One that always comes to my mind, however, is Roger Birch, of Pasturefield Simmentals. He would party all night and still be the first in the wash bay the next morning ... and his animals were always shown to perfection in the show ring.

Best kist parties?

If you are a social one, every kist party is a good one. Kevin Watret and Ali Jackson can certainly host a belter!

Favourite quote?

Win or lose, enjoy the moment because you never get that time back.

Would you have done anything different?

I would never have done anything different. Working with livestock creates a variation every day that holds your interest and your passion.

Best advice to someone starting off?

It is a struggle for anyone to start from scratch in the industry now due to the increasing price of land, machinery and stock. However, I would encourage anyone that can to take the plunge to get involved.

You have got to learn from your own mistakes and change your ways to overcome your problems. Remember, too, that there will always be someone there to lend a hand or give advice.

Best investment?

In Belgium, I purchased two six-month-old heifer calves out of the same pen, Neoella and Olalla. The former produced 237 grade A embryos and the latter was the mother of Tamhorn Ringmaster, which needs no introduction.

Has stockmanship taken you overseas?

Belgium, France and Ireland, quite regularly.

Over in Belgium it is just something else – they actually milk the Blue cows, taking the calves off of them at birth. You wouldn’t think it when you look at a Blue cow, but they truly are fantastic milkers.

Have you been involved in any committees over the years?

I was on the British Blue committee for 12 years and was offered the role of chairman, however I had too many commitments at home at the time, it wouldn’t have been fair on the family.

The future of the showing circuit?

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, everything is on hold, we have to hope to get back to some normality soon. Hopefully both the Royal Highland and the Great Yorkshire Shows have a successful year.

The great days and the camaraderie are what the showing circuit is all about. There is no better way of life, or competition, than there is in showing livestock and I’m sure there’s still plenty enthusiasm out there for showing the best of stock.

Could you imagine your life without showing?

No, it would be a very dull life. Come the New Year, it is what you look forward to if showing is in your blood.