Meet our Farmers – Nisbet

February 9, 2021

Producing Scotch Mule lambs that are fit for breeding is the only answer for Dougie Fleming who contract farms Nisbet Farm in conjunction with Lousia Bertram.

Situated two miles outside of Coulter, up the Coulter Glen, the farm sits at 900ft above sea level and rises to 2100ft. Handling a 30 suckler cow herd, which are all bulled to a Charolais with the calves being sold store at a year old. However, the main aim relies on the 1250 Blackface ewes, with the majority going to the Bluefaced Leicester tup, with the objection of selling Scotch Mule ewe lambs. Selling around 400 annually in August, this year trade peaked at £132 and cashed in at over £100 for the lot.

“Ewe lambs have been an electric trade this year, I don’t see how else you can make anymore money than that out of a Blackface ewe, in this part of the world,” explained Dougie.

Lambing takes place at the end of March/ beginning of April, and it is a very much family effort. With wife, Gillian, and two daughters – Lynsey and Leigh- mucking in when they can.

“Each show varying views of enthusiasm, but they do stick in and would never see me stuck.”

“We don’t lamb early up here, and we don’t have a premature spring for the ewes, so it is vital that we use a feed that keeps the condition on the ewe,” said Dougie, who feeds his ewes the Davidsons Ewelac roll.

“The feed keeps the condition on the ewe, grows a good healthy lamb to put on the ground and most importantly provides plenty of milk to keep the lamb going in the first six weeks of its life.

“Davidsons Ultimate lamb pellet is used to finish the ewe lambs and it puts that sale polish finish on them that they need, which has ended up well for us,” said Dougie.

Most of the Mule wethers that can’t be sold fat off the grass are sold as stores.

“We are quite high up here, and despite tempting to grow fodder crop in the past, it has never been a huge success. With the extra ewes we can run with no fodder cropping in, we can justify selling the lambs as store,” said Dougie, who aims to be as self-sufficient as he can.

The high ground Blackface ewes are all tupped pure with the aim of providing ewe lambs to come into the fields. Although to keep the numbers up he doesn’t quite produce enough ewe lambs to cover the fields, so will buy gimmers each year locally.

In conjunction with Dougie’s job at Nisbet he also looks after Lawrie and Symington’s farm at Bonnington Mains, Lanark. Running 100 beef cows and 530 ewes, which are predominately Texel crosses with some Scotch Mules as well.

“The Mules do a great job for providing us with the Texel cross lambs, being such terrific mothers,” said Dougie, who puts all the ewes to a Texel cross Beltex sire.

This lamb season has been another continued success, selling the best for £122, and averaging well over £90 for the lot.

Dougie concluded on the year: “Trade has been good and long may that continue. Although the problems arising with Brexit puts farming under more threat than we have seen before. We have had a good year and we have got to take the positives from that.”

Breeding for the commercial market is the name of the game for Mick Gamble and Sarah Rigg, of Sharplaw Farm based at Kelso.

Originally from down south in Lancashire, the couple made the decision to cross the border 28 years ago, now running a mixed beef and sheep farm.

The team farm just short of a 1000 ewes split between Lleyns and Texels, with more recently putting the Lleyns over an Aberfield tup for producing their own replacements.

The main aim is to get as many lambs away store as possible, until the price starts dropping off. The remaining lambs will be fed Davidsons’ Ultimate Lamb finisher and will be put away deadweight to Woodhead at around 21kg deadweight, aiming for ‘R’ grades and above.

Most of the Texel lambs will be Es and Us with the Aberfields falling under the Us and Rs sections.

Among the pedigree world, Mick and Sarah have their own flock of 50 Texel females, aiming to sell 20 tups annually at Kelso Ram Sales in September. The lambs will be crept fed to begin with before moving onto Davidsons’ Reiver Nut.

“The Reiver Nut helps them to grow and flourish, producing good big strong tups, in which we aim for the commercial market. We only breed tups that we would buy ourselves and we want them to go on and do well,” explained Mick.

If that does not keep the pair busy enough, they also run 40 Limousin cross Friesian cows, which will be put to a Limousin bull the first year for an easier calving, and thereafter everything will go to the Charolais bull.

“The cattle are fed a basic straw and silage diet, to try and keep things as simple as we can for ourselves,” said Mick, who sells the calves as forward stores at 10 or 11 months of age, after being fed a silage diet with a bespoke meal made up by Davidsons Animal Feeds.




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