WILLIE Davidson has an underlying theme to his livestock breeding. If an animal gives ‘hassle’ one year, it will not be on his 2,000-acre Poldean Farm, near Moffat, the following year:
Willie, who farms with his wife Jennifer and son Alisdair, overhauled the family’s farming system after losing all the farm’s original stock to the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic in March 2001.
Poldean is a Crown Estates farm rising steadily from the farmstead to about 1,760ft and includes large areas of heather hill grazing. A conscious decision was made after 2001 to carry fewer sheep than before foot-and-mouth and to concentrate on the production of suckler beef breeding stock and suckled calves. “We were carrying too many sheep in any case and, so far the decision seems to have been the right one. At the time we lost our stock to foot-and-mouth we were carrying about 1,500 ewes,” says Willie.
The present stock are about 300 pure Salers breeding females and some 750 breeding sheep, moving towards about 500 Lleyn with a small Blackface flock on the top ground. Of the Salers the 200 best cows are bred pure, the remainder being put to Charolais bulls for commercial suckler calf production. The beef herd calves in May/June with the commercial calves being sold out of the shed at about 10-months-old the following spring.