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SIMMENTALS PROVING THEIR ‘DUAL-PURPOSE’ QUALITIES AT MCNEE’S OVER FINLARG FARM
Farm feature on Robert & Hazel McNee, Over Finlarg Farm, Tealing, Dundee who along with their children Kate & Alan, are hosting the NSA Scotsheep 2022, and who run the Finlarg pedigree Simmental herd within their 740-acre unit.
NSA Scotsheep 2022 hosts Robert and Hazel McNee have farmed Over Finlarg since 2011 and are well-known breeders of pedigree and commercial livestock.
The couple, along with their young family of Kate and Alan, sell stock the length and breadth of the country, commanding strong prices in the sale ring for various breeds of pedigree bulls, as well as Cheviot Mules and ewe hoggs with lambs at foot.
Since purchasing the farm, the duo has made several improvements to the 740-acre unit, whether it be new farm buildings, fencing, lime spreading or drainage work, while also building up a herd of 200 suckler cows and a flock of 1100 breeding sheep.
Rising from 800ft above sea level, right up to 1200ft on the hill, half of the farm is ploughable but is mainly used for grazing, apart from producing 75 acres of cereals and 25 acres of turnips. The couple also rent a further 40 acres of grass from a neighbouring farmer, as well as a 400-acre heather hill.
The beef suckler cow herd includes pedigree Limousins, Luings, Simmentals and Charolais, with 60 Limousins run under the Westhall prefix and 120 pedigree Luings kept in the Finlarg herd.
Around 25 bulls are sold for breeding each year, with Luings having sold to a top of 18,000gns for Finlarg Warrior at Castle Douglas in 2019, and Limousins to 11,500gns at Stirling.
Simmentals came with the duo to Over Finlarg as Hazel established the herd back in 2008 when she purchased Robert a wedding present before they got married. This was Team Clover, which goes back to many of the females in the 15-cow herd today.
Females were also purchased shortly after at the Dirnanean dispersal.
“We used to run the Simmentals under the Benhar prefix but when we moved to Over Finlarg we changed the herd’s name to Finlarg and transferred it into Kate and Alan’s names to give them their own wee project,” explained Hazel.
“The children then purchased Mendick Cara with her heifer calf Mendick Joyce at the Dykes family’s dispersal. Both females have produced bulls sold at auction and we’ve flushed Cara to give us more from that breeding line.”
Kate and Alan have sold quite a few Simmental bulls around the 6000gns and 7000gns mark but their top price to date is 10,000gns achieved at Stirling Bull Sales in February 2020 for Finlarg Jaguar.
Robert added: “The Simmental is a good dual-purpose breed, producing milky females and male calves with good growth rates. We demonstrate first-hand how they can be crossed with other breeds successfully such as the Luing to produce Sim-Luing females and the Limousin which works well for our bull beef enterprise.”
Team Drambuie has been an influential breeder in the Finlarg Simmental herd, with a home-bred son retained.
Kate and Alan also purchased two heifers in August from the Kilbride herd, with one bull calf already on the ground.
The family will have two Simmental bulls available for sale on the day of Scotsheep, both sired by Drambuie. They hope to also have sons by Overhill House Fife heading to Stirling Bull Sales next February.
Bulls not suitable for breeding are sold entire and are fed and finished on a high energy diet based on home-grown barley and wheat. They are sold to ABP Perth and the aim is 1kg of carcase weight per day which is already being achieved by the top performing bulls.
Calving takes place mainly in the spring months, with Luings calving down from the end of March onwards and Limousins calving throughout May/June and November/December.
In the sheep enterprise, around 600 North Country Cheviot Lairg-type ewes run alongside 200 Blackfaces, 60 Texels and 40 traditional and crossing type Bluefaced Leicesters, with an additional 200 home-bred Texel cross and Mule ewe hoggs tupped to the Beltex to sell as hoggs with lambs at foot.
These units have topped at £230, while 260 Cheviot Mule gimmers sold at Longtown last year, produced a new centre record of £232.
All North Country Cheviot gimmers and 100 of the best NCC stock ewes are tupped to Auldallan tups, hired from Robert and Hazel’s brother in-law Bob Adam, Newhouse of Glamis, to produce home-bred replacements, with Blackface gimmers also bred pure for easy lambing.
The remaining Blackfaces go to the crossing type Bluefaced Leicster to produce Scotch Mules.
Pure Texel and Bluefaced Leicester ewes produce tup lambs which the duo use as tup lambs at home first, before selling them the following year as shearlings through Stirling, Huntly, Dingwall and Forfar.
Texel shearlings regularly average £1000 per head, with Bluefaced Leicester tups hitting a top of £1700.
Lambs which don’t make the cut for breeding, are finished and sold deadweight to Scotbeef, with the first lot away by the end of September and the last sold by mid-March.
Robert and Hazel aim to get most of the lambs finished off grass but turnips are used for wintering.
Brother in-law Bob Adam, takes care of the sowing and harvesting, while Robert carries out only the ploughing and spraying himself, resulting in the farm’s investment in machinery being kept minimal.
The business employs one full-time member of staff Alistair McCarthy, who hails from Caithness, as well as local girl Jody Jackson, who is working at Over Finlarg during the lambing period and on the run up to Scotsheep.