The Tilson family’s long-established excellent reputation for producing top class Aberdeen Angus cattle at Wedderlie won them the title of 2014 Scotch Beef Farm of the Year.
John and Marion Tilson and their daughter, Wanda Hobbs, were surprised and thrilled when their farm, Wedderlie, lifted the award, which is run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Agriscot.
“We did not think we had much chance as a pedigree herd up against the commercial producers so it came as quite a surprise when we won,” said Marion.
The family are totally dedicated to producing top quality livestock and their attention to detail within both the cattle and sheep enterprises is key to their success.
The 200 pedigree Angus cows are split into spring and autumn calving due to accommodation limitations and the progeny not retained for breeding is either finished, sold for breeding or sold as suckled calves.
Around 60% of the bull calves are kept entire, either for use in their own herd or for sale as breeding bulls.
Mrs Tilson said: “We sell very few bulls at sales now as we have a good customer base who like to buy direct from the farm.”
For the last three years, in January, they have produced a catalogue of bulls for sale, which helps prospective buyers choose their perfect animal and Mrs Tilson believes this has been a great success. She also credits Wanda with the best marketing and negotiating skills in the family.
Although few bulls go to the Stirling sales, the family believe it is important to keep the name to the fore, which they did very successfully in February when Wedderlie Ebsolution by stock bull, Nightingale El Paso was reserve champion and sold for 17,000gns.
The remaining bull calves are castrated and those born in the autumn sold store at St Boswells in September. Last year they averaged just over 476kg and £1238.
The best heifer calves are retained and following a winter away at another farm to free up housing at home, they calve down at two-years-old.
Mr Tilson said: “Calving at two years is important. It means females are likely to be good milkers for the rest of their breeding life and it is more efficient. It has been calculated that a heifer calving at two years and her female descendants will, between them, produce a total of 42 calves by the time she is ten, compared to only 19 if she has her first calf at three years.
“We believe it is the commercial side of the business which gives us an advantage in the pedigree sales. We focus heavily on correctness of conformation and carcase and that influences our breeding programme.”
The family have leased a cow in Canada which has been flushed and her sons have been used heavily in the herd. “We have flushed her with older American genetics with big frames. It would be easy to let the breed get too small again but we would lose our commercial customers, who are looking for big, easily fleshed bulls to do a job on cross cows,” Mrs Tilson added.
The Tilsons are both past presidents of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society and Mrs Tilson was instrumental in persuading it to adopt the Australian Breedplan performance recording system.