Wedderlie Cap Centenary Year with Accolade of Scotch Beef Farm of the Year

24 November 2014

Leading Border Aberdeen-Angus breeders, John and Marion Tilson, and daughter, Wanda Hobbs, of Wedderlie, Gordon, finished the centenary year of the Wedderlie herd in fine style with the award of the 2014 Scotch Beef Farm of the Year accolade at AgriScot.
The Berwickshire farm produces top quality Scotch Beef PGI as well as bulls for the pedigree and commercial market and is recognised as one of the top herds in the country.
The aim of the annual award, run by AgriScot and QMS, is to showcase excellence in the production of cattle in Scotland and raise the profile of the dedication and stock management skills behind the production of Scotch Beef.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, who presented the award, said: “I’d like to extend my warmest congratulations to the Tilson family. They are carrying out wonderful work at Wedderlie and their commitment to continued improvement in their beef herd is to be applauded.
“Family farms like the Tilsons’ are the backbone of our livestock industry. This year’s winner and the three runners up deserve recognition and great credit for using the latest techniques and tools to build sustainable and viable farming businesses. If the uptake of the beef efficiency scheme is as widespread we all hope it will be, then the future of Scottish beef farming is looking extremely positive.”
The judges, John Elliot, Roxburgh Mains, Kelso, and QMS chairman, Jim McLaren, who visited the four farms were particularly impressed with the Tilson family’s commitment to continually improving the efficiency of their farm and to producing the very best beef.
“It was a privilege to visit four farming families running such a diverse range of farm types,” said Mr McLaren. “All four share the common denominators of dedication to their chosen specialisms and a focus on the market place for the stock produced on the farm, whether that be suckled calves, store animals, finished cattle or high quality breeding stock.”
AgriScot chairman, Andrew Moir, added: “We have been encouraged by the quality of the farms put forward for this award. It is important that AgriScot showcases the best of beef production in Scotland. Our congratulations go to the Tilsons and the other three finalists for the commercial skills and forward thinking approach they all demonstrated.”
The Tilson’s run 200 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows on their 2500 acre hill farm, calving in autumn and spring, as well as 1750 ewes, which are now a mix of Cheviots, Blackface, Mules and Texel crosses.
Only the best male calves are kept as bulls, selected for structural soundness, weight and performance, with the remainder castrated and sold as store yearlings or finished off grass, earning the Aberdeen-Angus premium. Recent abattoir feedback revealed steer deadweights averaging 362kg at 17 months with U and R4L Grades.
Using Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for weight, EMA, fat cover and milk, for example, the Tilson’s balance the terminal and maternal traits with temperament. Replacement heifers are selected from cows calved in the first six weeks of a nine-week cycle and any cows or heifers not in calf are culled to ensure fertility traits are sustained.  They find calving at two years old is economically fundamental.
The farm is a member of the Premium Cattle Health Scheme and the family works very closely with their vets for an on-going assessment of herd health.
Mrs Tilson, whose family have farmed at Wedderlie since 1942, said the family was surprised and delighted to have won.
“Winning the award means a great deal to us and it’s a particular privilege for us to have won it during the herd’s centenary year,” she said.
During the farm visits the award assessors looked for evidence of a high standard of technical and financial performance, uptake of new ideas to improve efficiency/profitability, a high level of health and welfare and a keen eye on the market for the end product. The assessors also looked to gauge the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer, and family and staff where relevant, to efficiently produce high quality animals.