Farmstock Genetics, Over Whitlaw Farm, Selkirk, Flock 983

Lleyn ewes are the star attraction at Over Whitlaw Farm, Selkirk for their mothering abilities, level of productivity and management ease.
Quality is the name of the game for brothers Ian and Tom Walling, who run a closed flock of 950 Lleyn ewes, alongside 250 replacement ewe lambs.
The flock was founded in 1999, with foundation females being sourced through family in the Lake District, as well as from Roger Lightfoot, Wales and Greg Parkhouse in Selkirk.
“Our aim is to be producing stock which are 100% grass reared. Currently, we are sitting at 98% for flock ewe efficiency – which is determined when comparing lamb weaning weight to ewe weaning weight. We want to try and reach that 100% with our flock,” stated Ian.
Rams head out to ewes on 5th November and are left for 6 weeks, with 800 ewes being kept pure and 150 being crossed to the Border Leicester. Any ewes scanned empty are culled out.

Lambing taking place in the first week of April, with all stock being brought indoors to lamb for management purposes.

“Ewes are kept outside up until two days before they are due to lamb and then they come indoors. We start feeding ewes about 4-6 weeks pre-lambing with an 18% nut from For Farmers. Ewes are also fed haylage from January onwards,” said Ian.

“We aim to have a 24-hour turn around period in the shed when it comes to lambing. We do performance record our stock, where we record
parentage at birth and any lambing issues. We also record for any poor milking ewes or poor lamb vigour. Lambs are then tagged and litter size is recorded. This is solely for personal use so we can monitor how well our stock is performing and cull any problems,” Ian continued.
“We also performance record at scanning time, with the aim to retaining replacement lambs that are out of twin litters. This has reduced multiples significantly but also increased twin-bearing ewes at scanning, which is the ultimate goal for us, and has made management easier at lambing time.”

Weaning takes place at the end of July into the first week of August, and it is at this point where stock is selected for retention or for society sales.
“We split off the 150 best growing tup lambs off ewes that were performing at lambing. Out of that 150, we then select 60 by eye which are kept and sold as shearlings. We go through them again at the end of winter and get down to around 55 to be sold as shearlings,” explained Tom.

The same applies to the ewe lambs, with Ian and Tom shedding off 250 of their best twin and triplet lambs for retention, whilst also pulling out the worst 50 lambs by eye to be fattened. The remaining ewe lambs are then sold as breeding stock, with some 350 being sold through society sales or privately per year.

“Only the 30 elite shearling ewes will be selected and kept to be sold per year. Everything is fattened off grass alone, with the last 20% of the fat lambs getting hoppers due to grass availability,” Tom added.

“We do feed tups and shearling ewes three weeks before sales to get shine on them but we don’t push them.”

Stock worm counts are monitored regularly through Faecal Egg Counts, with ewes only wormed as and when required, in a bid to reduce resistance and build natural immunity.

There are also high expectations when it comes to buying in a new stock ram.
“When looking for a new tup, we focus on making sure there is twins through his breeding in the parentage. We want efficient tups bred off efficient ewes. We then look for good skins for producing females and physical correctness, with plenty of power,” said Ian.

A few rams have left their stamp on the flock including one from David Alexander, bought at Carlisle for 4500gns which left fleshy females with tight skins.

“A ram called Classical from John Page at Edenhall bred bigger and longer sheep for us. He was bought at Carlisle for 4000gns and was full of breed character,” Ian stated.
“Another would be Mullaghmore Jake bought at Ballymena in 2021 from Declan Mullen. He stood Royal Highland Show champion in 2022 and his lambs are continuing to wean heavier than any other tup used on the farm. He is the top performing tup for weight at weaning and is still used today,” he added.
The best breeding stock are saved to head to society sales at Stirling and Carlisle, with the rest sold privately off-farm to repeat customers in the commercial market.

A new venture this year for the Walling's has been their Lleyn cross Broder Leicester ewe lambs, which have made a smart cross and attracted buyers’ attention.
“The aim of the cross is to breed a sheep to sell through our local markets. The Lleyn cross Border Leicester ewe lambs averaged £118 for 70 in total, in September through St Boswells mart. This year we will be targeting the earlier sale in September and will wait to see how we get on at that sale before we decide whether to increase numbers. They make a great cross however, with lambs fattened easily off grass and all grading R’s deadweight,” Tom explained.

Looking to the future, Ian concluded: “The Lleyn is the ultimate for us and there is no other breed that would suit our system here. When focussing on the future pay scheme system, efficiency is going to be key in relation to profitability and productivity. As a female breed, there’s no competition. The Lleyn ewe's efficiency and high weaning rates that attracted us initially have kept us in the breed. They are a low input, natural breed.”


Written by Kathryn Dick