Alec and Anders Brown of McQueston share all the principals of Kelso Ram Sales

Aiming to be as self-sufficient as possible is the name of the game for father and son duo Alec and Anders Brown from Thornhill-based Macqueston.

Located in the rolling hills of Shinnel Glen, near Macqueston and Corriedow Moniaive. Alec grew up here, his father and grandfather bought the farm in the early 1950s. The farm extends to 800 hectares, another 160 hectares are leased.

Sharp looking blue faced Leicester lambs for various sales Ref:RH260822018 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer…

Alec runs around 1,000 sheep comprising 900 Blackfaces, 75 Scotch Mules and 35 Bluefaced Leicesters. Among the Blackface flocks, 340 head are kept clean, and with all shed ewes, the Blackface furs are sold at Lanark Market. The rest were crossed with Bluefaced Leicester to produce the Scotch Mules for which the family is so famous.

Check out our photo sales for this feature here

Leicesters start lambing in the first week of March, in-bye ewes start in mid-March and hill Blackies start three weeks later.

Scottish Farmer: Sharp looking blue faced Leicester lambs for various sales Ref:RH260822016 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer...Sharp looking blue faced Leicester lambs for various sales Ref:RH260822016 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer…

The bye herd achieved a scan percentage of 176% last year and the hill herd achieved 152%. They are fed Tarff Valley ewes to maintain their condition before lambing.

The main focus of the business is the all important Mule ewe lambs, 20 of which are kept to replace their own growing flock. The remaining ewe lambs sold through Wallets Marts at Castle Douglas, their top pen of 40 making £220 last Monday, with an average of £378 at £149.38.

Scottish Farmer: A variety of sharp looking blue faced Leicester lambs for sale Ref:RH260822014 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer...A variety of sharp looking Blue Faced Leicester lambs for sale Ref:RH260822014 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

It was a similar trade last year when their reserve champion pen fetched £185 and this year the same figure fetched £154.

“We have sold at Castle Douglas for 20 years, making it one of the biggest sales of Mule sheep in Scotland, attracting buyers from all over the country,” said Alec.

The Scottish Farmer: Browns have established a small herd of Shorthorns, Cairnsmore Leona Dena with her bull calf Macqueston Sylvester Ref:RH260822026 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer...Browns have established a small herd of Shorthorns, Cairnsmore Leona Dena with her bull calf Macqueston Sylvester Ref:RH260822026 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

“The mule ewes were originally kept for embryo work, but we found they were so easy to handle with their great mothering ability and milkiness that we wanted to keep some. We put them in the Texel tupun, producing quality root lamb that can be sold at high prices ahead of time from their mothers.”

Check out our photo sales for this feature here

Anders added: “The mule weaners also fatten their mothers well, dying with the Texel lambs at the end of June. They finish early and put on good weights, and we send lambs to Vivers Scotlamb in Annan every fortnight under contract with Marks and Spencer.

The Scottish Farmer: The Browns are located at Macqueston in Dumfries and Galloway Ref:RH260822028 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer...Browns is located in Macqueston in Dumfries and Galloway Ref:RH260822028 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

35 To produce home-bred litters of Blackface ewes from which Blue-faced Leicester sheep come. Alec grew up with Blueface Leicesters – his father James started the herd.

The first sale where he took Leicesters and Mules was at Thornhill Mart, then after it closed he moved to Castle Douglas. It was there that Macqueston secured a record herd price of £9,500 in 2013, selling to the late Hector Macaskill of Woodhall.

Scottish Farmer: Strong mule ewe lambs for sale at Castle Douglas Ref:RH260822023 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer...Castle Douglas Ref:RH260822023 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

“We aim to breed Mule lambs with good skin and bright, clean colours, and by using homebred mothers it helps us to have consistency throughout our run of Mule lambs each year, which is something we feel is important,” Anders said. Most of the passing Blackface ewes go to home-bred tup lambs, many of which will be sold as fur next year.

The Browns have five lambs destined for the Kelso Ram Sales this year, five for Castle Douglas and lambs to go to Hawes, Kirkby Stephen and Junction 36, Kendal.

Scottish Farmer: Some of the Blue Faced Leicester ewe lambs will be kept for breeding and the rest will be offered for sale Ref:RH260822032 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer...Some of the blue-faced Leicester ewe lambs will be kept for breeding and the rest will be offered for sale Ref:RH260822032 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

“This will be our sixth year going to Kelso and we are delighted with our trade. We see it as a good place to attract buyers for Bluefaced Leicesters from all over the UK, as it is for other breeds,” said Alec. Last year’s four pen average was £2,225 and the hammer went to Dougie Fleming and Bertram, Nisbet when it fell it was 5200 pounds.

The sires in this year’s pen for Kelso are: L018 Midlock, M001 Farden, N002 Marriforth and M002 Emmetts. Two of the favorites are twin brothers by Midlock tup and a ewe by G019 Highberries, which is impressive for the flock. This ewe sold a lamb for £3,400 in 2019 to the well-bred Masons, Oddacres at Hawes.

The leader of the pen, one of the brothers, produced a second prize Mule ewe lamb at Peebles Show this year and lambs in the Mules top trap in CD.

Scottish Farmer: Macqueston fur team to Kelso Ref:RH260822011 Rob Haining / Scottish FarmerMacqueston shearing team to Kelso Ref:RH260822011 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer

An £8,000 lamb sold to Arnicle at Hawes last year and a second fleece, a son of M001 Farden, a full brother to the £5,000 lamb that went to Tinnis a year ago, are also among the standouts. All the furs intended for Kelso were reared lambs in the best two traps of Macqueston’s Mule sheep.

One of the key foals on the Leicester lamb front this year is the well-bred M001 Highberries at both Blackface and Swaledales, who “produce Mule lambs with beautiful, clean colours, good skins”. He was also the sire of the first prize Mule ewe lamb in the North of England at the Royal Highland Show for Neil Marston, from whom they bought a half share.

Check out our photo sales for this feature here

N002 Marriforth is another progeny purchased from Hawes in 2020 that also bred well for the herd.

On the female front, most of the Leicester ewe lambs are kept as replacements, but the flock has had recent success in female sales at both the Carlisle and Junction 36, Kendal sales.

Last year, the January sale at Carlisle made a top call of 7,500gns for the pre-sale champion from the herd, which averaged 3,100gns for the five. It was also the first year the duo entered the J36, where they took a top price of 3800gns.

Both of these pigs were sired by M001 Farden and their dams were sired by K026 Hewgill, particularly leaving a hoof mark on the female side of the herd.

The farm has increased the number of sheep in recent years after culling 120 commercial cows in 2016. However, the cows have returned in the form of a small beef herd owned by Anders.

The foundation cow was purchased from the Westbroad herd at the Stirling February sale in 2017 and Anders has since purchased additional females from Cairnsmore and Skaillhouse.

“Currently rising costs are a concern and something to keep in mind. We just have to keep looking forward to the future and do our best,” concluded Alec.

Scottish Farmer: The Macqueston team, Alec Brown and son Anders Ref:RH260822033 Rob Haining / Scottish Farmer...The Macqueston team, Alec Brown and his son Anders Ref:RH260822033 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer…

Farm facts

Attendance: Father and son duo, Alec and Anders, who left school in May and are set to go to SRUC in Edinburgh to study Agriculture.

History: Macqueston was bought out in 1950 and followed by Corried the following year.

Farm: Between the two divisions, 800 hectares of land and 160 hectares are leased. The farm rises from 600 feet to 1,000 feet above sea level.

Number of livestock: 1000 sheep consisting of 900 Blackface sheep, 35 Blueface Leicester and 75 Scotch Mules.

In place

The best investment: A good sheepdog.

Best tip: Never criticize others’ achievements if you have not achieved them yourself.

If you could change one thing, what would it be? To earn a fair return from the retail sector due to the quality product we produce.

Diversification: Holiday cottage and Hydro scheme.

Where do you see yourself in 2032? Providing expert advice to Anders on a daily basis as required.

Check out our photo sales for this feature here

Leave a Comment