Muil & Speddoch
The one thing that the Muil and Speddoch Belties have in common is stockman Robert Ross. Robert along with his wife Amanda and children Callum and Caitlin are based at the Muil, Shawhead, Dumfries. Robert has a long association with the Muil, as his father started working in there in 1970s, Robert, as his father before him is employed by Sir JCL Keswick and is at present they have 20 Belted Galloway Cows and 600 Blackfaced Ewes. Muil is 1300 acre typical hill farm in the heart of Dumfries and Galloway, the highest point is 1250ft, with the house being at 700ft above sea level, there is only 12 acres which can be cut for silage, the rest of the 160 bales are cut from a rented field. With the cows out all year, this is all that is required.
In the early 1990s, it was decided to invest in some cattle and Belted Galloways were chosen for their easy keep, hardiness and ionic look. In the first year, they bought four incalf heifers from Park of Tongland, the second year another two Park of Tongland heifers were added, along with the Champion female from the late George Sproat at Castle Douglas, this was a great start to the foundation herd which has reaped the awards in both the show and sale rings.
The herd has slowly increased each year by keeping 2-3 females for stock, the other surplice heifers are sold generally at Castle Douglas premier sale or privately, which has included overseas sales. The best of the bull calves are kept entire and again sold privately or at Castle Douglas. The bullock calves are sold store at 18 months to a returning purchaser.
In 2014, the Muil herd name returned to the show ring, as young Callum is very keen to show and it is hoped to eclipse the success of a former stock bull Mochurm Kyle. In 2000, this well-known bull was Male champion at Royal Highland show, the royal show and Great Yorkshire Shows and breed champion at Wigtown, Stewartry and Dumfries Shows the year before something which we have never repeated.
The farm also have 600 Blackface sheep which are kept pure, they lamb in April and are fatten off of grass with the wethers sent to grass parks, gimmers are sold through Wallets Marts Castle Douglas and the ewe lambs not kept for breeding are sold privately.
Speddoch Farm which belongs to William Clark Maxwell and his wife Juliette is farmed on a contract between them and Sir JCL Keswick. Speddoch neighbours Muil and Robert oversees the running of this 1500 acre farm which has 45 Belted Galloways, 510 Blackface ewes which 160 0f them are crossed with a charollais and the rest kept pure.
Unfortunately, the previous black Galloway herd was caught up in the 2001 Foot and Mouth contiguous cull and it was then it was decided to establish a new Belted Galloway herd. The herd was started from cows and calves from Polbae and Muil and has grown to 45 head by keeping five or six heifers every year. The surplice heifers are sold at Castle Douglas. Selling through the ring has certainly paid off, as in 2014 Speddoch Rocky received a breed record price of 10500gns sold to black and belted Galloway breeder Duncan Maxwell, Ben Lomond. Again the bullocks are sold store at 18months old to a private purchaser.
The Blackface sheep are run along similar lines as the Muil’s with the 160 blackface ewes ran on in bye land and put to the Charollais tup for the fat lamb trade and are sold to Woodhead Brothers.
Mr Clark Maxwell and his family also have two let farms, a substantial block of commercial forestry and has recently installed a successful hydro electric system.
Robert is certainly a busy man with the two farms and two herds to look after, he is ably assisted by Hayden Ross who works 2days a week and Alistair and Iain Watson come to help at marking lambs, clipping sheep and dipping sheep.