Out and About with Scott Renwick

...who, along with various of his relations, has recently set up a nucleus of Luing herds in the Ullapool area of Wester Ross. Here he tells us how they are doing for him in a 52" rainfall per annum area.

The Lochbroom herd was newly formed in January 2006. We run a unit comprising of various crofts and holdings, and also grazing on Inverbroom Estate.

My late father Farquhar Renwick started both the Inverbroom and the Clachan flock. We specialize in breeding North Country Hill Cheviot rams and sell them as two-shears throughout the Highlands. I have 1200 breeding ewes in the Inverbroom flock and my nephew Gavin (19) has 700 breeding ewes in the Clachan flock. Although we are known primarily as sheep breeders, we have always had cows at Inverbroom. In my father's day there were 50 cows, Shorthorn x Simmentals, then we put the Limousin bull to them.

Nowadays, we also have a contracting business. After we finish our own shearing, we are busy throughout the summer shearing, dipping and gathering. We found that the cows were being left to their own devices, and when we handled the 6 month old calves we had our hands full. We like wild sheep to train up a good dog but a wild calf is just a rodeo!

Through breeding NC Cheviots we have known Charles Symons and Bill Miller well, and have become firm friends and listening to their advice, we decided to change to a cow with a better temperament.

In January 2006, Bill Miller invited us up to Welbeck to look over some breeding stock. We came away with 7 heifers, four incalf and three bulling, which have all done well. That February, my sister Mairi Mackenzie, who was starting the Loggie herd, went to Castle Douglas and brought back a stock bull, Luing Factor, which has proved an excellent buy. June saw us heading off to Castle Douglas with my brother in law Graeme Macrae to the Westwater dispersal. I bought three cows with three heifer calves at foot and Graeme bought foundation stock of three breeding cows to start the Kintail herd.

My nephew Gavin was also keen to acquire some proven stock so we made a deal with Steven Murray, Rockcliffe, to bring six aged cows back to Lochbroom. I recalled advice given to me "Never take stock from a good place to a harder place." So taking cows from the Solway Firth to the hills of Wester Ross seemed contrary to the advice given. However, the same man also said "Give them plenty space and they will do well anywhere!"

So, bearing this in mind, we allowed the cows to roam thousands of acres on the Inver broom ground, with the natural boundaries of the Fannich hills to the south and An Teallach to the west. They would wander four to five miles per day (sometimes to the annoyance of the Northern Constabulary Traffic Dept) but were still easy to handle. The calves that came off the hill later in the year were tremendous. Equally exciting was that the few remaining Simmental cows, which had been allowed to forage with the new cows, had crossed with the Luing bull and produced good calves. This was what we needed in Wester Ross where there is not much in bye, but a huge acreage of hill ground, which should be grazed.

The temperament of the Luings has really impressed us. We are delighted so far with our decision. In 2007, from the initial seven Welbeck cows, which are the nucleus of the herd, we have had six heifers and one Bill says next year we could get six bulls and one heifer!

Our latest project is to erect a shed for the calves. We are looking to the future with the Luings, especially in Wester Ross, where we can utilize the hill ground. Hopefully, by the end of 2007 we will have purchased some more cows from the island of Luing.