From the summit of the granite massif of Cairnsmore of Fleet at 2313 feet above sea level to the fertile flats flanking the A75, opposite the Rowan Glen dairy processing plant, are the boundaries of Cuil – home of the McClymonts for the past eight decades. Third generation farmer – Colin McClymont – is now at the helm, farming in partnership with his mother, Christine McClymont.
“My grandfather, Pat, who came from Holm of Bargrennan, took on the tenancy in 1938. At that time it had been one large shooting estate, owned by the Champions and the bottom fields had been flooded for shooting. My grandfather had to turn the tiles the other way to unblock the drains,” informed Colin.
“Bobby Burns, father of Jim Burns from Craignell drove 200 ewes down the road from Holm of Balgrennan for him. For the first three years my grandparents made money from bee keeping and selling the honey in Glasgow during the war.”
Cuil was purchased in 1957 and Colin’s father, Graham McClymont, added to it over the years, by buying the 700 acre Clanary in 1967, Barhassie in 1981, Muirfad in 1985 and Cairnsmore in 1988. The property now boasts 2700 acres, with roughly 600 acres of that in-bye.
Bryan Walling, Cumbria first introduced Salers cattle into the UK in 1984. The McClymonts bought two bulls from him the following year. Thirty-three years on, no other breed of bull has come to Cuil and “we have never seen a caesarean and have not had to calve a cow in over three years.”
“We previously tried the Charolais, but they didn’t do here, we had calving problems and the calves didn’t thrive on the hill,” explained Colin.
Over the years many French bulls have been purchased. “My Dad always tried to buy them out of dairy herds in France for milkiness,” commented Colin, who spent a week at one of the top French herds, when he was eighteen.
Coming from the Southern half of the Massif Central in the Auvergne region of South Central France, where the terrain ranges from 2000-6000ft, bodes well for Cuil, as “the commercial herd graze the whole of the hill in summer. They head out at the end of May and come back when it is too wet.”
Contrary to popular belief, that Salers cattle are wild, the evenly sized, dark red bovines at this South West farm barely showed an interest, when we walked through them. “We are mostly autumn calving and try to sell at a year old. The bullocks are sold store at Newton Stewart. The bread and butter of the business – the commercial heifers – averaged 1600gns for 55 last year, sold in pens of five, at Castle Douglas, in November”.
“The majority of buyers and under bidders were repeat buyers. A lot go on to cross with a Charolais for ease of calving, heading from Aberdeenshire to Wales. We have been selling Salers commercially for over twenty years. There has always been a good trade, but the past 2 or 3 years it has really taken off.”
Keeping a simple low cost system, the cows and calves are out on the hill all summer, speaned mid August and only receive ‘a wee bite’ before the sale.
Health wise the cattle are BVD accredited, Johne’s risk level one for the past five years and in the Hi-Health scheme. No boluses or minerals are administered – only a pour on in the winter.
On the pedigree side the McClymonts try to sell a dozen in-calf heifers and 2 or 3 bulls annually. They have previously sold to a top of 8000gns for a bull in 2016 and 4500gns for a pedigree heifer.
Colin champions the fact that the Salers are quick to rebreed and have longevity, producing quality calves well into their teens.
Colin recently qualified for a grant under the ‘New Entrant’ scheme, having taken on a 51% share in the business. He has made the most of this opportunity, reseeding, liming and fencing. A new open-sided, feed barriered, shed has been erected, which will make life much easier when the cattle come in mid November. Cuil is now firmly positioned on the Salers map, but it is Scottish Blackface sheep that his father, trail blazed, selling the first five figure tup in the UK. Colin, like his father before him, is a great believer in the Newton Stewart type of Blackie, “I feel they suit the ground here very well – they are kindly, milky with a bit of rib and girth. I prefer to buy tups from this area.”
For the past few years, like many of the other top breeders he has been scanning to tups for Jaagskiete, as peace of mind pre-sale.
Recently at Newton Stewart, Cuil had sixteen shearlings and five tup lambs forward and secured second top price of the day for a shearling at £14 000.
Annette summed up: “Colin is truly dedicated to creating stock to suit the ground – that will survive and thrive on the hill, with little input. We believe the right types don’t take a lot of feeding. If it is right, then it will be right for Angus (14) in the future.”