Traditional Blue Grey Cattle are the mainstay at Farney Shield
|Martin and Marina
Wallace and their sons Trevor and Kevin
Long, hard winters have led the Wallace family to continue
to run their Northumberland hill farm along traditional lines
as they have done since 1962.
Blue Grey heifers – the hardy cross of the Whitebred
Shorthorn bull and the Galloway cow – are a bonus for
Martin and Marina Wallace and their sons Trevor and Kevin.
Farney Shield lies high in the hills south of the village
of Ninebanks near Allendale. The farmhouse itself stands at
around 1,200ft above sea level.
The family farms a total of 710 acres of mainly rough grazing
and meadow ground, including 120 acres of better ground at
Farney Shield carries a herd of 70 Galloway cows, with up
to seven strong bulling heifers being bought each autumn at
Carlisle for herd replacements. There are also grazing rights
on Allendale Common.
|Blue Grey Heifers
Integral to the traditional system for the last three decades
is the Whitebred Shorthorn to produce Blue Grey heifers, which
are in increasing demand as hardy suckler cows, and bullocks,
now more and more sought after by butchers who specialise in
“The cattle we run are best suited for the hills and
a harsh environment. Some of the cows are well into their teens
and we have no trouble calving them to the Whitebred,” said
“The weather forecasts govern our farming. Continental
cattle couldn’t survive on our farm. Our cows are outside
for two months longer in the winter than other breeds.
“When we buy in Galloway replacements the heifers have
to be good on their legs to cope with the heavy land and we
look for good milking ability,” he added.
Recent replacements have come from the Waughs of Kilnstown,
Forster of Smithsteads and Graham Noble, Demesne.
Female lines in the small herd of Whitebred Shorthorns go
back to the original cows. Bulls are tried at home before any
surplus are sold privately – last year one sold to the
Orkneys and another went to Buckinghamshire.
The easy-care cattle were all calved outside until the Wallaces
joined the North Pennines Environmentally Sensitive Area scheme
13 years ago. The farm has a number of species of birds and
in particular black game.
Blue Grey heifers are all sold at the annual Newcastleton
sale at the end of October which attracts around 1,000 head
of cattle. Last autumn they sold up to £750 a head.
The heifers which are sold at between 20 and 26 months old
have ready buyers on hill and marginal farms from as far afield
at Tain in the north of Scotland to Cornwall in the south.
One borders beef farm has around 70 Blue Grey cows from Farney
Last year heifers were sold to graze Kilnsey Crag near Skipton
as part of the Limestone Project, an environmental project
looking at the success of native breeds of cattle in helping
re-generation of plant species which are in decline.
Bullocks are sold at 18 months old at the special Kirkcambeck
autumn sale at Longtown Mart with the remainder selling in
the spring, making up to £650 each.
The cattle are housed and straw bedded from mid December to
mid April, with the majority of cows calving inside. There
are few calving difficulties which helps keep vets bills down.
They are fed big bale silage and hay, the latter being made
off the drier ground. Blue Grey calves are fed 1kg a head of
As well as being noted for breeding Blue Greys, the Wallaces
have a name for their Mule gimmer lambs.
They run 800 Swaledales, which includes 150 hoggs, and have
a small flock of 14 Bluefaced Leicesters. Four hundred Swaledales
are wintered away on lowland farms in Northumberland and Cumbria.
Of the Swaledales, 200 are bred pure to produce flock replacements
with 450 crossed with the Bluefaced Leicester.
North of England Mule gimmer lambs are sold at Lazonby where
288 averaged £83 in 2004. They are in demand from flockmasters
across the country.
Wether lambs are sold finished through Hexham Mart from December
through to April, the majority being finished inside.
The Swaledales crossed with the Leicester start lambing at
the beginning of April with the pure-breds starting later in
Bluefaced Leicester rams are not used as lambs and any surplus
are sold as shearlings at Lazonby or Hawes.