By ECV Nutritionist Calum Littlejohn
Glenkilrie is a 2,500 acre estate situated south of Glenshee in Highland Perthshire, on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. Bought over 60 years ago, Glenkilrie is owned and farmed by Andrew Houstoun, in partnership with his parents David and Morag. They employ one full-time worker at Glenkilrie who has given over 20 years service. The majority of the land at Glenkilrie is heather hill with approximately 500 acres of in-bye grassland. In recent years the Houstouns began contract farming for a neighbouring grouse moor, managing a flock of 400 pure blackface ewes across 10,000 acres of heather hill.
On the home farm Andrew runs a herd of 160 Limousin and Aberdeen Angus cross suckler cows, most of which are mated back to Aberdeen Angus bulls. Cows are all spring calving, beginning in the middle of March. All replacements are homebred with heifers calving at two years old. Bulls are now all bought privately on farm. The top draw of spring born calves are sold straight off their mothers at weaning time in early November. The remainder of the calves are housed and fed through the winter on ad-lib pit silage and supplemented with 3kgs of ECV’s Second Stage Calf Nut. Andrew said that the calves performed particularly well this year on the Second Stage Calf Nuts. The last group were sold privately from the farm and averaged 36kgs per head heavier than they did last year.
Glenkilrie’s dry cow ration is formulated to meet the cows’ nutritional requirements and comprises of straw and a mixture of grass and red clover silage. After calving, cows move to ad-lib pit silage. Glenkilrie used to sell all calves store however a small number of cattle are now finished to support Glenkilrie Larder.
The farm carries 1,100 breeding ewes which are a mixture of blackface and cheviot. Whilst the majority of these are bred pure, some are crossed with the Aberfield to produce replacements for the crossbred ewe flock of approximately 400. Lambing begins in the middle of April. The majority lamb outdoors except for the crossbred ewes expecting twins and triplets. All replacements are home bred and tups bought privately from Innovis and Easyrams. All the lambs, with the exception of those for Glenkilrie Larder, are sold to Scotbeef. Lambs sold to Scotbeef are destined for Marks and Spencer as Glenkilrie is an M&S select farm.
In recent years, more has been done at Glenkilrie with multi-species swards, in particular lambs have been finished on red clover aftermath. Mixtures for reseeding also include chicory and plantain. Lambs are then grazed on stubble turnips with late season lambs supplemented with ECV Glenesk Lamb Finisher Pellets.
Blackface and Cheviots with twins graze the in-bye ground at Glenkilrie during the summer. Those with singles are put out to the heather hill. Seasonal grazing is rented on the outskirts of Blairgowrie for the crossbred ewes with twins to graze over the summer months.
In 2018 the Houstouns began deer farming and currently have 55 hinds and 2 breeding stags. The main focus behind this addition was to produce venison for Glenkilrie Larder, whilst effectively utilising the poorer quality in-bye grassland. The hinds have settled well and their production cycle suits Glenkilrie’s later growing season. The first of the deer calves are not born until late May. The transition to deer farming was reasonably simple with the biggest task
being the upgrading of stock fences to deer fences and building suitable handling pens. All of this work has been carried out in-house. The hinds are run as one group on the rougher grazing supplemented with silage and ECV Second Stage Calf Nut during the winter months. Their management cycle is fairly simple with one annual wormer, bolus and fluke dose - fluke is the biggest health concern with the deer and thankfully there has not been any issues with this at Glenkilrie so far.
Andrew weans the calves after the rut in December and houses them inside for their first winter. Whilst inside they are fed 1kg per head of ECV Second Stage Calf Nut and ad-lib red clover silage. Andrew has found that housing the deer for their first winter is a great way to tame them and therefore has been able to build a herd with very good temperament. Calves are turned back out in the spring, with the first of them reaching slaughter weight in the late summer. Andrew has a target carcass weight of 60kg which has given him good carcass balance so far. To improve pasture quality for the young stock they reseeded a block of ground with a herbal mix including chicory, plantain, white clover, red clover, timothy, cocksfoot, ryegrass, sainfoin and sheeps parsley and are impressed with the result.
Diversification on the farm includes the farmhouse B&B and Glenkilrie Larder. Glenkilrie Farmhouse B&B has been run by Andrew’s mother Morag for over 30 years. She had always worked in the hospitality trade and started the venture in order to work from home when Andrew and his two sisters were growing up. Initially the business thrived with British guests and people spotting the B&B sign at the road end. Over the years technology has revolutionised the business with the majority of bookings now made online and by international guests often heading to see Balmoral and other nearby attractions. The peaceful location has also seen Morag secure guests who have returned year on year and become more like family friends.
Glenkilrie Larder was set up in December 2019 by Andrew and his wife Lauren. The business directly markets all three meats produced at Glenkilrie: venison, beef and lamb. Lauren and Andrew personally deliver fresh meat the first weekend of every month within Angus, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire and have frozen stock available all year round. The meat can be couriered to customers throughout mainland UK with packages regularly destined for London. They also supply three local hotels with meat, two of which have continued trading throughout Covid doing takeaways. Lauren is in the final stages of building a website and continues to expand Glenkilrie Larder’s customer base. Glenkilrie Larder can be found online and have a Facebook and Instagram page. The end goal for the Houstouns is to open an onsite farm shop and grow their customer base even further. Family life is also busy as Lauren and Andrew have a 16 month old son, Alasdair and in February have just welcomed their second child, a baby girl, Ellen.