Farmers Demonstrate Collaboration is Key to Success.

On Tuesday the 14th August, SBA vice chairman Scott Henderson will open the gates of his exceptional farm and finishing unit in Dumfries.  The evening will lead on from our February visit to the Walkers Drumbuie farm at Sanquhar and will follow the calves seen at the suckler unit through to finish. Both visits showcase how collaboration and integration throughout beef supply chains can lead to genetic improvement, increased efficiencies and profitability for all partners.


WJ Henderson & Sons is a family partnership consisting of Scott, his wife Susan and their son Neil. The business farms 1150 acres, 750 acres at their home farm Carswadda, a tenancy of 210 acres from Buccleuch Estates just north of Thornhill, which is mostly down to barley with and 200 acres of rented grazing 3 miles west of Carswadda.


The farm is home to 105 beef suckler cows, which block calve in mid-May. Younger cows are Aberdeen Angus crosses and this autumn they plan to put the whole herd to an AA bull to increase this influence further. The current calf crop is both AA and Charolais. Calves are weaned in January with bull calves kept entire and finished in an intensive bull beef system.


The principal enterprise on the farm is finishing cattle. Scott and Neil aim to sell 30 cattle each week totalling over 1500 finished cattle sold throughout the year. The farms aim is to produce a premium, high welfare product with exceptional eating quality and therefore virtually all purchased stores are heifers.  The heifers finishing diet is a TMR ration made up of 7kg barley mix and 15kg grass silage. Heifers are housed at 500kg and spend the last 8 weeks inside. Lighter cattle are given 2-3 kg barley mix while at grass.

The business is built around long-term relationships with calf suppliers, buying from the same trusted sources each year and using a feedback system to share knowledge on performance through to slaughter, to ensure that the genetics are constantly improved. Last year’s cattle graded with 27% U’s, 72% R’s at an average deadweight of 312 kgs, which saw a significant improvement in comparison to 2008 cattle which graded was 19% U’s, 79% R’s at an average deadweight of 303 kgs.


Speaking about the relationship with the Walkers, Neil said, “One of the longest partnerships has been with Jim Walker, so long in fact that it is now his sons Michael and Stuart that are the principal point of contact. The Walkers have always taken the information we feed back and acted on it and we have seen a constant improvement in their stock over the years.”


The Walkers have expanded their cattle enterprise greatly over recent years to their current herd of 650 breeding cows. They place an emphasis on maintaining a high health status and improving the genetics, diet and environment of the herd to maximise the growth potential of offspring whilst keeping costs low. The results can be seen in their calves’ performance:


Year Percentage U grade Percentage R grade Weaned LW Killing out DW
1998 12% 76% 316kg 275kg
2008 12% 76% 373kg 306kg
2017 31% 69% 383kg 323kg


When it comes to marketing, Scott sells his finished animals exclusively to AK Stoddart. He has worked with the company for over 20 years and works closely with them to ensure they are producing the correct animals for their customers.


It is clear that the strong relationships that Scott and Neil have forged both in sourcing and selling his stock have been invaluable to the businesses development and continued success and we would like to thank him and his family for their hospitality in opening the farm to the SBA in August.


The evening will begin at 5.30pm, with a tour including talks from beef specialist Gavin Hill of SAC consulting, Scott & Neil Henderson and Michael Walker. Event sponsor AB Visa will also be running a talk on the use of feed additives to optimise efficiencies in cattle finishing.

The tour will be followed by a BBQ kindly sponsored by Stoddarts. To book your place on this exceptional visit please call Head Office on 01434 601005 or email [email protected]