About us

The upland farms of Blackhaugh and Newhall, about 6 miles west of Galashiels, have been home to seven generations of the Elliot family since the early 1800s.

Generations of breeding low input, easy fleshed stock 

The upland farms of Blackhaugh and Newhall, about 6 miles west of Galashiels, have been home to seven generations of the Elliot family since the early 1800s. Farming on this hard upland farm, running to over 1650’, each generation recognised the need to breed stock suited to the environment as being essential for business survival through some challenging periods over the past two centuries.

Historically running a stratified sheep system on Blackhaugh, based upon thick, easily fleshed maternal hill ewes, whilst also farming the hill farms of Johnscleugh and Bedshiel, in the Lammermuirs, and Erribol and Balnakeil, in north-west Sutherland, the move for change towards present farming policy was instigated following Andrews’ experiences working in the Antipodes for 18 months from 1987 – 1989, and witnessing first-hand some of the impacts, and changes required for business survival in New Zealand, following the removal of NZ farming subsidies in 1985.

Generations of breeding low input, easy fleshed stock 

Low input, maternal genetics 

Andrew started managing Balnakeil in 1992 and quickly recognised that the thick, easily fleshed, maternal Hill Cheviot ewes on Balnakeil could be part of the solution to lower cost production. The Elliots tenure of Balnakeil commenced in 1908 and generations of selection, often natural selection, for ewes which continued to perform well even when faced with the extreme challenges of the most north-westerly farm on the mainland of the UK  - weather, vermin, nutrition, distances to walk – had bred a tremendously consistent, maternal flock of ewes which would “bounce” back into good condition following a hungry Spring, whilst still making a good job of rearing their lambs. 

Blackhaugh Low input maternal genetics 

Cheviots return to the Borders

With Balnakeil Cheviots identified as being an integral part of the potential solution, and a part dispersal of the Balnakeil flock following the sale of 13,000 acres to the Ministry of Defence for a bombing range, Balnakeil Cheviot ewes were brought south into the Lammermuirs in 1999, to replace the Blackface ewes on Bedshiel, whilst Cheviot tups from Balnakeil were used to cross with the ewes on Johnscleugh. Cheviots proved a great success on both farms but the tenancy of Johnscleugh came to a natural end in 2014. 

Blackhaugh Cheviots return to the Borders

Wool shedding

However, thoughts that much of the labour involved with sheep was related to wool led to the conclusion that, in an upland situation, either sheep should have sufficient wool to make shearing profitable or sheep should be wool-shedding. This led to trialling separate flocks at Blackhaugh, each consisting of a few hundred ewes and using the Hill Cheviot ewe as the base maternal line with different breeds of sire, from which it soon became apparent that removing the wool also removed much of the associated time and labour required to manage a flock efficiently.

Purchasing 7 Easycare tups, in 2002 and 2003, and crossing these tups over Balnakeil ewes originating from different “hefts,” a 5 family system was put in place and continues today with the same original genetic base of 50% Easycare and 50% Cheviot. There were no further purchases of rams until 2018 when tups from another wool shedding composite were purchased, but unfortunately the lambs sired by these purchases disappointed and thus these tups were culled post-weaning. With stringent selection within a meaningful population the Blackhaugh flock now numbers over 2,000 wool-shedding ewes, all home-bred within our 5 family system. 

Blackhaugh Wool shedding


Running alongside the Chevease flock at Blackhaugh is a small flock of 100 New Zealand influenced, Signet recorded, forage reared Suffolks, which are essential to maintain selection pressure on the Cheveases. Lambed in April, reared on grass and all with top 10% Signet figures, the tup lambs are used both in the “B” flock and also across the whole flock for the second cycle at tupping, before being sold off farm as shearlings. 

Blackhaugh Suffolks


Pedigree Aberdeen Angus have been bred on Balnakeil, under the Cape Wrath prefix, for over 100 years and on the other farms cattle were primarily cross bred Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn, using a continental as a terminal sire.

Calving the pedigree Balnakeil Aberdeen Angus cows outside in 600 acres of Sandhills appeared less work than calving half the number of cows inside, with regular supervision, to a continental and thus in the late 1990s it was agreed to phase out the continental bulls, replacing them with Aberdeen Angus. 

Blackhaugh Cattle

Forage based diets

Seven Angus bulls were purchased from 1998 to 2002, but only 1 lived to see his fourth birthday, with over-feeding at a young age being at least partly blamed, and so it was decided that if we wished to continue with the Aberdeen Angus we had no option but to breed our own bulls. (Experience at Balnakeil, and also from purchases of these Aberdeen Angus bulls, indicates to us that it is important to feed ruminants a rumen friendly forage-based diet, as opposed to feeding a concentrate rich diet which could have a detrimental effect on both fertility and longevity.)

Blackhaugh Forage based diets

A start-up Aberdeen Angus herd

However, at the time the Angus breed in the UK was concentrating on size and musculature and thus, to access fertile, easy calving, easily fleshed cattle of moderate frame and good temperament we looked to North America, where there is huge diversity within the breed. Starting in 2003, and over the next 5 years, more than 150 embryos from the best available genetics were imported as the initial foundation stock for the Blackhaugh herd.

Blackhaugh Herd

Monitoring, selection and culling for the next several years, and multiplying the best lines, through flushing within the herd and implanting a further 25 embryos each year, helped us to achieve our goal of a consistent, balanced and functional fertile herd of easy calving, moderate sized cows which suit our ground, whilst still producing a premium product. 

Blackhaugh A start-up Aberdeen Angus herd

Further advances 

Since 2017 in a partnership with Cogent, and the parent company ST Genetics in Texas, implantation of approximately 50 embryos per year has further accelerated the genetic progress of the Blackhaugh and Cape Wrath herds. Utilising all available technological advances – including AI, ET, ultra-sound scanning, EBVs and genomics – this partnership has afforded us the opportunity to identify, select and multiply the best genetics available globally, ensuring the optimal blend of predictable Angus genetics for efficiency and carcase quality.

The Blackhaugh herd is breeding and rearing pedigree cattle within a commercial environment, rearing bulls on forage-based diets in large contemporary groups and using all available technology to identify and select cattle over a range of traits which consistently deliver optimal performance. However, the growth of the Blackhaugh Aberdeen Angus herd, to calving over 200 pedigree cows annually as well as a further 50 commercial embryo recipients, has been fuelled by the enjoyment of working with a herd of easily managed cattle which deliver customers’ expectations. Sales have increased, primarily through word of mouth, and it has been a pleasure meeting and working with so many forward-thinking farmers and helping them to achieve their goals. 

We hope that you have enjoyed reading some of our journey to this point – please contact us if you wish to discuss how almost 200 years of breeding combined with modern technology could help your business today. 

Blackhaugh Farm