The Elliot family’s association with the Aberdeen-Angus breed started in 1927 when John Elliot of Blackhaugh, Galashiels, founded the Cape Wrath herd at Balnakeil on the farthest North Western tip of mainland Scotland.
His Son, also John, who like his father, primarily crossed Aberdeen-Angus and Shorthorns back and forward and sold the steer calves at nine months of age, bought a few pedigree cows in the early 1950s from Cape Wrath and Kinermony, a top herd at the time. He gave the herd the suffix ‘of the Watch’, named after the little river on Rawburn where we farmed.
The pure bred herd remained a small part of the commercial herd of 90 cows for about 20 years and several registered cows were added by the current John Elliot in the 1970s. These came from the Haymount and Fordhouse herds, with the most significant addition being Magnet Princess of Tangier, which was the first cow of North American breeding which the family owned. She weighed 700kg, which was considered extremely large at the time and has had a lasting influence on the herd.
In 1982, following a Nuffield Farming Scholarship study of beef cattle genetics in Canada and USA, two heifers, Willabar Patricia and Southolm Duchess 66N and the bull Ellanin Power man, sired by PS Powerplay and out of a daughter of Great Northern, were purchased.
Southolm Duchess was a sale feature at the Southolm sale, weighed 918kg and was certainly among the biggest cows in the UK. She had a huge impact on the herd, which was now called Rawburn and on the Aberdeen-Angus breed in the UK. Three of her sons were champions at Perth Bull Sales and another was top price. Another son was sold privately to Haymount and another was used successfully at home. A large number of her descendants remain in the herd.
Of the bulls used at this time the most significant was Elgar of the Moss. He was sired by Scotch Cap and was out of GT Miss Evergreen 312, one of the most famous cows in USA and mother of GT Miss Traveller 58, the dam of GT Maximum.
In 1993 the farm of Rawburn was relinquished and the herd moved to Roxburgh Mains, which is four miles south west of Kelso. Roxburgh Mains is 265 hectares (655 acres) in extent, with one third of the farm growing spring barley and spring oats for feed and the remainder being grassland. This is grazed by the Aberdeen-Angus herd, now numbering 150 cows, 35 heifers and 50 embryo transfer recipients alongside 250 pedigree Texel and Suffolk ewes. Their male offspring regularly command top prices at the historic Kelso Ram Sale.
In the 1990s cows which did well in the herd were introduced from Baggrave Farms and new genetics were brought in through embryo transfer from Hoffs Scotch Cap Ranch (USA), Cudlobe, Coldstream and Prairielane (all Canada). The most significant imported embryo of all was out of Willabar Tilda 7B, a daughter of GT Maximum and sired by Hoff Great Western. The resulting bull born in 1997, Rawburn Transformer, was to become one of the greatest bulls in the history of the Aberdeen-Angus breed in the UK. He shattered all performance records, sired a record number of registered calves and had a massive impact on the herd, More recently ultra high performance genetics have come from TC Ranch, Hoffs Scotch Cap and Nichols Farms.
Throughout the past three decades the Rawburn herd has stacked performance and year after year has dominated ABRI Breedplan. At the beginning of September 2016, 11 out of the top 15, including all of the top five, bull calves in the UK ranked for Terminal Index were in the herd. Likewise 11 of the top 15 ranked for Self Replacing Index were bred at Rawburn. The heifer calves received a similar ranking.No other herd comes close to this.
The Rawburn herd seldom shows, but is greatly rewarded by the consistent success of its clients in the show ring. At the Royal Highland Show in 2014, the largest show of Aberdeen-Angus in the country, Rawburn Jester Eric J034, shown by Messrs Clark, Duncanziemere, was not only supreme champion, but was judged the best animal of any breed at the show.
Haughton Laura L029, sired by Rawburn Elysium F547, was reserve champion. In 2016, as in 2014, both the champion and reserve champion were sired by Rawburn bulls, these being Rawburn Elysium and Rawburn Black Hawk, respectively.
About 60 bulls are sold each year, mostly by private treaty, while select females are sold at Stirling and Carlisle for top prices. a highlight being in 2012 when Rawburn Edith sold for 24,000gns and four heifers averaged £12,836
Along with Transformer the most successful bulls used since the turn of the century are Rawburn Lord Ross C216, his son Rawburn Elysium F547 and Rawburn Randolph F555. The following cows have excelled through ET; Hoff Ebony SC 3330 991, sired by SVF Bandolier, Cudlobe Ellen Erica 46D, dam of many high sellers and Prairielane Rosebud O11, dam of Rawburn Rommel sold to the Idvies herd, Rawburn Rochester sold to the Eastfield herd, Rawburn Rock Solid sold to the Glympton herd and Rawburn Randolph who bred outstandingly at home.
Recently we have flushed Hoff Blackbird 594 5218, dam of Rawburn Boss, sold to HW Angsu, Rawburn Braw Lad, working in the Linton Gilbertines herd and Rawburn Boss Hogg, working in our own herd. At the moment we are flushing Nichols Bonnie Y292 to Quaker Hill Rampage A036, SAV Harvestor O338 and Hoff Limited Edition.
Sires being used at present in the herd, which is now being run by John R Elliot, are Rawburn Dublin K218, Rawburn Boss Hogg N630, Rawburn Firebrand N687, Rawburn Rainy N752, Rawburn Braw Lad R041, Rawburn Black Watch R056, Rawburn Makka Pakka R076 and Idvies Fellaini R699.
Committed to the future of the breed and the Society, John Elliot Sr served as breed president in 2005-06 and is currently president of the Border Aberdeen-Angus Club. In 2013 he received The Sir William Young Award for his outstanding contribution to animal breeding in Scotland. John R Elliot is a past breed council member and both father and son have judged extensively at home and abroad.