AgriScot: Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year to be unveiled tomorrow

This time tomorrow one of three exceptional sheep businesses will have been named Scotland’s top sheep farm of the year at AgriScot.

The finalist farms, which hail from the Borders and Ayrshire, were selected from a strong line-up of nominations this year.

Whilst the businesses themselves are quite different, both are run by producers dedicated to producing first-class, quality-assured Scotch Lamb.

The finalist farms are:

  • Sharpitlaw in Kelso run by Kevin Stewart;
  • Orchardton Farm in Ayrshire run by James Nisbet; and
  • Swinside Townfoot farm run by Peter and Vicki Hedley.

All three farm businesses share a commitment to constantly looking for ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

The aim of the AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year Award is to showcase excellence in sheep production in Scotland and to raise the profile of the dedication of the Scottish sheep farmers who produce Scotch Lamb PGI.

The recipient will receive a £500 cheque as well as a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.

The club, run by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), has around 150 members committed to serving top-quality Scotch Beef PGI. The award recipient will be revealed at AgriScot on Wednesday, November 20 at noon in the main ring.

The assessors for the award this year are Hamish Dykes, AgriScot Board member; Kate Rowell, QMS chairman; and Neil McGowan, recipient of AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year 2018 award.

The assessors also looked to gauge the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer, and any family and staff who may also work on the farm, to efficiently produce high-quality livestock.

All farms producing lambs destined to be used for meat sold under the Scotch Lamb PGI label were eligible to apply for the award and accordingly, they were also required to be members of QMS’s quality assurance scheme.

Sharpitlaw

Sharpitlaw is based in Kelso where Kevin Stewart (pictured top) farms 500ha on three units from a base at Sharpitlaw.

Predominantly upland units, Kevin runs 1,250 ewes, 315 gimmers, 970 ewe lambs, 1,080 feeding lambs, 520 ram lambs and 100 summer grazing cattle.

The sheep enterprise is based on a forage production system which coupled modern sheep genetics and home-produced forage.

Kevin’s flock comprises predominantly of Highlander ewes – a composite breed originating in New Zealand in conjunction with Suffolk, Aberblack and Abermax and produces prime lambs, gimmers, ewe lambs and rams.

Technical performance is monitored through detailed records which has allowed the business to respond to dips in numbers scanned, marking lamb survival figures and regular weighing.

Connections with the local collage and Kelso High School have led to pupils being involved in a worming project and recording data with the aim to encourage young people and develop their skills which Kevin believes is vital to the industry as a whole.

Orcahardton Farm

Orcahardton Farm, South Ayrshire is run by James Nisbet with the enterprise comprising of 1,350 breeding sheep including 200 Scotch Blackie Ewes, 300 Suffolk mules, 500 Scotch Mules, 300 breeding ewe lambs, 15 pure Suffolk ewes, 25 Bluefaced Leicester ewes and 10 pure Texel ewes.

Sorn Mains also have 50 stock tups which include a mixture of pure Texel, pure Suffolk and Bluefaced Leicesters.

Orchardton Farm looks to breed and produce the best Scotch Lamb PGI for consumers and loyal clients which include Dumfries House owned by HRH Prince Charles.

Through investment in new infrastructure, Orchardton Farm has been able to increase its profit per kilo over the past two years by enabling them to get its lambs to market sooner.

Swinside Townfoot

Swinside Townfoot, Jedburgh is 423ac owned by Peter and Vicki Hedley where they run 1,000 North Country Cheviot park ewes plus 280 replacements.

They also contract shepherd a further 400 cheviot mule ewes on a neighbouring farm. Swinside Townfoot use a simple system, with all sheep run in a closed flock system other than the purchase of Cheviot tups and a Bluefaced Leicester stock tup.

Swinside Townfoot also buy-in 100-150 spring-born calves in the autumn which complement the sheep and the farm’s grassland management plan.

In the winter ewes, are fed a silage based mixed ration formulated by the farm’s feed suppliers’ nutritionist.

The Hedleys concentrate on keeping a close eye on grass rotation, soil sampling, silage analysis and benchmarking to keep every inch of the farm as productive as possible.

AgriScot takes place at Ingliston, Edinburgh on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.