Kelso flock named Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year

A Kelso farm, which showcases excellence in the production of livestock in Scotland, has been announced as the winner of the AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year 2019.

The award was presented today (November 20) by AgriScot, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and award sponsors Thorntons Solicitors to Sharpitlaw Farm, run by Kevin Stewart.

Sharpitlaw Farm beat off stiff competition from other sheep farmers across Scotland, including finalists Swinside Townfoot Farm near Jedburgh run by Peter and Vicki Hedley and Orchardton Farm in Ayrshire run by James Nisbet.

The award aims to showcase excellence in sheep production in Scotland and raise the profile of the dedication and stock management skills behind the production of Scotch Lamb PGI.

Stewart, who was presented with his award by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing in the main ring at AgriScot, farms 500ha on three, predominantly upland, units from a base at Sharpitlaw.

The farms carry 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 modern sheep genetics and home-produced forage.

Stewart’s flock comprises predominantly of Highlander ewes – a composite breed originating in New Zealand. Sharpitlaw produces prime lambs, gimmers, ewe lambs and rams.

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

Sharpitlaw was recognised by the assessors for its business resilience and the scale of the enterprise, run by Kevin, with minimal help over such a wide geographical area.

In addition, the assessors recognised Kevin’s investment in young people, his ongoing animal health planning and his uptake of new ideas to make it easier to work single-handedly but retain a good work-life balance.

As well as evidence of a high standard of technical and financial performance, those assessing the farms looked for evidence of the uptake of new ideas to improve efficiency and profitability and whether the businesses had an eye on the market for the end product.

AgriScot chairman Robert Neill said: “The sheep sector has not been without its challenges. We are grateful to all the farms entered for this award. It is great to have people willing to showcase the sector in the current climate.

Huge congratulations to our finalists, and of course to our Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year, Sharpitlaw. The farmers, families and teams behind these successful enterprises should be rightfully proud.

Stewart said he was “delighted” to be named as the 2019 winner.

“We were up against two other tremendous businesses who are also producing to the highest of levels.

“We really enjoyed the process, including welcoming the assessors on farm, and the rigorous assessment; it has been hugely worthwhile for both ourselves and the wider business,” he said.