Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year 2017
Husband and wife team Charley and Andrea Walker, from Barnside farm in Abbey Saint Bathans, near Duns, are the winners of this year’s AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year award.
The Borders farm comprises 250 hectares on the Lammermuir Hills, operating a low input, grass fed, organic farming system. The Walkers run 840 ewes and 220 hoggs, which are Easycare and most are bred pure, with all hoggs and a few ewes put to a New Zealand Texel ram. All stock on the farm are managed in a rotational paddock grazing system.
The aim of the 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. Run by AgriScot and QMS and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors, the contest was overseen by a judging panel comprising Hamish Dykes, Heather McCalman and Graham Lofthouse, the previous winner of the award.
The judges were impressed with the Walkers’ passion and enthusiasm for sheep farming as well as the family’s commitment to recording and monitoring and analysing performance figures to ensure their business continues to improve.
“The Walkers have established a resilient system at Barnside, with minimal labour and bought-in feed and have developed a range of ingenious tools including a flexible gate, novel silage feeder and grass ‘lanes’ to ease management reducing time and costs,” said Mr Dykes, who is an AgriScot board member.
Fellow judge Ms McCalman, a Knowledge Transfer Specialist at QMS, added: “We are delighted that we have a farm dedicated to producing quality Scotch Lamb PGI in an sustainably managed and profitable system. Charley and Andrea are very worthy winners and excellent ambassadors for our industry and the Scotch Lamb brand.”
As winners, the Walkers received a £500 cheque as well as a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.
“We’re surprised and delighted to have won the award today – running our farm business is very much a team effort involving all the family,” said Charley, who farms with his wife Andrea and their two children Tom (16) and Jessica (13) with support from part-time member of staff Alan Smith.
“Our sheep enterprise involves the use of EasyCare sheep, outdoor lambing and rotational grazing. We’ve come a long way but there is still plenty scope to further improve what we do to increase output without increasing our operational costs,” he added.
Kenneth Mackay: of award sponsors Thorntons Solicitors said: “The AgriScot Awards are a firm favourite on the agricultural calendar and a great platform for farms to showcase innovative and new ways of operating. We’re always very impressed by the development of techniques that the farmers demonstrate each year.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing commented: “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the Walkers on being named 2017 Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year. They are excellent ambassadors for our Scottish sheep sector and I wish them further success moving forward.”
The other two finalists were Hilltarvit Mains, Cupar, Fife, run by Ian Whiteford in partnership with his wife, Margaret, son John and daughter-in-law Lucy, and Titaboutie in Coull, Aboyne, farmed by Andrew Robertson in partnership with his retired parents, George and Jean, and his wife, also Jean.