Charley Walker from Barnside Farm, one of the assessors this year and recipient of the 2017 award, admitted that it was incredibly hard to decide who should receive the award this year as both businesses excelled at what they did.
He said: “Incheoch and Bowhill are very different farms, but both share outstanding technical performance and a great passion and understanding of the sheep industry. Both have made and continue to make great strides in genetic improvement and have an excellent understanding of their market.”
Fellow assessor and AgriScot board member Hamish Dykes commented: “Although Sion and his team should be very rightly proud of what they have achieved, we were incredibly impressed by the McGowans foresight and courage to go down their chosen path at such an early stage. Long before any of us knew what a Lleyn actually was, Neil and Debbie already had a flock of them and were preparing to start their on-farm ram sale.”
During the farm visits the judges looked for evidence of a high standard of technical and financial performance, uptake of new ideas to improve efficiency/profitability, a high level of health and welfare and a keen eye on the market for the end product. The judges were also looking to gauge the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer, and family and staff where relevant, to efficiently produce high quality animals.
“It was a pleasure to visit the finalist farms, both of which demonstrated incredibly high-quality sheep production systems managed with real pride and dedication,” said Heather McCalman, Knowledge Transfer Specialist at QMS and fellow assessor.
Kenneth Mackay, partner in the Land and Rural Business team at Thorntons Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the AgriScot Scottish Sheep farm of the Year award; it is a wonderful way to celebrate the fantastic sheep industry we have in Scotland. Many congratulations to the McGowans on their success this year.”
All farms producing lambs destined to be used for meat sold under the Scotch Lamb label were eligible to apply and accordingly they were also required to be members of QMS’s quality assurance scheme.