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Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year

Sheep Farm of the Year Results 2023

Windshiel Farm – WINNER

Finalists:

Farmstock Genetics

Roan Farm

The AgriScot Sheep Farm of the Year Awards is Sponsored by SoilEssentials.

The AgriScot Sheep Farm of the Year Awards is Supported by SoilEssentials.

Sheep Farm of the Year Sponsored by SoilEssentials

Windshiel Farm, Scottish Borders

The Bakers’ journey on Windshiel Farm began in 1991, with Ted and Sharon journeying up from Bristol, with their six-month-old son Joe and 200 Dorset sheep. Windshiel is in the Lammermuir hills in Berwickshire, 1000ft above sea level at its peak, and now holds a head of 750 Lleyn and Lleyn cross sheep, 60 Aberdeen Angus cows, a handful of rare breed pigs to complement direct sales at the monthly farmers market in Portobello, and a small flock of pedigree Dorsets. It became organic in 2001 and Joe became a partner in 2013 and has grown the business with a shared farming contract agreement and increased stock numbers. The farm works on a completely outdoor system, utilising rotational and deferred grazing and forage crops to outwinter stock. There is a main focus on grass and soil quality to convert kilos of dry matter to kilos of meat as efficiently as possible, with an increase in herbal leys and sward diversity. The lambs are fattened at home and sold directly with Farmstock, and the cattle are sold at stores at 17 months.

2022 Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year

The philosophy of Calum McDiarmid’s sheep enterprise at Mains of Murthly, Aberfeldy, which extends to over 244ha of Perthshire landscape, is about minimising input and maximising output by creating a more efficient system. Shepherd Ed Munt runs 1350 breeding ewes, 400 home bred ewe lambs and 25 tups, 12 of which are Innovis Aberfield and 13 terminals of either NZ Suffolk or Aberblacks.

The whole system has changed over the past five years to become a predominantly grass based setup centred around rotational grazing, with divisional solar electric fence systems and Opico sward lifter improving the quality and volume of grass.

All ewes are condition scored every six weeks to both correct any problems, and to ensure all stock are improving and performing. When it comes to health, prevention is better than cure.

All lambs have traditionally been sold prime to the abattoir with the average weight being mid 19 kgs with normally U3L grade. To grant ewes more grass in the ‘Golden period’, half of this year’s lambs will be sold store, with the remainder fattened on home turf.  With the increase in costs of both energy and inputs, Mains of Murthly is looking at the best return for both staff and the farm. Reducing the winter costs is the aim of the farm.

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After months of deliberation and a host of impressive farms to choose from, the finalists for this year’s AgriScot Sheep Farm of the Year award have now been announced. 

Aimee and Kirsty Budge , Bigton Farm

Sisters Aimee and Kirsty Budge of Bigton Farm in Shetland, together run a mixed sheep and beef enterprise, alongside growing 60 acres of spring barley. They look after a 650-head flock which comprises of 300 Shetland cross Cheviot ewes which they put to a Suffolk ram to provide lambs for store and the fat market, and 350 pure Shetland ewes, which are put to either a Shetland or Cheviot ram and their offspring are kept for replacements.  

The Budge’s have been working closely with their vet to develop a better health planning system for the farm and have a strict buying policy to complement Shetland’s high health status, with all incoming stock tested for CLA, dosed and dipped. No breeding females are purchased outside of Shetland and by being more selective in their replacements has allowed them to cull hard on less desirable traits, such as bad feet. 

Calum McDiarmid, Mains of Murthly

The philosophy of Calum McDiarmid’s sheep enterprise at Mains of Murthly, Aberfeldy, which extends to over 244ha of Perthshire landscape, is about minimising input and maximising output by creating a more efficient system. Shepherd Ed Munt runs 1350 breeding ewes, 400 home bred ewe lambs and 25 tups, 12 of which are Innovis Aberfield and 13 terminals of either NZ Suffolk or Aberblacks. 

The whole system has changed over the past five years to become a predominantly grass based setup centred around rotational grazing, with divisional solar electric fence systems and Opico sward lifter improving the quality and volume of grass. 

All ewes are condition scored every six weeks to both correct any problems, and to ensure all stock are improving and performing. When it comes to health, prevention is better than cure. 

All lambs have traditionally been sold prime to the abattoir with the average weight being mid 19 kgs with normally U3L grade. To grant ewes more grass in the ‘Golden period’, half of this year’s lambs will be sold store, with the remainder fattened on home turf.  With the increase in costs of both energy and inputs, Mains of Murthly is looking at the best return for both staff and the farm. Reducing the winter costs is the aim of the farm. 

Using a stick reader and electronic weighing crate allows them to record daily live weight gain and has enabled them to sell prime lambs at their optimum to allow for a much better return. 

Alan Cowens – Philiphaugh Farm 

Philiphaugh Farm is a 2450 acre upland farm near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, owned by Sir Michael Strang Steel and managed by Alan Cowens. It runs 2200 mainly North Country Cheviot ewes split into two flocks, shepherded by Alan Wilson and Scott Bell, and 120 Luing and Sim/Luing cows.  

1000 hill type ewes are bred pure for replacements, sale ewe lambs, and wethers finished off forage crops. 500 hill type are crossed with the Blue Faced Leicester for the production of Cheviot Mule ewe lambs for replacements and sale. Wethers are finished on forage crops. These ewes are run as low input receiving no hard feed or silage over the winter and only receive feed blocks in the run up to lambing.  

These ewes are all lambed outside in mid-April with the emphasis on a low-cost system. The NCC is the chosen breed for its hardiness, mothering abilities and quality of lamb they produce which sell at a premium. The flock is closed except the purchase of an odd stock tup. 

The winner of the 2022 Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year will be announced at AgriScot on 16 November.

Saughland Farm – AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year 2021

The recipient of the prestigious AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year award was announced on Wednesday 9 February.

The accolade, which is managed by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors, was awarded to Saughland farm, run by Farm Manager Peter Eccles and Flock Manager Owen Gray.

Saughland Farm consists of 50-ha of arable land, 240ha of grassland and 40ha of woodland and hedgerows. Saughland has a maternal composite flock of 1,500 ewes using Romney and Aberfield with everything recorded from birth and 400 ewe lambs. A new pedigree Suffolk flock is being developed with the aim to produce an easy lambing, vigorous flock without compromising carcase quality and growth using CT Scanning, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and rigorous selection.

The lead assessor for the award, QMS Chair Kate Rowell, said that there were many aspects of the farm that stood out to her and her fellow assessors Hamish Dykes (AgriScot) and past AgriScot award recipient Kevin Stewart.

“I was extremely impressed with all three finalists, but Saughland’s in-depth understanding of the need for continual monitoring and improvement of the soil was strong.

“Their use of rotational grazing, where they were adapting numbers and classes of stock in the same field to get the most out of it at varying times of year demonstrated their eye for making the most of what they have to improve their efficiency and productivity.”

With a number of high-calibre entries, Saughland Farm edged out finalists Swinside Townfoot, run by Peter and Vicki Hedley in Jedburgh, and Attonburn Farm run by Robert and Becca Rennie in Yetholm.

Richard Callander owner of Saughland Farm said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication that the whole team puts in each and every day.

“Our mission is to continue to build a resilient, sustainable, profitable and diversified agribusiness which is an inspiring place of work with increased opportunities for everyone involved with Saughland.”

AgriScot Chairman, Robert Neill, said: “We are grateful to all the farms that entered the AgriScot awards and their willingness to positively showcase Scotland’s agricultural sector. Huge congratulations to our finalists, and the 2021 Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year, Saughland Farm.”

As well as demonstrating 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.

The farms were also assessed on the passion and enthusiasm of the farmer and others involved in the business, to efficiently produce high quality animals.

Kenneth Mackay, partner and head of the Land and Rural Business team at Thorntons, said: “These awards champion an industry which has the highest welfare and environmental standards in the world. We’re proud to help support AgriScot and recognise the achievements of those within the agricultural sector. Congratulations to the exceptional finalists and reciepent of the Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year title for 2021.”   

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