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Finalists of Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year Announced

2018 awarded to: Neil and Debbie McGowan with children Tally (14) and Angus (12)

Three exceptional sheep businesses have been unveiled today (date) as the finalists of the AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year award, by AgriScot, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and award sponsors, Thorntons Solicitors.

The finalist farms, 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 PGI.

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.

Peter and Vicki Hedley
Kevin Stewart
James and Jamie Nisbet of Orchardton Farm, South Ayrshire

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 QMS, has around 150 members committed to serving top quality Scotch Beef PGI.  The award recipient will be revealed at AgriScot on Wednesday 20 November. The announcement will be made at noon in the main ring.

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

Hamish Dykes, AgriScot Board member, said: “It was fantastic to see so many applications from a wide range of sheep enterprises across Scotland. The AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year is a fantastic platform for help raise the profile of the dedication and passion of sheep farmers in Scotland who work hard to produce top-quality Scotch Lamb PGI the industry is renowned for.”

QMS Chair, Kate Rowell, added: “I look forward to visiting the three finalists in the coming week where we will examine all aspects of their business, from a high standard of technical and financial performance to the implementation of new ideas to improve efficiency and profitability.”

The assessors will also look 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.

Kenneth Mackay, Partner in the Land and Rural Business team Thorntons Solicitors said: “We are proud to be sponsors of both the Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year and Scotch Beef Farm of the Year awards. AgriScot is keen to recognise all elements of the agricultural sector and we are delighted to be able to help them achieve that goal.”

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. Ends

For further press information contact Ruth McClean on 0131 510 7920 or email: or Martin Dare, AgriScot Organiser on 0131 333 0969 email:

Notes to editors

  • Sharpitlaw is based in Kelso where Kevin Stewart farms 500-hectares 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. From these flock Sharpitlaw 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. Kevin believes that employing young people is vital to the future of farming due to their ability to adapt quickly to changes and embrace technology enthusiastically. Connections with the local collage and Kelso High School has 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 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 is 423 acres owned by Peter and Vicki Hedley where they run 100 North Country Cheviot park ewes and on an additional 250-acres on a grazing agreement. Swinside Townfood use a simple system, with all sheep run in a closed flock system other than the purchase of Cheviot tups and a Blackfaced 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. The sheep are out on grass all year round, except for lambing. Ewes are fed a silage based TMR with the ration formulated by the farm’s feed suppliers’ nutritionist bespoke to forage quality to ensure optimal nutrition for ewes at lambing. The Hedley’s use a combiclamp with a built-in weight scale that has reduced time labour on sheep handling and improved efficiency by allowing them to monitor lamb weight gain closely and optimise performance of both ewes and lambs.
  • AgriScot, the farm business event for all farmers and all sectors takes place at Ingliston, Edinburgh on Wednesday 20 November 2019.
  • Thorntons Solicitors has been recognised as one of the leaders in the field of Rural and Agricultural Law in Scotland and have grown to become one of Scotland’s largest legal firms. Thorntons offers a complete service for rural property, business and personal matters. Our team are an active part of the rural community. Thorntons rural team advise farmers, landowners, rural businesses and land agents.
  • QMS is the public body responsible for helping the Scottish red meat sector improve its sustainability, efficiency and profitability and maximise its contribution to Scotland’s economy.
  • QMS promotes the PGI labelled Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands in the UK and abroad and promotes Scottish pork products under the Specially Selected Pork logo.
  • Please note that the use of the word Scotch in the Scotch Beef PGI and Scotch Lamb PGI brands is correct and should not be substituted for an alternative such as Scots or Scottish. The history of the use of the word Scotch in this way, traces back to the 18th
  • The quality assurance schemes run by QMS cover more than 90% of livestock farmed for red meat in Scotland. They offer consumers in the UK and overseas the legal guarantee that the meat they buy has come from animals that have spent their whole lives being raised to some of the world’s strictest welfare standards.
  • Scotland’s beef, lamb and pork producers make an important contribution to the country’s economic, social and environmental sustainability, contributing over £2 billion to the annual GDP of Scotland and supporting around 50,000 jobs (many in fragile rural areas) in the farming, agricultural supply and processing sectors.
  • For more information visit or follow QMS on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.


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