Abbey St Bathans farmers Charley and Andrea Walker have picked up the 2017 Agriscot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year award.
The Walker family impressed judges with their resilient system of farming at Barnside and their ingenious inventions that help them to farm more efficiently.
In addition to the Walkers’ passion and enthusiasm for sheep farming, judges were impressed with the family’s commitment to recording, monitoring and analysing performance figures to ensure their 250-hectare unit in the Lammermuir Hills continues to improve.
“We’re surprised and delighted to have won the award,” said Charley, who farms with Andrea and their two children Tom (16) and Jessica (13) with support from part-time member of staff Alan Smith.
“Running our farm business is very much a team effort involving all the family. 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.”
The farm has a low-input profitable system that the Walkers’ have established by managing grassland to maximise organic stocking rate and returns on the business.
The 840 ewes and 220 hoggs are bred pure, with all hoggs and a few ewes put to a New Zealand Texel ram. Prime lambs are ready to sell from August to October with the remaining sold as stores in November. The farm also has 90 Welsh Black suckler cows and followers.
The Barnside flock is closed and the family works closely with their vet on a detailed health plan to minimise health risks. The ewes are paddock grazed and are regularly condition scored before tupping and throughout pregnancy to ensure they are in the correct condition.
Congratulating the Walkers, Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, said: “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.”
Hamish Dykes, AgriScot board member and one of the award judges explained why Barnside stood out to them: “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.”
Fellow judge, Heather McCalman, added: “We are delighted that we have a farm dedicated to producing quality Scotch Lamb PGI in a sustainably managed and profitable system.
“Charley and Andrea are worthy winners and excellent ambassadors for our industry and the Scotch Lamb brand.”
The Walkers received a £500 cheque, plus a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.