All Roads will Lead to Scotsheep 2016

The rolling hills of the Scottish Borders will be the idyllic setting for Scotland’s biennial national sheep event, NSA Scotsheep 2016, on Wednesday, June 1.

The venue is the historic farm of Blyth Bank, Penicuik, near Edinburgh, birthplace in 2003 of Dolly The Sheep, the world’s first cloned sheep and home of the first Texel sheep imported into the UK in 1970 by Dr John King of the Animal Breeding Research Organisation.


Today the 1300 acre farm is part of the extensive farming operation of the Campbell family’s Glenrath Farms Ltd, the UK’s largest egg producer, and home to a flock of 2000 Scotch Mule ewes, 500 replacement Scotch Mule hoggs and 700 Blackface ewes, as well as 200 Limousin cross suckler cows, a 10-cow pedigree Charolais herd, a 40-ewe pedigree Texel flock and 320,000 free-range hens.

NSA Scotsheep, organised by the Scottish Region of the National Sheep Association, with Royal Bank of Scotland confirmed as main sponsor, provides a real showcase for the Scottish sheep industry and is set to attract thousands of sheep farmers and industry professionals from throughout Scotland, Ireland and the north of England.

In addition, around 500 children from local primary schools will be attending in school visits arranged by the Royal Highland Educational Trust (RHET).

“Blyth Bank, with its renowned flocks of both commercial and pedigree sheep, is an ideal venue for the event and will be a mecca for sheep farmers on the day,” said NSA Scotland chair, Mrs Sybil Macpherson. “We are greatly indebted to the Campbell family for their willingness to host what is widely recognised as the major event for the sheep industry in Scotland and our main sponsor, Royal Bank of Scotland, and all the other generous sponsors, who make NSA Scotsheep possible.”

Mrs Macpherson’s comments are echoed by event chairman, Scott Somerville, of feed merchants, Galloway and Macleod Ltd and a former chairman of the rural affairs committee of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers, who describes Blyth Bank as the “perfect venue”.

“Blyth Bank will provide a superb backdrop for Scotland’s flagship sheep event which will showcase everything good about Scottish sheep farming,” he said.

Mr Somerville’s local organising committee has put together a superb programme of demonstrations and activities to whet the appetite of visitors.

Virtually every breed of sheep will be on display in the breed societies’ area and more than 200 businesses will be represented in the extensive trade stand area, featuring everything from genetics, nutrition and sheep management to marketing the end product of quality Scotch lamb.

“Bringing together all sectors of Scotland’s sheep industry on one day is an opportunity for sheep farmers to share ideas, gain perspective and catch up with old friends,” said Glenrath managing director, Ian Campbell.

It is hoped that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs – whoever that might be following the Scottish Parliament elections – will attend and the official opening ceremony will be performed at 10.00am by Ross McEwan, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland.

Leading industry figures have been invited to participate in three seminars which will cover the vitally important topics of health status of the national sheep flock, new opportunities and finance in sheep farming and profitable sheep production.

The farm tour by tractor and trailer is always a big attraction at NSA Scotsheep and this year’s event will be no exception.

Mr Campbell lays great emphasis on growing grass which is a priority on the farm and there’s no doubt that finishing lambs on forage is a model which many lamb finishers will be attracted to as they strive to remain profitable in the future.

“Being able to grow high quality forage allows lambs to finish quickly, meet the grades required by processors and provide the consumer with the highest quality fresh lamb,” Mr Campbell said.

Other popular attractions will include stockjudging, sheep dog trial, farmers market and craft fair, and practical demonstrations of sheep shearing, butchery, carcase grading, crook making, sheep dressing, wool spinning and fencing.

Another feature, which proved highly successful at the last NSA Scotsheep and the two NSA Highland Sheep events held in the Highlands, will be the show and sale of pairs of ewe hoggs which will be eagerly anticipated by potential buyers.

The Campbell family run a total of 10,000 breeding ewes as part of their extensive farming business. This includes five hill farms stocked with Scottish Blackface ewes which are put to the Blackface tup, allowing them to breed all their own replacement females for both their hill and lowland farms.

Bluefaced Leicester tups from their own flock are used on their lowland farms and crossed with Blackface ewes to breed all replacement Mule ewes. There is also a Suffolk flock, as well as the Texel flock at Blyth Bank, and the home-bred Suffolk and Texel tup lambs are then used on the Mules to breed finished lambs.

The lowland farms provide ideal conditions for finished lambs, the vast majority of which are sold in lorry loads to Woodhead Bros who supply into Morrisons supermarkets.

This integrated structure allows the Campbell’s to maintain a closed flock which in turn has a positive effect on the health status of the various flocks.

The diversification into egg production has proved highly successful over the years and Blyth Bank incorporates 10 free range Laying sheds housing 32,000 birds each. All eggs are sold to major retailers.

The farm has also been adapted to allow for extensive environmental schemes, including the planting of 20,000 trees and the use of reed beds.

NSA Scotsheep enthusiasts – and not least the host farming family and the organisers – will be hoping that there will no repeat of the last Scotsheep two years ago in the Borders when incessant rain throughout the day almost caused the event to be cancelled and unfortunately curtailed the farm tour.

We will stick to the mantra that it can’t possibly happen twice and that all those attending can look forward to a magic day absorbing all the latest developments and innovations in the sheep industry and enjoying the company of their fellow sheep farmers from throughout the country – and further afield.


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