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Profession that’s a privilege

Sutherland farms and estates showed off their best tups ahead of the Lairg sale
Sutherland farms and estates showed off their best tups ahead of the Lairg sale

Autumn is a very special time of year for me. As a farmer I’m in the privileged position to see the countryside around me and its resident wildlife preparing for winter.

Pulling on my boots this morning I could hear the sound of wild geese overhead on their migration south.

The red deer rut is well underway and it’s great to see the stags in action rounding up their harems of hinds. The hills all around are ringing out with stags roaring. There is no better entertainment than to listen to their impressive sounds on a still evening.

Bryan Burnett and a team from Radio Scotland visited us last week to do a short interview for a program called ’My Dream Job’. It made me reflect on how very lucky I am to be farming and doing a job I love.

One of the questions I was asked was how I came to be a farmer? I explained that I started work after leaving school, with a major local employer, the Dounreay Atomic Energy Authority. Very quickly I realised that there were people in the world who did not enjoy their work. From the start it was an alien environment from what I had been used to in growing up on a hill farm.

My short time at Dounreay gave me enough impetus to go to agricultural college. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Auchencruive but I am also glad to have experienced a job other than farming, even if it wasn’t for me.

Lack of job satisfaction or enthusiasm are words that could not be applied to the group of shepherds who I joined last weekend, for the annual ‘North Tup Tour’ of flocks of North Country Hill Cheviots bound for the October sales in Lairg and Dingwall. I was a bit of a lightweight as I only managed one twelve hour shift and missed out on the North West section done on the previous day.

There were many impressive tups on show, giving plenty opportunities for even the most discerning and hard to please shepherds from throughout the country to obtain top quality new bloodlines for their flocks.

Through the course of the day I took pictures of every group of tups that I visited and also of the countryside we drove through. I put it all together on a slideshow along with music from a great young Scottish band called Heron Valley. In the first twenty four hours of posting onto FaceBook it had been viewed five and half thousand times and shared by forty eight different people.

I think I may have overdone some of the tourist shots as one of the comments left was that the North Coast 500 could be renamed North Country Cheviot 500.

Ultimately flock masters in the north have to work that wee bit harder to persuade potential buyers of their stock, that the long trip to the North Highlands, historically the home of the North Country Cheviot breed, is well worthwhile.

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