A Perthshire family farming partnership headed by husband and wife Neil and Debbie McGowan has won through to the final of the AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year award.
Farming Incheoch, a 485-hectare upland unit at the foot of Glenisla, near Blairgowrie, Neil and Debbie run a low-cost sheep system in partnership with Neil’s parents Finlay and Judy and sister Clare, achieving a lamb survival rate of 83%.
Using EID technology and EBVs to help produce ‘functional, efficient and robust breeding stock’, the McGowans are ‘dedicated to improving the genetics of their flock and enhancing the commercially relevant traits, particularly maternal characteristics’, according to competition organisers AgriScot and Quality Meat Scotland.
While the foundation of their sheep business is prime lamb production, they have been selling grass-fed, performance recorded Lleyn and Texel rams at an on-farm sale for the last 11 years.
Of their 1,100 Lleyn ewes, the best performers are bred pure for replacements with the remainder put to Texel tups for prime lambs.
In addition, 100 Texel ewes breed rams for their own use and to sell while prime lambs are sold to Woodheads averaging 20.2kg.
Working with a local abattoir and butcher, the McGowans also sell 30-40 of their lambs direct to the public each year in bespoke retail packs.
Their opponent in a best-of-two final, is Bowhill Farming, who are based near Selkirk and managed by Sion Williams.
“Both businesses are incredibly impressive,” said Hamish Dykes, AgriScot board member and part of the competition assessment team.
“It is important that AgriScot showcases the best in Scottish sheep farming. We had a large number of nominations this year but the two finalists really shone out.”
The result of the final will be revealed at AgriScot on Wednesday November 21, when the winner will receive a £500 cheque from sponsors Thorntons Solicitors, as well as a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.