IT’S females to the fore at the host farm of this year’s Highland Sheep as Dorothy Clark and Amy Grant gear up for NSA Scotland’s third event of this kind in the Highlands. 

The forward thinking mother and daughter duo, who farm the 1000 acres of Kinnahaird Farm, near Contin, Strathpeffer, and run a flock of 450 breeding ewes as well as 160 commercial cows, look forward to welcoming farmers from all corners of Scotland. 

Amy, who is a very enthusiastic, dedicated and committed farmer, didn’t follow the usual route in to the family business as a dislike of cattle and sheep as a teenager led her to study Russian and marketing with a view to joining the family coal merchant’s business. That all changed when her father, Dorothy’s husband, sadly and suddenly passed away and so she came home to help her mother on the farm alongside sister, Sheena, who now lives and works in London.

Since then, she’s not looked back and has thrown herself into all aspects of the farm, as well as looking after three young boys and doing the books for her husband’s livestock haulage business. Perhaps this roundabout way of getting in to the farming industry has helped Amy along the way as she approaches all aspects of the business with an open mind, constantly looking at ways to improve the performance of the cattle and sheep enterprises. 

It’s for this reason the family got rid of their prize-winning pedigree Limousin herd back in July, 2015, as Amy commented: “To be honest they bled money and we didn’t have the time to look after them. The commercial herd was always the bread and butter of the business so we wanted to concentrate on it and get the most out of it.”

With this in mind, the commercial herd is mostly made up of Simmental cross females covered by Simmental bulls but more recently a Salers bull was purchased from Whitebog to bring in some different genetics to meet the demand for high-health breeding females. The cattle will all be seen during the hour-long farm tour available throughout the day, but with sheep under the spotlight at the event there will be plenty for producers to see.

The main portion of the flock is made up of home-bred Cheviot Mules while cross-bred tups are used as a terminal sire.

“We like the maternal aspect of the Cheviot Mule as they’re great mothers and don’t produce too many triplets,” said Amy, who previously used the prolific Scotch Mule but found this year’s lambing percentage of 197% much more manageable. “Our Charollais cross Texel and Charollais cross Beltex tups, mostly bought at Kelso, give lambs more vigour and the length and conformation passed on is ideal for the fat lamb market.”

With lambing kicking off in the third week of March, the first draw of last year’s lambs were finished off grass and sold through the nearby Dingwall mart by June 23, with the bulk of them away by the end of September. 

An interesting point for finishers will be the trial undertaken at Kinnahaird by Harbro. It involves three groups of 10 ewes fed on different ewe rolls for three weeks prior to lambing before they are blood tested. Lambs are weighed at birth and throughout their life on the farm to monitor their performance through to slaughtering. 

The first group was offered a roll that includes choline, which is supposed to trigger the genetics in the unborn lamb, such as a weaker triplet. The second group was fed a supplement containing Force 6, a natural inflammatory, while the third group was a control. With all ewes and lambs now integrated back in the main flock, Amy’s initial observations were that those ewes fed the Force 6 ewe roll lambed quicker and produced lambs that were significantly bigger but she was keen to see how this developed as the lambs grow. The results of the trial will be announced at Highland Sheep. 

As well as a busy livestock enterprise at Kinnahaird, the farm grows 160 acres of spring barley each year for malting and a further 50 acres of winter barley for feeding. Around 150 acres of silage is produced in a single cut, with the emphasis being on quality rather than bulk. 

In recent years there has been an effort to improve the grassland on the farm, and several trial re-seeded plots will also be available to view at the event with a specialised sward rejuvenation demonstration from Wox Agri Services. 

With all of this in mind and the various other demonstrations and seminars through the day, Highland Sheep is an event not to be missed for sheep producers looking for ways to improve their own management systems to meet the demands of the industry.