West Shields Farm, located near Tow Law in Co Durham, is run by the Smiths and is very much a traditional family affair.
Trading as WH and J Smith and Sons, John Smith established this farming enterprise in 1930 at Stone Foot Hill, Tow Law. 
Today, John (81) is still very much an integral part of the business working alongside his sons, David and Alan. Also involved in the day to day management of the farm are John’s nephew, Jim, and great nephew, Richard. 
Grandson Scott has recently graduated from Newton Rigg Agricultural College and returned home to farm, and 13-year-old Billy, although still at school, is extremely keen to get involved in the farm. 
Today, the Smith family farm in the region of 1200 acres in and around Tow Law, and operate a traditional mixed farming enterprise. 
Exposed to the elements, the family live at the 900-acre West Shields Farm, which sits at 270m above sea level. 
Alongside West Shields, other farms include the 150-acre West Carr Farm, and the 375-acre South Shields, which was purchased in 2005. Both West Carr and South Shields include former open cast mining land. 
The farm comprises 100 acres of arable land for barley and wheat, which is all crimped and used for home feeding. 
In the region of 320 acres of grass is also set aside for a single cut of silage with 10 acres of land used for growing swedes.
Visitors attending North Sheep will also have the opportunity to explore the progressive system adopted by the family to optimise their commercial sheep enterprise of 1350 breeding ewes, predominantly Mules, which are now crossed to Texel rams due to the premiums available in comparison to selling Suffolk cross lambs as in previous years. 
The family has also seen increased efficiency and improved margins from selling Texel cross lambs.
Rams have been sourced from Gus Dalton, at Glen Hill Farm, Allendale, for the past 10 years as they are reared on a natural system which has many similarities to that at West Shields. 
They also select larger breeding ewes and rams which tend to produce bigger lambs. 
Lambing takes place from the end of March and continues into early April, mainly outside, with all lambing duties carried out by the family. 
In contrast to the majority of units, ewes are not scanned, instead, feed requirements are selected according to condition score, the weather and previous experience. Hence, ewes are sorted out in February with leaner females given additional forage. 
Average lambing percentages usually work out at around 165%, with the aim to sell heavier lambs in the region of 45kg, at Hexham from the middle of July through to the following March.
Alongside the sheep enterprise, the Smiths also manage a herd of 300, mainly home-bred Angus cross suckler cows; 200 spring calving and 100 autumn calving. 
Cows are put to bulls, half Charolais and half Angus, which are purchased for temperament, ease of calving, milk production and good feet, which is particularly important due to the former open cast land.
The best of the heifer calves are retained as breeding replacements, with the remainder being sold as store cattle at 12 months of age, also through Hexham Auction Mart. 
A proportion of the Angus cattle are also sold privately, specifically to Waitrose market.
All cattle are housed in straw bedded courts during the winter months and turned out late May, depending on the weather and the grass growth. 
Housed cattle receive a TMR containing silage, molasses, soya, rape meal, crimped grain and minerals and calves are creep fed from a month old.
Due to the nature of the open cast land which holds the water on top, most of the land has been drained since it was purchased. Prior to draining, it was difficult to graze, especially following a wet winter as experienced during lambing two years ago.
As a result, the Smiths subsoiled the land and have established some hard standing areas for feeding sheep. 
Approximately 50 acres of grassland is reseeded each year on a rotational basis as a long term ley with some short term red clover also planted. There is also approximately 200 acres of permanent pasture.
The farm has utilised all possible natural resources, initially the coals and nowadays the wind and sunshine produce renewable energy. A 12.5 kW wind turbine was installed in 2012 alongside solar panels and a biomass boiler which feed three houses. 
The Smiths have also rented out land for roads and space for six turbines which are part of the West Durham Wind Farm – receiving a minimum rent payment and a generation income for both.
Continuing with the utilisation of natural resources, 162 acres of forestry provides additional revenue stream for the business. Managed by the family themselves with some external support, the Smiths run their own sawmill and make all their own fence posts and feed boxes. 
Any trees that are felled are replanted to ensure both a sustainable environment and business future. 
For the last 10 years soil has been managed by Soil Fertility Services and the Smith family apply 56 tonnes of their salt-based trace element product each year.
In view of NSA North Sheep 2017, the family are very much looking forward to welcoming the sheep industry to Co Durham and in the fields at West Shields. 
The event takes place at an ideal time of the year when everything is blooming. By visiting West Shields Farm, others within the industry will have the opportunity to see how this traditional farming family is working together to future proof their progressive, commercial sheep enterprise for generations to come.