THE THIRD series of ‘This Farming Life’ is back and once again will take viewers on an intimate journey in to the livelihoods of farmers the length and breadth of Scotland and, for the first time, over the Irish Sea from Northern Ireland.

Viewers will be treated to spectacular drone shots of the stunning Scottish and Irish landscapes, capturing the beautiful but harsh climates throughout the different seasons. We will see intimate footage shot by the farmers themselves, showing the ups and downs of working life, during the challenging times of the ‘Beast from the East’ and a lengthy summer drought.

Eighteen months since series two landed on our screens, we caught up with returning BBC executive producer Jo Roe, who shared with the Scottish Farmer details of the new farming families and what we can look forward to in the new series.

“Once again, we follow the lives of six farming families, four from Scotland and new to this year’s series, two from Northern Ireland. Stevie Mitchell who was a hit on the last series, is back again this time around as we follow his progress towards building his buffalo mozzarella dairy operation,” she explained. “We open the first series with Stevie getting married, but in a shock twist of events, we see him return from his honeymoon to a bovine viral diarrhoea scare in his buffalo herd.”

New to the show are farming family Geoff and Lizzie Rodgers and their three children, from Co Down, Northern Ireland. They run a 280-acre pedigree and commercial beef farm in the Mourne Mountains, where they look after a mixture of Limousin, Charolais, Blondes, Shorthorn and British Blue cattle.

Jo continued: “Tragically, when we first met the Rodgers, they had just recently had 20 of their pedigree cattle slaughtered, following an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis. It was a very emotional time to be capturing on camera as they were desperately in the process of trying to get two consecutive negative tests to verify the health status of the farm. Although it is a sad beginning, there are a lot of amazing filming moments on the farm across the series.”

In a busy first episode, viewers will also hear from father and son team, Johnny and Raymond Irvine, Inverlochy, Tomintoul, who look after a 7000-acre farm, where they run 700 Blackface sheep and a herd of 50 pedigree Charolais cattle. “We really loved filming with the Irvines and getting to meet new additions to the farming operation - a small flock of Valais Black Nose sheep,” said Jo.

“It was amazing to discover the astronomical prices these sheep go for – a lucrative side-line for the Irvine family. The whole crew were captivated by them and you can see the love pouring out of Raymond for his animals throughout the filming,” she continued.

“There’s another aspect to the Irvine’s story as 45 year old Raymond still works with his nearly 70 year old dad. Father and son rub along, but their relationship speaks to the wider issue of succession, which I think is widespread in the farming sector.’

The fourth family in the series is from the most northern point of Scotland, the island of Shetland. The Budge sisters, Kirsty and Aimee, run a mixed arable and livestock farm of 900 acres, with sheep, some commercial cattle and Shetland ponies.

“Kirsty and Aimee sisters are two very strong young women who have taken over the family farm after their father passed away four years ago,” Jo continued. “There is another sister Hannah who occasionally helps out, and their mum and grandpa are also hands on with the farm.

Kirsty and Aimee are constantly channelling new ideas in to improve their farm and are also part of the monitor farm project for Shetland.

“A real bonus of the filming was that the girls own this incredible little island off the coast of Shetland that they out graze their ewes on – which makes for some beautiful camera shots of the fantastic scenery Scotland has to offer."

Episode two sees crofting couple, Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer, on film. They took over a croft in the Cairngorms a year before filming and are embarking on a new journey, learning and trialling different projects along the way. “Our crofters are very much on a journey of firsts! Crofting is a new experience for them both and we meet them near the start of their journey which is very exciting,” Jo stated.

“They have an eco-approach to farming and we see them planting trees and looking at measures such as rotational grazing, every move determined by its impact on the land – so we see them moving their pig sty to different locations to keep the land regenerated,” she continued. “We see them get their first Highland cattle and follow them as they venture into bee keeping and an egg collection service.”

The final family is the McLeans, from Co Antrim, who look after a 280-acre dairy farm, breeding pedigree Holsteins. “We wanted to film on a dairy farm again, and this time we followed husband and wife Iain and Joyce, and their children, John, Matthew and Ellie, who work on the farm. They breed top quality Holsteins and have an array of cups and rosettes to show for their past showing achievements,” said Jo. “Their story is very moving as father Iain was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 20 years ago. Iain talks about how the disease has in some ways motivated him to push through and continue building up the farm, despite the struggles that come with the illness, and of working in the dairy industry.”

The series follows the format of 12 episodes, however this time they will be delivered in two blocks, to coincide with the winter and summer seasons. The first six episodes will be shown from next Wednesday, February 13, for six consecutive weeks at 8pm on BBC 2. The next six episodes will be shown later in the year.

Jo explained why the format has changed: “We wanted to transmit the episodes in a pattern which reflects the seasons in which they are filmed. Firstly, exploring winter and spring and latterly the summer and autumn seasons. Overall the series reveals the hard graft of farming and the huge acres farmers cover in all weathers and all seasons, fighting to care for their animals.”