KEVIN STEWART of Sharpitlaw Farm in Kelso has been named the winner of this years AgriScot Sheep Farmer of the Year.

The prestigious award aims to showcase excellence in sheep production in Scotland and raise the profile of the dedication and stock management skills behind the production of Scotch Lamb PGI.

Sharpitlaw Farm fended off stiff competition from other sheep farmers across Scotland, including finalists Swinside Townfoot Farm near Jedburgh run by Peter and Vicki Hedley and Orchardton Farm in Ayrshire run by James Nisbet.

The judges recognised Sharpitlaw for its business resilience and the scale of the enterprise, run by Kevin, with minimal help over such a wide geographical area. In addition, the assessors recognised his investment in young people, his ongoing animal health planning and his uptake of new ideas to make it easier to work single-handedly but retain a good work-life balance.

Mr Stewart farms 500-hectares on three, predominantly upland, units from a base at Sharpitlaw. The farms carry 1,250 ewes, 315 gimmers, 970 ewe lambs, 1,080 feeding lambs, 520 ram lambs and 100 summer grazing cattle.

The sheep enterprise is based on modern sheep genetics and home-produced forage and the flock comprises predominantly of Highlander ewes – a composite breed originating in New Zealand.

Sharpitlaw produces prime lambs, gimmers, ewe lambs and rams. Technical performance is monitored through detailed records which has allowed the business to respond to dips in numbers scanned, marking lamb survival figures and changing growth rates established through regular weighing.

Alongside the winning title, Mr Stewart received a £500 cheque as well as a £250 voucher to celebrate their success at a Scotch Beef Club restaurant.

On winning his award Kevin said: “We are delighted to win this award and to be recognised for our production of Scotch Lamb PGI. We were up against two other tremendous businesses who are also producing to the highest of levels.

“We really enjoyed the process, including welcoming the assessors on farm, and the rigorous assessment; it has been hugely worthwhile for both ourselves and the wider business.”

The final three farms were visited by the judging panel which comprised of AgriScot board member Hamish Dykes, chair of QMS Kate Rowell and former Sheep Farmer of the Year for 2018 winner Neil McGowan.

Kate Rowell commented: “I was extremely impressed with the businesses of all three finalists, but Kevin’s level of stocksmanship, his grasp of figures relating to all parts of his farming enterprises and his willingness to adapt to a changing market make him a very worthy winner.”

Robert Neill added: “The sheep sector has not been without its challenges. We are grateful to all the farms entered for this award. It is great to have people willing to showcase the sector in the current climate. Huge congratulations to our finalists, and of course to our Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year, Sharpitlaw. The farmers, families and teams behind these successful enterprises should be rightfully proud.”

Partner and head of the Land and Rural Business team at Thorntons, Kenneth Mackay, said: “These awards champion an industry which has the highest welfare and environmental standards in the world. We’re proud to help support AgriScot and recognise the achievements of those within the agricultural sector."