WHEN LIVESTOCK farmers work closely with foresters, the integrated results can bring a major boost to farm viability.

In an effort to highlight such success stories – and counter the argument that forestry is a threat to successful livestock farming – Scotland's Finest Wood Awards were presented at the Royal Highland Show for the first time since 2019, with some notable livestock operations riding high on the prizelist.

Allanfauld Farm, near Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, was a double winner, with fourth generation family farmer John MacGregor and forester Andy Maclachlan jointly taking the Young People’s Farm Woodland Award, while the family farm owners, A MacGregor (Allanfauld) Ltd, were highly commended in the ‘all age’ award.

Judges said that John, who still works closely with his father Archie on the 623-hectare farm, and Andy, Scottish Woodland Ltd’s regional manager for South West Scotland, had developed mutual respect and trust after almost a decade working together on planting.

“Andy is primarily a forester with some limited knowledge of farming but a recognition of the importance of working closely with farmer clients and respecting their needs and interests," noted the judges. "John is a farmer through and through with little interest in the details of forestry per se but with a very strong interest in knowing how new plantings can be designed to ensure they integrate well with his livestock interests. Andy and he have worked closely on all aspects of design, planting and follow-up management.”

The judges described John MacGregor and his father Archie as forward-thinking, adding: “Historically, this has been reflected in their focus on the improvement and marketing of their premium livestock enterprises. But, they also recognise the importance of diversification for improving the overall farm viability and have shown a willingness to incorporate new approaches.”

The ‘all age’ Farm Woodland Award and Lilburn Trophy was shared between Williamwood, Lockerbie and Knockbain Farm, Dingwall in Ross-shire. Williamwood, judges said, was 'striving to improve woodland habitats in complete fusion with food production and taking these mission statements to the public via their holiday accommodation.

“A wind that hails from the Solway Firth gathers momentum but the woods and hedges of Williamwood allow stock to graze unhindered and benefit unquestionably from them," said the judges. Without the woodland, Williamwood's farmers, Michael and Shirley Clarke said, 'the farm would be exposed to the strong winds which blow from the Solway, the grass would not grow as well and we, our livestock and the wildlife would shiver'.

Read more: 'Tree Oscars' seek out Scotland's finest farm woodlands

Joint winner Knockbain Farm was also praised for the shelter provided by trees, which 'undoubtedly increased the farm’s capital value'. At Knockbain, firewood provides heating through a biomass boiler for the farmhouse and income is generated through timber sales. Judges described it as 'an outstanding example of what can be achieved in environmental, social and business terms by expanding woodland connectivity through new planting and establishment of hedgerows'.

A Highly Commended prize in the ‘all-age’ Farm Woodland category was collected by Andrew and Jayne Adamson, of Netherurd Home Farm, Blyth Bridge, West Linton, Scottish Borders, owned by W Laird & Sons. Almost 40 hectares of the 253-hectare farm is woodland, and the judges said: “Andrew takes a keen interest in the management of the woodlands and is clear in his own mind what he wants to achieve within each woodland. The main benefits are providing shelter as well as shade around cropping and grassland fields, increasing the landscape/aesthetics and alternative income, for example from saw logs and firewood sales.”

The Farm Woodland Awards are sponsored by SAC Consulting and Scottish Woodlands Ltd. Executive Director of Scotland’s Finest Woods, Angela Douglas, said: “We had a strong group of entries for the two Farm Woodland prizes this year and we were very pleased to be able to honour them in person for the first time since 2019. The judges were again impressed by how skilfully and successfully the winners and commended entries had integrated woodlands into their farm enterprises to deliver multiple benefits.”