At just 18-years-old, Chloe Cormack is taking the sheep world by storm with her sheep handling skills at lambing, shearing and in the show and sale rings. The Scottish Farmer's Kate Fisher found time in her busy year-round schedule to chat with her while assisting the Gray family at Sunnycroft Farm, Selkirk, with their lambing.

How has your career played out so far?

I grew up in a family that was cattle through and through whether it was beef on my dad’s side or dairy on my mothers. However, from a very young age I always knew cattle weren’t for me.

I was born in Cheshire and moved up to the Scottish Borders when I was five-years-old to escape TB as my dad brought out cattle for other people through his livery business.

The Scottish Farmer: Chloe and Adam Anderson winning junior stockdressing title at LiveScotChloe and Adam Anderson winning junior stockdressing title at LiveScot (Image: web)

I can still remember my first encounter with sheep, one day John Tilson, who my dad brought bulls out for at the time, drove into the yard and said to my brother Cameron and I to come over to his truck as he had something for us. He dropped the door and much to my parents delight, there were five pet lambs.

We were over the moon and afterwards my parents decided to buy us a couple sheep of our own as we were more able to do work with them. Despite this, my passion to be a shepherdess never really started until I went lambing at my aunts at the age of 12.

The Scottish Farmer: Getting lambs and ewes ready to move to a larger penGetting lambs and ewes ready to move to a larger pen (Image: Ref - RH130224013 Rob Haining - The Scottish Farmer)

I never really enjoyed school and after doing a few lambings in the Easter holidays with my aunt near Bonchester Bridge and at Sunnycroft in 2021, I decided to leave school to follow my ambition to pursue a role in agriculture. I attended Borders College where I studied for a national certificate in agriculture. At this stage, I asked Gordon and David Gray, if they would take me on for my farm placement and since leaving college I have continued to work as a self-employed shepherdess at Sunnycroft year on year.

My year kicks off with lambing from January through to April when I then team up with local shearing contractor Bob King. I started with Bob as a rousey from the age of 15 for two years before earning my place on a stand last season when I was able to shear 200 a day.

For me, my shearing season lasts from the end of May through until early August and through several seasons with Bob, I have made many contacts and new opportunities including crutching at St Boswells Mart on occasional Mondays which helps to keep me fit in the winter.

The Scottish Farmer: Chloe making sure the ewes and their lambs have plenty of silageChloe making sure the ewes and their lambs have plenty of silage (Image: Ref - RH130224010 Rob Haining - The Scottish Farmer)

The speed shear competition is a new event that I competed in this year too, which is a great opportunity to bring everyone together at the end of the season and for me to gain experience at a competitive level. I would like to compete at the RHAS in the future.

During summer I fit in shows as much as I can, dressing mostly Blue Texels for various clients which follows into the sales season. At LiveScot, last November, I recently won the SAYFC National Prime Lamb Dressing competition championship with Adam Anderson for Ettrick and Lauderdale YF. This was the first time we'd competed together and I understand this is the first time a junior team has beaten the seniors to the title.

I like to be kept busy, and in my spare time I draw portraits of animals using coloured pencils. I have drawn from a young age as it would give me something to do whilst my mum Christina Cormack was busy helping run the Zwarbles and Belted Galloway Cattle Societies in her role as breed secretary.

The Scottish Farmer: Getting lambs in the trailer before loading the ewes in to move to bigger pens Getting lambs in the trailer before loading the ewes in to move to bigger pens (Image: Ref - RH130224011 Rob Haining - The Scottish Farmer)

What do you enjoy doing most and why?

I enjoy doing a variety of jobs although I would consider August and September to be my favourite time of the year due to the combination of speed shears, dressing stock for sales and seeing the stock that you’ve spent the whole year caring for, go forward to the sales, as well as getting a good catch up with fellow breeders.

Do you keep any of your own stock?

Yes, I have a pedigree Blue Texel ewe hogg bought at Borderway Mart, in August last year, at the breed's premier sale, purchased from the Knockmult flock, Ireland. She came first in her class in the AOB class at LiveScot last year. I was also lucky to have been gifted an embryo from David Gray which was from a Corra ewe I admired and sired by a home-bred tup lamb at Ettrick. The result was a tup lamb which hopefully will be for sale as a shearling.

The Scottish Farmer: Chloe draws animal portraits in her spare timeChloe draws animal portraits in her spare time (Image: web)

Do you prefer working with cattle or sheep?

Definitely sheep, despite my mum being from a dairy background and my dad Fraser being from a beef farm. I just like the fact that you can handle sheep yourself with a good dog and a crook, plus the fact that breeding sheep have a quicker turn around than cattle.

Favourite breed of sheep and what do you like about them?

I’ve always been a fan of Blue Texels – their mothering ability is outstanding, they are a good dual purpose breed with lambs sired by a Blue often topping fat and store sales. Additionally, they perform well in the show ring. In my opinion they are becoming increasingly popular in the sale ring at the moment which is an extra incentive for someone like me who is just starting out as they are a easier to start up in financially than other breeds.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

This is a difficult one as I am involved in so many roles which I enjoy, however I would have to say dressing sheep for shows and sales.

What is your favourite show?

The Royal Highland Show is my favourite, although I find the Great Yorkshire feels more relaxing, perhaps as I’m further away from home and this creates a more relaxed atmosphere. I’ve heard the Welsh is good to, I’d like to go one year!

The Scottish Farmer: Chloe draws animal portraits in her spare timeChloe draws animal portraits in her spare time (Image: web)

Who inspires you most in farming?

My aunt Mary, as I would help her at lambings when I was younger. Her enthusiasm and work ethic were an inspiration, and she could always beat me to a lamb before I could catch it! She knew everything that went on in the sheds and the story behind every lamb. I learnt a lot from her such as lambing my first ewe and skinning my first lamb.

I also get a lot of inspiration from working with Gordon and David. Gordon is a good teacher, he is very patient and understanding. He has given me freedom to fail safely and is always challenging me. He taught me to drive farm vehicles and how string is your best friend. Often when I ask him how we’re going to do something he will ask me how I would do it first, if he doesn’t agree he will explain how he would do it instead.

David inspires me with his business mindset, he is good at selling stock and making a good pitch. He has taught me a lot from shearing, reversing a trailer, to giving me the opportunity to dress his sheep. Recently he has been giving me some scanning instructions so I can get a feel for it in the future.

What are you proud of?

I think over the last year I’ve been given a lot more trust and especially here at Sunnycroft, whether it’s taking sheep to shows or sales myself, handling a flush day or looking after the farm when the Grays are away, it’s a responsibility I don’t think many 18-year-olds get.

How do you spend your spare time?

I always like to be doing something, that’s why I enjoy drawing, it’s a nice way to relax at the end of a big day but it still earns me money which is a bonus when you’ve got sheep to buy!

I also enjoy helping with beating on shoots from October till early February. I go to Holylee Estate at Walkerburn, I first got the idea when a couple of lads from college said they were going. It’s great exercise and gets you out admiring the countryside and it was a chance for me to earn some extra income during the winter.

The Scottish Farmer: Chloe draws animal portraits in her spare timeChloe draws animal portraits in her spare time (Image: web)

If you could have gone into another career, what would it have been and why?

I think I would’ve chosen gamekeeping, it’s a great way to meet new people whilst still being out in the countryside. I couldn’t handle being behind a desk all day.

What would be your next career goal?

After shearing 200 sheep a day last year during the clipping season, I’m determined to get to 300. I think it’s good to have something to aim for.

David is also going to teach me sheep scanning so hopefully in the next couple years I can start, providing me with a new skill and source of income.

In your opinion, what are the main issues within the agricultural industry?

I think the lack of opportunities for young people to get onto the farming ladder is a huge concern, renting somewhere comes down to who can offer the most. It does make me fear for the future of farming for my generation and the next.

*Find Chloes art on Instagram - Facebook – Chloe Cormack Art