Farmers and crofters were urged to rally together and promote the importance of the sheep industry to government and the wider public at yesterday’s Highland Sheep event.
The biennial event, organised by the Scottish branch of the National Sheep Association (NSA), was staged at Dorothy Clark and Amy Grant’s Kinnahaird Farm at Contin, Strathpeffer, Ross-shire.
NSA Scotland chairman, John Fyall, told producers that the organisation would be making the sheep industry’s presence felt at every opportunity in the year ahead.
“All the jobs and services these sheep keep need to be championed and people need to realise that we are an industry that’s really worth protecting and growing,” said Mr Fyall, who farms at Sittyton Farm, near Newmachar, Aberdeenshire.
“Long-term we have the opportunity with governments to create a plan to suit ourselves. We have been told to bring them [politicians] the ideas we want. We need to make sure we are seen as an industry worth protecting. It’s up to us to promote the industry. Nobody else is going to help us.”
Mr Fyall’s plea was backed by award-winning Sutherland shepherdess Joyce Campbell, who runs a flock of 780 Lairg-type North Country Cheviot ewes across 5,600 acres at Armadale.
Officially opening yesterday’s event Ms Campbell, who was crowned Scotland’s Sheep Farmer of the Year in 2015, said the hills would be void of life without sheep.
She said: “The lights are being kept on in the glens where sheep farmers remain. You need only take a trip to the back-end sales of lambs and ewes to appreciate the financial impact our industry has on rural Scotland.”
Ms Campbell called for all butchers shops and supermarkets to display recipes outlining how to cook different cuts of fresh lamb.
She said everyone involved in the sheep industry needed to work together to encourage shoppers to eat more lamb – on average the Scottish consumer eats between 2kg and 2.5kg of lamb a year, while the English consumer consumes up to 7.5kg of lamb per year.
“We all have to work together to deliver a strong future. Let’s take ownership of our industry for ourselves. Let’s not just accept surviving or just getting by. Let’s go for a bright sheep industry in Scotland,” added Ms Campbell.
Meanwhile, Ms Campbell and her team from Armadale were yesterday awarded one of the sheep industry’s highest accolades.
The team at Armadale as this year’s recipients of the National Sheep Association Scotland’s silver salver. The salver is awarded in recognition of outstanding contribution to the sheep industry.