A leading sheep farmer from Scotland has stressed the need for farmers to market themselves much better if they want to survive.
Joyce Campbell, who farms at Armadale Farm in the Highlands, is known to many for her love of sheep, her dogs and the Scottish landscape. Active on social media platforms, as well as appearances on TV and radio, Joyce is determined to show the wider public why the UK sheep industry leads the world in quality and welfare standards.
Commenting on the need for a voice in the changing world, Joyce says, “For a sustainable future, it’s not only important to ensure we are doing the best job possible, but also ensure our consumers know about it.”
Joyce’s passion for the industry is clear, but so also is the sense of responsibility she has to the 5,500-acre farm that has been passed through her family since her grandparents and Dad took over in 1962. She took on the full running of the farm in 1990, aged 20, having returned from Auchencruive College. The farm carries a flock of around 830 pure-bred North Country Cheviot Hill ewes in addition to around 50 tups, 255 ewe hogg replacements and 25 suckler cows.
“For most of the year our sheep are out on the hills, grazing on the heather. This is a very extensive, sustainable system of farming that has been practiced in the region for generations. It has formed what is a magnificent landscape that is appreciated around the world – which is a selling point for our products,” she adds.
Lambing starts in mid-April for around 5 weeks and scanning in the middle of February ensures Joyce can make informed management decisions on nutrition.
“It’s vital to provide the correct energy in late pregnancy nutrition to avoid any deficiency and risk of twin lamb disease. Getting a healthy ewe and lambs is critical for business performance. It’s so important to focus on the quality of feed you are offering.
“A measure of success of the nutrition is the amount of calcium you use at lambing time. If you aren’t using any, you know they have been fed adequately. I’ve been using extra high energy blocks for years; and swear by them. Animals can self-regulate their intakes according to their requirements. This ‘little and often’ process benefits forage digestion, which can be seen in animal performance. We have healthy and growing lambs with mothers that produce milk.
“It’s important that we can stand by the product we produce with pride and confidence. I want to know the products I use are effective and also have the animal’s health and welfare at the forefront. I need a team of staff (and that very much includes the dogs) that I trust to treat the sheep with respect and care. As farmers we need to question ourselves more and consider how we project ourselves. I’m an open book and as such need to make sure my animals are managed to the highest standards available to me. I want to encourage the public to learn about our system and how Scotch Lamb and Beef is produced and know they will go away better informed and with a sense of assurance that it is produced ethically and sustainably.
Dr Cliff Lister, Crystalyx technical manager adds, “As a previous winner of the Agriscot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year, Joyce is recognised for her high standards of management. The location of her farm makes it a real challenge against the elements, yet Joyce does that with an incredible spirit and ability. She’s always looking for ways to improve and understands, especially with her system, the need for effective nutrition. Using energy blocks that withstand the weather, and provide quality nutrition for fertility, pregnancy, growth and health, are a significant component in her management success, and as farmers head in to spring, I would encourage them to review their flock nutrition and consider the benefits providing additional energy to improve performance.”
Joyce concludes. “The economic value of farming on the wider community is often forgotten and I feel we can all do more to show our value.
“There’s a lot to be positive about – regardless of politics, people need to eat and by understanding the farming industry better will be more willing to support it. It’s our job to continue to produce consistently tasty food that offers value for money, so we get the repeat purchases much needed for future success.”