Sheep farmers attending this week’s Highland Sheep event that took place near Strathpeffer in Ross-shire were urged to fight for a bright future for their sector.
Organised by the National Sheep Association (NSA) in Scotland, the biennial event was officially opened by Sutherland farmer Joyce Campbell of Armadale, who called on the sector to take a united approach.
It’s up to us to promote the industryJohn Fyall
“Let’s take ownership of our industry for ourselves,” said Campbell, who runs a flock of 780 Lairg-type North Country Cheviot ewes across 5,600 acres and who has been a recipient of the QMS sheep farmer of the year award.
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“We all have to work together to deliver a strong future. Let’s not just accept surviving or just getting by. Let’s go for a bright sheep industry in Scotland.”
Campbell, who has been a noted Facebook champion for the industry, looked south of the Border for inspiration with marketing and said more work needed to be done to get shoppers eating more lamb – English consumers eat up to 7.5kg of lamb a year, while Scots consume only a third of this.
She called for butchers’ shops and supermarkets to display recipes for shoppers outlining how to cook different cuts of lamb.
NSA Scotland chairman John Fyall said the sheep sector needed to be promoted to everyone.
He said: “People need to realise that we are an industry that’s really worth protecting and growing. It’s up to us to promote the industry. Nobody else is going to help us.”
Lanarkshire hill farmer Jennifer Craig spoke of the environmental benefits brought about by the sheep sector – a message that needed to be delivered to government and the public.
She said: “Our environmental benefits are one of the biggest pluses that we have to sell what we are doing to the public.
“If there were no hill farms in the local areas, a lot of these rural villages would disappear. Without us there would be a serious increase in land abandonment.”
The Highland Sheep event was also used to present the NSA Scotland silver salver – presented every year in recognition of outstanding contribution to the sheep industry.
This year’s recipient was Joyce Campbell and the team at Armadale, made up of husband Ian MacLeay and niece and nephew Frances and Mure Grant.
The quartet were commended for their engagement with the public and use of social media to showcase the farm.