Scottish Sheep Farmer of the Year 2018

Neil & Debbie McGowan, Incheoch, Alyth Flock 894McGowan Photo 2018.jpg

Lleyn breeders Neil and Debbie McGowan of the Incheoch flock, Alyth, Perthshire, have been announced as the 2018 AgriScot Scottish Sheep Farm of the Year, an award run by AgriScot and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and sponsored by Thorntons Solicitors.

Incheoch is a 485-hectare upland farm at the foot of Glenisla, near Blairgowrie farmed by husband and wife team Neil and Debbie McGowan. Together in partnership with Neil’s parents Finlay and Judy and sister Clare, they run a low-cost sheep system in terms of capital and labour, along with a suckler herd. The farm uses EID technology and EBVs to help produce ‘functional, efficient and robust breeding stock’. The McGowans are dedicated to improving the genetics of their flock and enhancing the commercially relevant traits, particularly maternal characteristics. The foundation of the sheep business is prime lamb production, however they have been selling grass-fed, performance recorded Lleyn and Texel rams at an on-farm sale for the last 11 years. Of the 1,100 Lleyn ewes, the best performers are bred pure for replacements with the remainder put to Texel tups for prime lambs. 100 Texel ewes breed rams for their own use and to sell. Prime lambs are sold to Woodheads averaging 20.2kg. Working with a local abattoir and butcher, the McGowans also sell 30-40 of their lambs direct to the public each year in bespoke retail packs. Lambing is outdoors in April / May with minimal intervention. To help achieve an easier to manage outdoor lambing flock, performance records have helped achieve a reduction in scanning from 204% to 189% over the last 10 years, improving lamb survival rate to 83%. Incheoch also has 180 Luings (half bred pure and half to the Simmental bull), another 40 Simmentals and a handful of Angus kept for bull production.

Neil McGowan said: “Being announced as the Agriscot Scottish Sheep Farmer of the Year is great recognition to the effort that everyone involved at Incheoch puts into what all Scottish Sheep farmers try to do – produce a great product, sensitive to welfare and the environment, in a business that offers a way of life attractive to the next generation.”

Assessor and AgriScot board member Hamish Dykes commented: “We were incredibly impressed by the McGowans foresight and courage to go down their chosen path at such an early stage. Long before any of us knew what a Lleyn actually was, Neil and Debbie already had a flock of them and were preparing to start their on-farm ram sale.”

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