Show Stalwart takes to the helm as Judge at the Royal Highland
Success and experience are just two of the qualities that Neil McGowan of the Incheoch Flock, Perthshire brings to the Lleyn show ring at the Royal Highland Show as the judge.
Neil has been at Incheoch Farms for 19 years. Previously he studied Agri-Business Management at Newcastle University before taking time out to travel New Zealand and Australia . In 2000 he married Debbie and returned home full time to farm. Neil and Debbie farm alongside Neil's parents Judy and Finlay, and sister Clare. Children Tally, 8 and Angus, 6 are both already keen farmers. The farm is situated on the border between Perthshire and the Angus Glens. It is made up of 1000 acres of upland alongside 200 acres of malting barley plus a further 300 acres of grassland farmed on a management contract.
The Lleyn enterprise began in 1998. Neil said "the first Lleyn females were bought from Carlisle in 1998 because the sheep enterprise was not working very well with returns at that time of £30 per lamb. We had to increase output but reduce input". The Lleyn has been found to be tremendously adaptable with the ability to fit around the rest of the farm system. The sheep and the 200 beef breeding cattle complement each other in grazing and labour management. Originally the flock was run commercially but when Debbie moved north to join Neil she already had an established registered flock and that was to become the foundation flock hence everything is registered today.
Today the McGowan's run 1000 pure registered Lleyn and 70 Pure Bred Texel . 450 of the Lleyn are put to the Texel , everything else is kept pure. The lambing takes place at the end of April and into May with the intention of missing the snow and meeting the grass growth. The flock has seen a five year rearing average of 178%. Neil says, "Compared to figures 7 years ago, when the previous crossbred flock still dominated, we now wean the same number of lambs from 100 less ewes. These ewes individually need less work and less feed, but collectively the 100 ewes that are no longer here save a whole heap of work and feed!"
The lambs are finished and sold deadweight to McIntosh Donald with 40 boxed and sold to a niche market. 250 shearling gimmers are sold off farm every year either privately or through the Stirling Society sale. Rams are sold at their annual on farm sale.
Neil comments "we need to concentrate on taking more costs out and most importantly making the job more appealing. The Lleyn is ideally placed for this as a pure bred ewe which can be selected to allow the elimination of many tasks such as dagging, foot pairing, lambing etc".
Neil and Debbie have won the championship at the Royal Highland no less than three times, that included the last two shows of 2010 and 2011. The family has also had much success at local shows. The Society sales have seen them realise top prices on many occasions.
Everyone is invited to come down to the ringside on Thursday to view Neil in action judging the Lleyn classes.