Duncan & Catherine
Meet Duncan and Catherine from Ballabeg Farm
Tell us a bit about your background and how long you have been farming for?
I have been farming here on my own account at Ballabeg in West Perthshire since 1968 when I
married Catherine and obtained the farm lease. My grandfather and father farmed here before me since 1933. Ballabeg is within the less favoured area and although the fertile Carse of Stirling is nearby our land is marginal with a lot of rough grazing. I never considered doing anything else but farming. I was one of 9 and no one else in the family was interested in taking on the job.
Tell us more about your farm and the activities you do?
My wife and I work full time on this mixed farm of suckler cows and commercial sheep. Our family come and help at busy times like lambing time and shearing. We have a shearer come in and get the job done as quickly as possible, weather permitting. I used to contract shear myself but with advancing years that is but a memory! Our favourite time of year is lambing time. The daylight hours are stretching and new life is appearing on the farm and all around the wildlife is getting into top gear as well. My main interest in sheep farming is producing prime lambs for market.
How many sheep do you have and what breed types?
I have a stock of Blackface ewes that I cross with the Charrolais tup to give me my female stock for my main flock that I then cross with the Suffolk tup. The wool from the BlackfaceXCharrolais is beautiful. Unfortunately over the last years it is practically worthless. This new scheme will, perhaps, add a little value to it.
What do you enjoy about working with sheep and what is the hardest part?
Working with sheep gives me great pleasure, especially if I have a young collie dog to train. I enjoy working the dogs and moving sheep from pasture to pasture or into the fank for dosing, drawing lambs etc., It can be very challenging when the ewes have to be moved with their young lambs. They are very protective and reluctant to move from where they are. The hardest bit about working with adult sheep is deciding when they have to leave the farm and go to market once their breeding time is over. You get to know them and their history if they have been good mothers.
What do you love about wool and why do you think it’s a good fibre?
Wool at the moment is more of a bother than a benefit. It costs more to remove, roll and pack and transport than any financial return. Which is sad considering it’s good qualities. To think that wool was used in the foundations of many of the railway viaducts built in the Victorian era. It is such a durable product. We are delighted to hear that Brannach Olann is initiating this programme and look forward to seeing a more positive attitude to this wonderful product.
How do you manage the Animal 5 freedoms and provide details of interest?
My sheep have the best life here with the best grazing I can provide with shelter on the rough grazing whichever way the wind blows. I feed my ewes concentrates from mid February until the grass comes. I see my sheep every day but disturb them as little as possible. Sheep like to be left alone but need supervision. Freedom from fear and distress is impossible to control, these days, with ravens, badgers, foxes, carrion crows and now the pet dog. The sheep experience no fear from me but those predators are beyond my control.
Close the loop and find out what we made?
The Woolkeepers® initiative has captured both transparency and traceability in a unique wool assurance scheme which traces wool from farm gate to shop front. Our visibility within the supply chain ensures compliance with safety, sustainability and welfare requirements. Each time we process wool, we create a unique identifier which traces the batch back to farm, as well as forward to our customer.
This batch of wool went to Hypnos Wool Origins Range
Hypnos are a long-established family business with an illustrious Royal history to be proud of. And they pour it all back into our design and craft to hand build the most comfortable beds in the world. Hypnos has taken the next step in its commitment to sustainability by partnering with Red Tractor Food and Farming standards in an industry first that has seen the brand create the pioneering Origins Collection. This range of mattresses uses the most responsibly sourced materials possible, including 100% British wool that’s traceable right back to Red Tractor assured farms.