Our focus interests are in improving genetics to improve flock productivity by breeding vigorous lamb who will survive in challenging winter conditions in Scotland.
Tell us a bit about your background and how long you have been farming for?
I’ve been farming at Tomnagrew for about 30 years. My father, John Bryce, began farming on the adjacent farm in 1959 and then took this farm on in 1967. I’ve always wanted to farm, but I’ve also been interested in machinery, repairing and fabricating. So, if I wasn’t here I might have gone into engineering.
Tell us more about your farm and the activities you do?
It is an upland hill farm sitting around 750ft above sea level but can rise to about 1500ft. The land is mainly permanent and temporary grass, with fodder crops grown to feed the sheep in winter. I am also experimenting with growing multi-species leys (grass). The land is improved upland which the sheep and cattle graze on when the grass begins to grow in the springtime. In the winter the sheep are outside and fed with a TMR (total mix ratio) of homegrown silage, barley and molasses.
On the farm I do the labour, with some help from my father. We subcontract part time labour at lambing season and to help with shearing, silage making and direct drilling fodder crops.
Our focus interests are in improving genetics to improve flock productivity by breeding vigorous lamb who will survive in challenging winter conditions. I am also interested in improving land by direct drilling and minimal tillage, as well as embracing new technology in sheep handling and recording.
What do you enjoy about working with sheep and what is the hardest part?
I enjoy the challenge of improving and managing the sheep flock. The hardest part of flock management is dealing with bad weather during lambing season. But the greatest thing about our sheep is their ability to survive long harsh winters and then bore high quality lambs in the springtime.
Can you recall a memorable moment, day or year on the farm?
2018 was a challenging year. We had very dry conditions with no rain for several months causing poor silage yields and difficulties establishing fodder crops.
Describe a “day in the life” of you?
My day normally starts with taxi-ing my four children to various school buses, then I start the routine of checking or feeding livestock (depending on the time of year). I don’t have a set start of finish time as it depends what is happening on the farm, with long hours during lambing and calving season and more set hours during the winter. No two days are the same.
What do you love about wool and why do you think it’s a good fibre?
Wool is fantastic at keeping sheep warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The fibre is a natural product which is renewable, biodegradable, a good insulator and breathable. I am very encouraged by Brannach Olann’s proactive approach to marketing our wool by creating a unique selling point which in return gives us a better return on our wool crop.
How long does it take to shear your flock?
It takes around two days to shear around 2000 sheep.
- Location: Dunkeld
- Flock Size: 1850
- Breed Type: Highland Texel
H.Dawson and Brannach Olann of the Woolkeepers® Initiative have been working with Red Tractor and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to establish a new campaign, Red Tractor Wool. Anyone buying your wool will be able to use their logo to promote British Wool. Can you explain your relationship with Red Tractor?
QMS carries out an annual audit on the farm which allows me to sell lamb as QMS farm assured. Our farm buildings and handling facilities are checked as well as stock records and medicine record keeping. The inspection is very thorough and will pick up on anything which might cause injury or harm to my livestock.
They do a good job promoting the Scottish meat industry with a limited budget which is raised from levies from the sale of cattle, sheep and pigs (sheep 80pm, cattle 550p and pigs 126p).
I have attended several QMS grazing group meetings and animal husbandry events organised by QMS, all have been interesting and worthwhile.
I am also part of a co-op lamb producer group and have achieved gold standard in their five-pillar model to ensure that the farmers within the co-op group are adhering to their co-op group ethos. These pillars are:
- Health, welfare and quality
- Co-op branding
- Ethical and training
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 Woolroom Ltd.
Woolroom is a rural retailer-based right in the heart of England. They believe there is a better way to do sleep and understand that rather than making a purchasing based on price, we should be thinking about what is going to deliver each individual the best night’s sleep, as well as what is going to have the best possible impact on this beautiful planet. You’ll find a range of temperature regulating, hypoallergenic duvets, pillows and mattress toppers that are expertly hand-crafted to help you fall back in love with sleep – night after night. What’s more, you can buy with confidence knowing that your order will be delivered as naturally as possible, with absolutely zero synthetics. They also offer the UK’s only range of machine washable wool bedding.