Torwoodlee & Buckholm Estate

I am aware that, as land managers and farmers, we need to produce more with less as well as providing healthy and sustainable food, biodiversity and ecosystem benefits. Most farmers have been doing this for generations but rather under the radar so continuing the journey along that road and getting recognition for that for all of us while improving our own productivity and efficiency as well as our carbon footprint is a major focus for me.

 

How long have you been farming for?

I am the new boy in the system here at Torwoodlee; I started running the 2 farms only in 2010 and 2015 but I hope I have learnt something from the experienced men on the ground and from reading everything I can.

Did you ever fancy doing something else?

I was in the wine trade for some years before returning to Torwoodlee to run the family estate. That was a great job and one that I loved but home was calling and I couldn’t escape the pull.

Tell us about the Estate and farm background?

When the Pringle family bought Torwoodlee from the Crown (James IV of Scotland) in 1501, we would have inherited many families working and living on the land quite probably in a sort of crofting-type arrangement. Over the centuries the arrangements and the families have changed but the principal work of looking after sheep, cattle and trees hasn’t altered very much. Of course, farms are larger and we now have machinery undreamt of even 100 years ago as well as medicines and pesticides to help us produce healthy (and happy) animals and crops. Working Torwoodlee Mains as a part of the larger estate along with the 1800 acres of Buckholm Farm allows a far greater scope for long-term views and utilisation of grass resources for example as well as my focus on the environment in all its glory.

What is your favourite time of year on the farm?

I think that the summer days once the silage is in, the pit is covered and feed for the 6 months of winter to come is secure can be glorious; having said that, it is Scotland so nothing is guaranteed! We have quite clay soils so we keep some water even in droughts and generally the silage fields green up quickly to afford the growing lambs a good mouthful of fresh, growing grass.

What type of farming takes place on the Estate?

We have in the past grown barley as a feedstock for cattle but really the ground isn’t good enough so now we grow grass and prime animals and we buy in barley and straw from those who are good at it.

Do you have a focussed interest?

I am aware that, as land managers and farmers, we need to produce more with less as well as providing healthy and sustainable food, biodiversity and ecosystem benefits. Most farmers have been doing this for generations but rather under the radar so continuing the journey along that road and getting recognition for that for all of us while improving our own productivity and efficiency as well as our carbon footprint is a major focus for me.

 

How many sheep do you have and what are the breeds?

Cheviots and Cheviot mules serve us extremely well; research shows us that overly prolific ewes do not produce huge growth benefits and a ewe carrying twins, I believe, is the best balance between welfare and profit. We need to work with the sheep as (perhaps uneven) partners to gain the best outcome for both parties. To that end, we maintain our numbers to ensure we can look after them well while doing all the other jobs around the farm and I think around 550 breeding ewes is about right.

What do we enjoy about working with sheep?

Sheep have been a traditional part of the regime for generations and continue to contribute to the circular bio-economy: they graze the grass, fertilise the fields, produce new life and sometimes even a profit.

What is the great thing about Cheviots?

I suspect that all shepherds will say the same of their own choice, but we feel Cheviots fit well on our hill and our soil type; they have a bit of character but they’re not thrown like some breeds. They work well, are good mothers, grow fine lambs and (mostly) survive the weather here.

What is the hardest part in working with sheep?

There’s no doubt that sheep produce their fair share of disappointments but seeing them as challenges helps to see them in a more positive light when things don’t go quite as well as we might like. There are definitely times when their refusal to cooperate or survive leads to frustration!

What type of land do they graze on and what is the movement of the flock through the year?

Almost all permanent pasture or reseeds – we are moving to a more regular reseed pattern from every 25 years (if they’re lucky) to more like every 5-10 years but using minimum tillage techniques and stitching in seed and so on to protect our soil carbon.

How has animal husbandry changed over the last ten years?

There is a definite trend away from chemical and medicine interventions to prevention and understanding how some practices might lead to problems and eliminating those practices. It is hard, but trying to think like a sheep (or a cow) helps us to understand why they do certain things so we might be able to help them avoid problems.

  • Flock size: 850
  • Breed of sheep: Lowland
  • KGs of wool annually : 2124

Close the loop and find out what we made?

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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.

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