Sheep farmers from all over Scotland, including the Orkney, Shetland and Western isles, will be beating a path to Caithness next month for Scotland’s major sheep event this year, NSA Highland Sheep 2019, which will be hosted by the Sutherland family on the well-known sheep and beef farm of Sibmister, Murkle, Thurso, on Wednesday, June 12.

The biennial one-day event is organised by the representative organisation for the sheep industry in Scotland, NSA Scotland, with leading animal feed and health product suppliers, Harbro and their distributor in the north, W and A Geddes of Wick, as main sponsors.

The Sutherland’s – Kenneth and Elspeth, with sons, Stephen and fiancée, Alix Brown, and Kenneth and his wife, Fiona - run a top performing commercial livestock enterprise comprising 1600 ewes and 400 suckler cows on their 1700 acre all-grass farm.

Harbro and W and A Geddes, play an important part in providing nutritional advice to the family, and support is also being given by Scotland’s red meat promotional body, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and many other sponsors. The event is expected to attract a large gathering of sheep farmers and industry professionals from all parts of Scotland.

The Royal Highland Education Trust has also arranged for around 100 pupils from Bower, Halkirk and Castletown schools to attend the event.

A major attraction will be 75 commercial and educational trade stands and exhibits by 19 sheep breed societies and individual breeders. A farmers’ market and crafts will feature up to 20 local exhibitors.

The event will be open to the public from 9.00am to 5.00pm and officially opened at 10.00am by NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick.

“Sibmister is the perfect venue for NSA Highland Sheep 2019,” said event chairman, Willie Budge. “The sheep industry will be here in force sharing the latest information and technology available through the many educational, advisory and commercial companies attending, along with a variety of general agricultural trade stands and breed exhibits.

“Not to be missed is the farm tour which will give visitors a flavour of the farming systems in Caithness and the top quality livestock produced in the county.”

Mr Budge said the organising committee had worked hard to provide a varied, interesting and enjoyable day out and give sheep farmers the opportunity of relaxing post-lambing and post-calving, catching up with old friends and making new ones.”

Features of the packed programme will include the opportunity to tour the farm to view the stock, a range of practical demonstrations and workshops throughout the day, sheep shearing, stockjudging, sheepdog trial, various competition, workshops and seminars, finishing with a show and sale of pairs of hoggs of several breeds.

Three tractors and trailers will set off for the farm tour every half hour from 9.30am and there will be a five-minute presentation about the farm at the area at the top of the hill near the Braeside Retreat pods which is the family’s first venture into tourism.

Demonstrations will cover all aspects of sheep husbandry from wool shearing and grading, wool spinning, felt making, preparation of rams for tupping and the safe vaccination and dosing of sheep to grassland rejuvenation and the butchering and cooking of lamb.

Five 20-minute workshops will take place throughout the morning, and repeated in the afternoon, covering a range of practical issues, including research, animal health, nutrition, soil health, grass utilisation, genetics and selecting lambs for the market.

The workshop programme is being sponsored by breeding company, Innovis, and will include a presentation by Emily Grant, former grassland co-ordinator at QMS, and a representative from the Innovis genetic team, who will present a “Practical guide to soil health, grass utilisation and genetics – joining the dots to make money.”

The first of two seminars will start at 11.00am and will be chaired by sheep farmer and consultant and NSA Scotland immediate past chairman, John Fyall. Speakers will include Scott Donaldson, president of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers Scotland and Mike Gooding a director of Farmers Fresh, who will discuss “The lamb trade and marketing in a climate of indecision.”

A second seminar at 1.00pm will cover the topical subject of the likely impact of Brexit on the Scottish sheep industry. The speaker will be an acknowledged expert on UK agricultural policy, Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, and the seminar will be chaired by current NSA Scotland chair, Jennifer Craig.

One of the host farmers, Stephen Sutherland, will take part in a twenty-minute “Meet the Farmer” question and answer session at 3.25pm along with SAC consultant, Willie Budge, who is also chairman of the event organising committee.

The inter-county sheep dog trial will start at 8.30am and will see five senior competitors and a junior from six counties – Aberdeenshire, Caithness, Inverness-shire, Ross-shire, Shetland and Sutherland - compete for top honours. The competition will be sponsored by Dingwall and Highland Marts and judged by Brian Ross.

The open and young farmers’ stockjudging competitions will be sponsored by Scottish and Southern Electric with generous prizemoney for the winners.

The event will also give the younger generation the opportunity of demonstrating their skills in sheep management and husbandry by taking part in the Next Generation Shepherd of the Year competition with attractive prizemoney of over £1000. Entries are still being accepted up to May 31. The winner will qualify for an all-expenses paid trip to Malvern, Worcestershire, to take part in the UK finals of the competition at NSA Sheep 2020.

A major attraction is likely to be the show and sale of pairs of ewe hoggs, with judging taking place in the morning at 9.00am and the sale in the afternoon at 4.15pm. The show and sale is open to ewe hoggs born in 2018 and will feature seven classifications – Mules, North Country Cheviot (Hill) North Country Cheviot (Park), Scottish Blackface, any other native breed, any other Continental breed and any cross-bred. Entries for the show and sale are still being accepted.


Highland sheep hosts, Kenneth and Elspeth Sutherland (left), with sons, Stephen (centre) and his fiancee, Alix Brown, and Kenneth and his wife, Fiona, with their two children, Jack and Amy, and Sibmister house and steading in the background
Highland sheep hosts, Kenneth and Elspeth Sutherland (left), with sons, Stephen (centre) and his fiancee, Alix Brown, and Kenneth and his wife, Fiona, with their two children, Jack and Amy, and Sibmister house and steading in the background
View from Sibmister farm looking onto Pentland Firth
View from Sibmister farm looking onto Pentland Firth