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NSA Scot Sheep 2024 heads to East Lothian

14th June 2023

A leading beef and sheep unit near Dunbar is set to host Scotland’s national sheep event, NSA Scot Sheep, next year.

Organised by the Scottish Region of the National Sheep Association (NSA), NSA Scot Sheep 2024 will be held on Wednesday 5th June 2024, at Aikengall Farm, Innerwick, Dunbar, East Lothian, where the Hamilton family; James, Charles and Harry, along with their mother Vanessa and their late father John moved in 1998, from Dykefoot and South Cobbinshaw in Lanarkshire.

“We are delighted the Hamilton family has agreed to host NSA Scot Sheep 2024,” says NSA Scotland Chair, Peter Myles.  

“The 2022 event will be a hard act to follow, but, Aikengall has all the ingredients for a terrific day out for Scottish sheep farmers; Great livestock, great hosts, and great views, what more could you want. Unless of course you want to see renewables; the impressive Aikengall wind turbines will generate considerable amount of interest as well as power on the day I’m sure.

“The farm is in a great location and provides a varied and successful business that will be worth a visit to see. NSA Scottish Region is very excited to work with the Hamilton family over the next year in preparation for the event.”

Since taking on Aikengall farm where its 1900 acres (770ha) on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills, rise from 900 to 1200ft, the Hamilton family has extended their farming interests, incorporating the neighbouring 400 acre (160ha) farm of Thurston Mains in 2004, taking on the tenancy of the 1200 acres (485ha) farming unit of Nunraw farm at Garvald in 2010 and the 600 acre (240ha) farm of Barney Mains, Near Haddington, in 2022.

The Hamiltons also contract farm an upland unit of 2000 acres (800ha) at Heriot, Midlothian with the Walgate family. This has helped them grow their business and run over the farming units 2800 breeding ewes and a commercial herd of suckler cows, finishing all progeny on home grown feed and breeding replacements on a closed flock/herd basis, only buying in tups and bulls as required.

James Hamilton, who lives at Aikengall, says: “It will be a great pleasure and honour for us as a family to host such a prestigious event for the sheep industry in Scotland. We are looking forward to welcoming fellow farmers and seeing friends old, new, and not met yet to Aikengall, next June!”

The Hamilton’s lamb 1400 head each year at Aikengall, comprising 700 Blackface ewes bred pure for replacements, with the remaining 700 Blackface ewes crossed to the Bluefaced Leicester for producing Scotch Mules, where the females are retained for breeding. 1400 Scotch Mule ewes are put to the Texel tup and lambed at Nunraw in March.

The farms also support a beef enterprise of 900 spring calving commercial cows, based on the Simmental breed using Simmental, Lincoln Red and latterly Aberdeen Angus bulls.

Progeny that isn’t suitable for breeding is finished on the farms and sold deadweight.

Barley and wheat are grown at Thurston Mains and at Barney Mains where Charles now lives, with extra barley sold for malting and wheat for milling if specification can be achieved.

The natural environment is treated as an equal enterprise on the farm with various stewardship schemes, latterly Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP)/ Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) having played a significant role in the development and improvement of infrastructure and habitats on the predominantly upland unit at Aikengall.

As well as this, Aikengall also hosts Aikengall Wind Farm with Community Wind Power Ltd which became operational in 2009, comprising 16 Vestas V90 wind turbines. These wind turbines have a tip height of 125 metres, and each has a generating capacity of 3MW, generating enough electricity to power approximately 31,500 homes and based on displacing around 54,200 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide per annum.

James explains: “Driving the productivity and efficiency of the livestock and farms gives us great pleasure and we are pleased to see that. What’s good for the pocket is also good for the environment, with carbon sequestration and carbon ‘notsetting’, both increasing as management and software as well as hardware technologies used improve.”

Organisation of the event will be in the capable hands of an enthusiastic local committee chaired by Colin MacPhail, who runs his own agricultural and rural business consultancy business as well as having farming interests on the family farm on the Isle of Mull.

Event organiser Euan Emslie will be happy to provide details on the event, sponsorship opportunities and trade stand information to interested parties. He can be contacted on 07902 540985 or