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HomeEditor's PicksPrize-winning farming couple secure their own 270-acre farm
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a fifth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the company in 2015.
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Prize-winning farming couple secure their own 270-acre farm

In this week’s Farmer Focus series, That’s Farming speaks to farming couple, Rachel Hamilton and Cameron Jackson. They discuss becoming full-time farmers, moving to their new tenancy farm, running their Future Livestock flock and pedigree Simmental herd, and entering expansion mode.

In the coming weeks, Rachel Hamilton (26) and Cameron Jackson (29) will embark on the next chapter of their lives: moving to their new tenancy farm in Inverkip.

The duo, who reside in Lanarkshire, runs a 100-ewe flock and a small herd of pedigree Simmental cattle.

The couple hail from strong agricultural backgrounds and share the aim of “building a strong and profitable business for future generations to come”.

Farming backgrounds 

Rachel grew up on the Island of Tiree, where they farmed sheep and cattle.

She then moved to Glasgow to study agriculture before securing a position as an agricultural officer with the Scottish Government.

“Dad is a farmer, and his mother was, so farming has always been a huge part of our lives. Dad taught me everything I know about farming,” she told That’s Farming.

“I remember in primary school the week we came back from the summer holidays; I would always ask for the first day back off. It was our store lamb sale, and I would go and help my dad,” she recalled.

Meanwhile, sixth-generation farmer, Cameron, hails from a mixed beef, sheep, and arable enterprise in Fife.

For the last decade, he worked as a stockman and farm manager on pedigree farms throughout Scotland.

“One of my first memories would be back when I was six-years-old. Mum and dad won the Bluefaced Leicester championship at the Royal Highland Show with a gimmer called Headline Sapphire,” he told That’s Farming.

“She won The Queen’s Cup that year and joined up with Alistair Clark’s tup to win reserve interbreed pairs.”

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New farm

Farming couple: Future Livestock

Cameron has returned home to farm in his own right, with Rachel, who will join him on a full-time basis when they move to the 270-acre enterprise.

Dunrod Farm, Inverkip will become the home of their renowned, multi-prize-winning Future Livestock flock, consisting of North Country Cheviots Hill and Park ewes and Cheviot and Blue Face Leicester rams.

“They are extremely easy managed, low input, high output breeds, which produces tremendous females to produce prime lamb for current markets.”

We began by purchasing small amounts of ewes that the ground was capable of holding. Furthermore, we began breeding our own replacements, which will be the foundation for our future folk.”

The duo lambs their flock, both indoors and outdoors, from the end of March to the beginning of April.

“We lamb Park ewes inside and hill ewes outside. This system suits our ground and management, making it easier to produce an even batch of lambs.”

“To achieve a compact lambing period, we have a high tup to ewe ratio. We strive to breed easy managed, smart and cocky sheep, which are good  for catching sellers’ eyes at shows and sales.”

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New farm

“We exhibit at all the major shows and local shows, which we love. Our highlight being when we showed our Cheviots at the GYS (Great Yorkshire Show) and came away with overall champion and reserve champion. This was such an achievement for us starting out in the breed.”

“Cameron does the day-to-day running of the farm, and I do all the bookkeeping. Furthermore, I ensure that we keep hitting our targets and take time off work to help on the farm during busy times.”

“We are extremely passionate about genetics, breeding and gene polls. This is something Camy has been heavily involved in, and we always strive to better our breeding programmes.”

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Simmental sucklers

On the other hand, they currently have a small herd of pedigree Simmental breeding females and intend to expand numbers over the coming months.

“Our new farm can cope with more cattle. We aim to add Shorthorns to the new farm. We have a lot more exposed ground, which native cattle are more suited to and easier to manage.”

“Furthermore, we currently use an AI system as current numbers do not justify a bull. But with plans to increase numbers, we will purchase stock bulls to run with cows and plan to still AI breeding females.”

“Calving takes place in spring and autumn. We use this system as it gives more cash flow throughout the year and makes cow management easier and more effective.”

“Breeding criteria includes a leg in each corner, a milky, good mothering ability and something which is flashy and catches the eye. Also, other traits include a moderate size and easy fleshing.”

They also retain a small number of replacement heifers and some to produce bulls for premium sales, selling the remaining animals as stores.

“We keep heifers for replacement and calve down between two-and-a-half and three-years-old. Therefore, those heifers reach their optimum growth and mothering ability.”

The young farmers cull any problematic cows along with progeny to make their herd easier managed.

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Image credit: MacGregor Photography
Satisfaction and challenges

The farming couple believes the key elements of running a successful suckler operation are deploying a low input, high output system and only retaining superior progeny.

“The most enjoyable aspect of farming is seeing all the hard work and determination throughout the whole year pay off when we show and sell our stock and having successful days, which farming does not always guarantee.”

“There are many challenges when it comes to farming, but the vulnerability comes with all aspects, whether it be weather, the market state, Brexit and legislation.”

“The best piece of advice we have received is: you do not need to ask questions. Instead, you need to watch and learn, and you take out what you want to as everyone does everything differently.”

“On the back of this, we hope to expand in the future, further exploring new and innovative ways of farming, ensuring we are maximising all the opportunities that come our way.”

Reflection

“Our journey in agriculture has had many challenges, from being a stockman to a full-time farm with all the ups and downs in-between, which have all paved the way to where we are now, securing our own farm.”

“It has taught us so many great life lessons. We have met so many amazing people along the way, who will be lifelong friends. We would not change anything as every day is a learning day.”

“Our outlook on agriculture has been positive, giving the market state over the past few years. As long as the UK stop importing cheap, non-quality assured meat into the country; then the future should stay bright.”

To share your story like this farming couple, email – catherina@thatsfarming.com

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