Murray Craig

Blair Farming

Swindale Foot Farm, Cumbria

With a lot of responsibility on his 20-year young shoulders, farmer’s son Murray Craig has been with Swindale Foot Farm since he left school four years ago.

Allowing the owners to expand into beef on another unit, to which they confirm would have been impossible to do otherwise, he manages 800-Swale and North Country hill Cheviot ewes across hill farms spanning 9,500 acres within the Eden Valley, and helps with a further 850 at the second farm.

As Swindale Foot Farm surrounds the Haweswater reservoir, owned by United Utilities, there are many restrictions for water quality. The flock roam freely across the fells in summer where Murray undertakes his intensive gathering activities, ranging from a time span of four hours to as long as 12 on the more vast areas.

Later in the year the ewes are out wintered in Cambridge, leaving Murray to focus on helping in the management of the 300-strong beef herd, which are sold as stores into the local mart.

He also leads the lambing and shearing on the sites and has travelled to New Zealand for the last three years, working on sheep stations in both the north and south of the island shearing up to 10,000 sheep depending on the time spent there. He has further improved his knowledge by attending.


Murray credits his time in New Zealand as improving his shearing skills, something which back in his UK work has saved his employer money, and also for introducing new feeding and grazing regimes into the flock he manages such as rotational and mob grazing during the winters to help reduce feed costs.

For Murray, his proudest achievement is being trusted by the owners to manage the sheep independently and tackle the daily farming challenges using his own knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions.

He also rents some land within the business to develop his own foothold as part of a share-farming agreement with the owners, and will concentrate on developing this to help secure his future career aspirations.

On winning, Murray said:

I never thought I would win especially when I looked at the other individuals in the category but I am so pleased. I would go as far as to say farm workers are the backbone in our industry because while you need that business side to any successful unit, if you don’t have people actually doing the work that nothing runs. I am lucky to have a supportive boss who has always been open to career progression and what I would like but you don’t get anywhere unless you are prepared to progress yourself and put yourself out there to learn new opportunities. Farming is in my blood and I am proud to be part of keeping the nation fed and producing food to the highest standards we possibly can as a country.

What the judges said:

At the age of just 20, Murray has taken on a huge amount of responsibility and is unfazed by any of the challenges a hill farm can present, which has allowed his employer to expand the business, proving himself to be a great asset.

As the head stockman and shepherd, he has demonstrated initiative to implement grazing and feeding changes to maximise efficiencies, with concern for the well-being and welfare of the livestock at the forefront at all times. An absolute credit to Swindale Foot Farm