2020 New Entrant: Against the Odds Award winner – Kirsty and Ross Williams

R. & K. Williams,

Upper Tullochbeg, Aberdeenshire

Sponsored by: KW

With careers off-farm and a young family to keep them busy, Ross and Kirsty Williams have still found the time to transform Upper Tullochbeg farm since they took it on in 2013.

When they came to the Forestry Commission-owned farm, they only had 90 ewes, but in the seven years since they have significantly built the size and scale of the enterprise and manage 195 acres in varying forms.

The unit now consists of 90 pedigree sheep, which are a mixture of Beltex and Bluefaced Leicesters, 110 Suffolk cross commercial ewes, seven pedigree Shorthorn cows, 25 commercial Blue Grey cows, 400 turkeys reared for the Christmas market and a swathe of forage crops and grassland to underpin the unit.

With a strategic approach to their farm business and a willingness to try new ideas and innovations, the couple now want to take the leap into owning their own farm when the 10-year tenancy they are currently on comes to an end.

Future growth

All responsibilities are shared between them with Ross leading the daily running of the farm and nutrition of the livestock, while Kirsty takes more of a lead on agronomy, business planning and financial matters.

Casual labour is sought when needed but the couple only employ people who are young or new to agriculture, to encourage their businesses.

Mitigating climate change is a core area of focus and Ross and Kirsty have designed their system to utilise their assets including investment in soil fertility and a conscious decision to choose breeds to maximise production per hectare.

A vast reduction in antibiotic usage has also been implemented over the years, totally removing all blanket treatments to the ewes pre lambing and lambs post lambing. This has had a positive impact on the livestock, their management techniques and variable costs.

Having built up a strong network of people around them, the couple are not phased by challenges such as Brexit or the current turmoil posed by Covid-19. Rather, they believe now is the right time for them to take their farming journey, and their two young daughters Jess, six and Beth, three, to the next stage.