Case Study: John Kirkpatrick

1st July 2014

This article, about John Kirkpatrick (33), first appeared in the July 2014 edition of Sheep Farmer magazine. Having moved from Northern Ireland to Scotland and then to Derbyshire, England, John has worked his way up the sheep farming ladder. He is an NSA Next Generation Ambassador.

Since having the opportunity to purchase a small farm in Derbyshire, I have taken the sheep side of my business in a very different direction.

Following 12 months of research, I made the firm decision to purchase Easycare tups from Mike Gooding at FAI Farms in Oxford.

I opted to develop a sheep that suited my system. The flock now consists of 100 composite ewes with Easycare, Berrichon du Cher, Wiltshire Horn and Texel genetics at its core. An Exlana tup has been purchased in 2014 to allow further improvement to be made. The ewes are used to produce lamb deadweight for our boxed lamb scheme, which is sold to both wholesalers and customers directly.

There are many challenges within the sector for young people, both new entrants and the already established. Land and capital availability are both major challenges with rented land in England trading at in excess of its true productive capability and landowners ‘wanting their cake and eating it’ it terms of high rental values and retention of any SFP.

Furthermore the banking sector with its continued reforms is yet to prove its worth, with true decision making being removed at a local level.

Getting into the sheep sector

But for bright and talented people who are prepared to ‘think out of the box’ there are many opportunities to get into the sheep sector, and not necessarily by owning your own stock.

There are plenty of varied opportunities and I have been presented with opportunities which have been beneficial and added greatly to overall profitability.

The industry in England has many challenges. We must deliver a sustainable, quality product to the consumer at a price they can afford. However it is not that simple. We must balance environment, health, animal welfare, traceability, carbon production, water quality, and we must show the public we are delivering value for money in terms of the money we receive in direct payments. With public finances becoming ever tighter we must continue to deliver and exceed expectations. We must also become more open about how we do our job and communicate the message to create better public understanding.

The opportunities are many in the sector and they may be an interest in primary production, the appliance of science/technology or desire to market the end product. The attractions of the sheep sector are varied and certainly limitless. The sector has also to see EID as a real strength for our industry. However it has to be coupled with the tools to get maximum benefit from it. These include an effective reporting system for movements and a robust method for individual animal identification feedback. We need the ability to identify high performing animals on an individual basis at slaughter and feed this information back to the producer to allow the producer to make informed decisions about what is working and, more importantly, what is not!

Fact File

  • Started aged 10 with pedigree Suffolks.
  • Originally from Northern Ireland, where family still farms.
  • Rented a farm in Highlands of Scotland and ran 200 pedigree Lleyns.
  • Then purchased a farm in central England and now running 100 wool-shedding easy care ewes.