Our mission is to drive sustainable demand for British wool in order to maximise returns for our members.

Sheep Farmer of the Year supports British Wool

2023 Farmers Weekly ‘Sheep Farmer of the Year’, and previous Young Farmer of the Year category winners, David and Cora Cooper, have in recent years been keen supporters of selling their wool clip through British Wool.

The couple run 3,500 ewes over 5,000 acres of hill ground in east Ayrshire. Tardoes Farm is a very low input system, and David says the Welsh Mountain and Herdwick ewes which make it their home are very well suited to this environment, being good conservation grazers.

Originally from Devon, David made the move north at 17 years old when the family’s grazing rights changed on Dartmoor. Over time he started to farm in his own right and now in partnership with Cora, their farmed area and head of sheep have increased ten-fold.

The number of gathers carried out on farm are kept to a minimum, and sheep are brought down off the hill only three times each year; once to scan, then to simultaneously wean and shear in late summer followed by fluke and trace element drenches before beginning the cycle again.

David explains: “We are trying to handle the sheep as little as possible. We only see our hill ewes for three busy weeks of the year. The rest of the time they must fend for themselves. They are simple, easily kept ewes.

“Rising costs is a big issue at the moment, as it is in many other industries. We are trying to use economies of scale to keep costs low over a larger number of sheep, which also results in a lower output, but it’s still more cost effective.”

The two hill breeds used are kept in separate bunches and are kept pure. Ewes kept further down the hill are those carrying twins or draft ewes which have been crossed with a Charollais cross Lleyn tup purchased from Logie Durno for prime lamb production.

Shearing takes place in early August, with contractor Steven Dunlop coming in with his gang.

David says: “We shear in early August when we wean. It means an early weaning and late shearing, but it cuts out another gather.

“Steven will come with two or three other shearers and will try and do 1,000 a day, which is a hard day for three shearers, but manageable when there is four of them.”

For the last few years, the farm’s wool has been sold to British Wool, and David says the cooperative provides a convenient service collecting the wool from the farm.

British Wool proactively works to add value to its members’ wool through a consumer marketing campaign and traceability schemes. Although there is certainly more work to be done, the cooperative strives to work for the long-term benefit of UK sheep farmers.

He says: “I think British Wool does a good job of marketing our wool. Wool is a fantastic, sustainable product. More and more industries should be using it. I think the government is missing a trick in not doing more to promote businesses to use wool. It needs more support.

“As an industry we need to continue to look for the value in wool. Personally, we have dipped between selling via an independent and the cooperative, but at the moment, British Wool’s offering is looking good.”

Cora adds: “British Wool also offers members a discount when purchasing through their website. The more we can do to drive sales of wool hopefully the demand shall increase for what is an excellent eco-friendly natural product.”

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Sheep Farmer of the Year supports British Wool