SELKIRK’S David Gray has been named the best young shepherd in Scotland.
He will go on an all expenses paid trip to New Zealand after winning last week’s National Sheep Association’s Scotland Young Shepherd competition.
The winning sheep farmer, and Aberdeenshire-based runner-up Gregor Ingram, will take part in the first young shepherd world championships in New Zealand in November.
David, 25, of Sunnycroft, Lindean, said: “It’s a great achievement. I’m chuffed to bits. I’m really honoured to be given the chance to get across to New Zealand again.”
Competitors from throughout Scotland, aged 20-25, had to display their sheep knowledge and skills in seven key areas at the finals at Oatridge College.
Each entrant had to grade finished lambs, demonstrate handling tasks such as foot paring, shearing, vaccinating and dosing techniques, along with stock judging. They were also questioned on flock management and health issues.
Asked about stocksmanship, David said: “A lot of it you’re born with, but you also learn from experience, you learn from mistakes.”
Brought up on the family farm, David gained a BA in business at Napier University and spent time in New Zealand where he played rugby, worked on a vegetable farm and gained shearing experience before returning home to work with his parents, Gordon and Christine.
“Farming is my passion and I particularly enjoy breeding pedigree Texels,” he said.
The Gray family owns 150 acres and rents a further 200 acres, running 120 pedigree Texels, a commercial flock of 420 Scotch mules and a 15-strong pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd. They use flushing and ET to use the best bloodlines.
David started his own scanning business three years ago and this year scanned 28,000 ewes, while as a contract shearer he believes he has shorn about 6,000 sheep in the past year.
Recent successes include winning the champion of champions at the Northumberland Show earlier this year and three of the Gray Texels taking firsts at the Highland. David sold one Highland winner, a ewe lamb, privately for an undisclosed five-figure sum, setting a new record price for the breed.
David’s aims for the future?
“Try and get more land and increase my scanning run and keep the Texels. They are such a nice breed to work with and they are easy to bring out.
“At the moment, farming is a really good industry to be in, there are plenty of opportunities for youngsters.”
David’s New Zealand programme will include visiting the agricultural facilities at Christchurch’s Lincoln University and a wool scouring operation as well as meeting meat processors, attending Christchurch Agricultural Show, and farm visits.
NSA Scotland chairman and Heriot farmer Jim Sinclair said: “This competition offers a tremendous opportunity for two young shepherds to meet others with the same interests, and to exchange ideas and make new contacts. I hope the two Scottish representatives have an enjoyable trip and we wish them success in New Zealand.”
Sponsors of the winners’ trip to New Zealand include the National Sheep Association, the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association, British Wool Marketing Board, Quality Meat Scotland and the Cameron Travel Scholarship Trust.