Farmers Weekly Awards Winner: Sheep Farmer of the Year

Crosby Cleland is without doubt one of the most forward thinking, business minded sheep farmers of his generation.

Central to Crosby’s success is to ensure no stone is left unturned in his quest for improved physical and financial performance.

So determined is he that his sheep enterprise is managed to the highest scrutiny that a lap top computer, networked to the farm’s central database, resides on a shelf above the main handling point in his pens, enabling every individual ewe’s records to be called up at a moment’s notice and breeding, management or culling decisions be made in possession of all the relevant facts.

The desire to improve even further has been the driving force behind changes to Crosby’s flocks in recent years, with the original crossbred flock phased out in favour of more prolific and easier care Lleyn ewes.

“Lleyns are lighter ewes, requiring less feed and allowing higher stocking rates, but rearing a similar weight of lamb as bulkier crossbred ewes. Last year we achieved 30kg/ha of lamb more than the year before and the aim is to keep improving this figure.

Now Crosby is making significant steps towards securing a dedicated supply contract and has begun breeding Highlander composite sheep with a view to supplying breeding stock to farms contracted to Marks & Spencer. “We will have a product we know we have a market for at a fair price.”

And beyond this he is also working with the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute in a number of trials aimed at easing the workload on Northern Irish sheep farms.

Away from the farm Crosby is heavily involved with the Northern Irish sheep industry having been a founder member of the Northern Irish branch of NSA and also acting as a trainer in a range of rural skills at Greenmount College. He has also held a number of roles in the Ulster Farmers Union, including past chairman of the Animal Health Policy Committee, and relishes the challenge these roles bring.

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