Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Mixed Farmer of the Year

Jamie Leslie of Scholland Farm, Shetland is Farmers Weekly’s Mixed Farmer of the Year.

Constantly driving the business forward to improve efficiencies and cut back on costs, Shetland farmer Jamie Leslie is a first-class example of successfully adapting to extreme environments to work in harmony with nature.

Dealing with brutal weather, blowing sand soils and small fields, Jamie’s grassland management and spring barley yields are remarkable, given that some soils can contain up to 76% sand.

Running a 330ha farm with 950 ewes, 90 Angus suckler cows, 50 bought-in fattening cattle and 250 pigs, Jamie’s notable business management, focus on grasslands and drive to improve cereal yields impressed the judges.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2022: Mixed Farmer of the Year finalists

Farm facts

  • 330ha farm on Shetland
  • Sixth-generation farmer, running 90 Angus suckler cows, 50 bought-in fattening cattle, 950 ewes and 250 fattening pigs
  • Expanded farm significantly from 40 cows and 250 ewes by purchasing two blocks of land and taking on a new lease
  • Family also run a small herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle within the main herd
  • Hopes to sell more than 30t of beef this year to a local butcher
  • Also runs a scanning business

Effective grazing

His initiative to develop a leader-follower mob-grazing system, with ewes and lambs followed by suckler cows, saw him slash costs and increase grass use by 345kg dry matter (DM)/ha a day.

This added an extra 2kg to lamb weaning weights and increased cattle daily liveweight gain by 0.42kg.

Despite such harsh weather, all 90 suckler cows are grazed outside with no supplements for 274 days, saving £92 a cow over winter- a credit to his excellent grassland management.

Most livestock are taken through to fat, with a proportion of lambs sold as stores.

With a close relationship with the island’s local butcher, he now sends a couple of bullocks, lambs and pigs to the shop each week.

Marketability is crucial for Jamie and his wife, Louise, prompting the pair to set up a direct meat box sales business, selling meat across the island.


With just 70ha of croppable land, Jamie imported the spring barley variety Salome from Scandinavia for its early maturity and yield.

He grows 10ha of the crop, and being able to harvest a week earlier so far north provides a window of opportunity to establish grass for an early spring bite.

It can be difficult to maintain nutrient levels across sandy soils composed of up to 1m of blown sand, but aiming to drive yield forward, Jamie began using foliar nutrient sprays to push yields to 8t/ha from just 58kg N/ha.

He now aims to use foliar sprays across all land to cut nitrogen use by 50%, with no detriment to yield. He has even adapted a sprayer to enable applications across challenging terrains.

In addition, he grows 8ha of fodder beet and 3ha of kale. Beet is direct-drilled, with a proportion of land companion-cropped alongside oats to aid establishment.

Beet can be grown for 4p/kg DM eaten, which has halved feed costs of steers when wintered outside.

Promoting UK agriculture and getting the positive message across to young people is something the Leslies believe in strongly, which is why they have hosted numerous class visits on farm over the years.

Winning ways

  • Farms successfully and in harmony with an extreme environment
  • Exceptional grassland management focus, and effective grazing strategy
  • Improved marketability of livestock through close relationship with butcher and drive to go above and beyond with direct meat box sales
  • Strategic use of foliar nutrition sprays to improve arable cropping and grass health
  • Strong focus on business management and cutting production costs. Actively involved with Farmax benchmarking group to drive business forward
  • Desire to continue to reduce nitrogen inputs and concentrate feed while maintaining output
  • Excellent drive to promote soil health, despite very high sand contents
  • Great involvement within the agricultural industry

A word from our independent judge

“Jamie has developed an exceptional mob-grazing and crop production system to suit an extreme environment, working with nature to cut input costs and drive the business forward.

“He prides himself on a close relationship with the island’s butcher, striving for the best-quality cuts for the end consumer.

“A great example of a mixed farming business with a range of enterprises that complement each other.”

Andrew Robinson, agricultural accountant at Armstrong Watson

The other finalists were:

  • Angus Gowthorpe, Approach Farm, North Yorkshire
  • Stuart Mitchell, Whitriggs Farm, Scottish Borders

The Farmers Weekly 2022 Mixed Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by Cawood Scientific

Farmers Weekly’s farming awards celebrates the very best of British agriculture by recognising hard-working and innovative farmers across the UK.

Find out more about the Awards, the categories and sponsorship opportunities on our Awards website.

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