Miss Scotland Ellie McKeating brought a welcome ray of sunshine with her this week when she visited a Perthshire livestock farm to have her first experience of lambing.
Ms McKeating, who lives in Glasgow, joined Johnny and Susie Mackey and family at Wester Drumlochy near Blairgowrie to learn about the hard work and stockmanship skills involved in lambing, taking place up and down the country at this time of year.
The Mackeys, helped by the couple’s three young sons, will lamb 200 Lleyn and Cheviot Mule ewes in the coming weeks.
Ms McKeating has been working with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) on a range of PR activities to encourage consumers to better understand what the Scotch Lamb label stands for in terms of traceability and quality assurance.
This week’s visit follows hot on the heels of another QMS project to help educate the public about livestock farming, which saw a camera installed in the roofspace of the lambing shed of the Dykes family at West Linton. The QMSLambCam project brought the experience of lambing to more than 100,000 members of the public.
Mr Mackey is Head of Industry Development with Quality Meat Scotland and he and his wife regularly host visits by school children and others and is a huge supporter of the work of the Royal Highland Education Trust. Susie Mackey currently sits on the local delivery committee for RHET, the Perth & Kinross Countryside Initiative.
“Hosting visits by school children and the wider public is an investment in the future of the livestock industry,” said Mr Mackey.
“Children are our consumers of the future and it is very important they are able to come onto a farm and see for themselves what livestock farming is all about and where their food comes from. It is also very important that they learn more about the quality assurance schemes which underpin the Scotch Lamb brand, along with Scotch Beef and Specially Selected Pork, and animal welfare is a key part of that.”
Lambing is currently in full swing on the farm where, like farms round the country, the unexpected wintry weather this week has been proving an unwelcome challenge.
Ewes which would usually have been turned out onto grass with their newborn lambs are being held in the lambing shed as a result of the bitterly cold conditions.
Despite the busy time of year the Mackeys, including sons Fergie (7), Sandy (5), and Euan (3), were pleased to host the visit by Miss Scotland.
“We are delighted that Ellie was enthusiastic to get her wellies on and roll up her sleeves to get a real feel for what’s involved in lambing. She was happy to spend an afternoon with us and we were very impressed with the interest she showed in working with the sheep – she has real potential to be a great shepherd and we’d have no hesitation to have her back again!”