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Meet the man in charge of the Royal Highland Show 2018

Jimmy Warnock has a maxim that he lives by – standing still is a crime. His energy levels are legendary. Ewan Pate went to meet him...

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Meet the man in charge of the Royal Highland Show 2018

Jimmy Warnock puts everything he can into all his activities and the Royal Highland Show is no exception.

 

He has been a director of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) for 16 years and since last August has been chairman of the directors which will see him responsible for two Royal Highland Shows.

 

Mr Warnock, 72, farms with his daughter, Carol-Ann, and wife, Elizabeth, at Sandilands, near Rigside to the west of Lanark. Despite his other responsibilities he is still very much hands-on and has construction work underway which he hopes to have completed before he heads to Ingliston.

 

He also means to join the RSABI Southern Upland Way charity walk for a 20-mile section.

Until two years ago the 202 hectares (500 acres) was home to two dairy units with a total of 170 cows. Dairying had been the main activity since the Warnocks moved to the farm in 1944, so the decision to stop was not made lightly.

 

Mr Warnock says: “Dairying has a good routine which you could build the day round. It was a good discipline and I believe every young person in the country would benefit from working on a dairy farm for year. It would be like a form of National Service and do a lot of people a lot of good.

 

“Dairying also leads to first class stockmanship. Seeing the cows at close quarters twice a day you can spot a problem before you know you have it.”

 

The system on the all-grass farm is still livestock-based, with 100 Simmental and Limousin cross suckler cows which were all home-produced from dairy dams before the herd was dispersed.

Mr Warnock is also a director and shareholder in locally-based haulage company which runs 75 lorries delivering chilled fruit and vegetables around the UK.

 

Sheep are also an important part of the system with 500 commercial ewes sharing pastures with 100 pedigree Texels. Mr Warnock is an unashamed enthusiast for all sheep but particularly Texels.

 

He founded his Watchknowe flock in 1973 with sheep from the first importation from the Netherlands. He is member number 16 in the Texel Sheep Society and takes pride in the way the breed has developed in the UK.

 

“They still have meat in the right places but have stretched and added character over the years," he says.

 

The Watchknowe flock has had its share of success, with Watchknowe Lanark Cracker selling for 44,000gns at Lanark in 2005 and Watchknowe Jimmy’s Pride selling for 22,000gns in 2007.

His interest in sheep has taken him all over the country as a judge and as a show commentator. For many years he was the official voice of the Royal Highland Show sheep rings, keeping up a steady flow of information and cheery banter during lulls in the inter-breed judging.

 

All of this dovetails into his enthusiasm for encouraging young people into farming.

 

He says: “I have enjoyed being a judge for the National Sheep Association Young Ambassadors award. Sheep farming is a great enterprise for young people if they can rent some grazing ground. I have seen young people starting by showing a few Shetland sheep or Ryelands and building up experience from there.

 

“I think the activities of RHET are the jewel in the crown at the Highland. It is a great way for the farming industry to tell people about the good things we do.”

 

As a former chairman of the RHASS education committee, Mr Warnock is delighted his first show in charge is to be so closely linked with the Year of Young People. Many of the judges and stewards are from the younger cohort and it a theme which will run right through the four days of the show.

 

“There will be a joint main ring feature involving Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs and RHET. I am really looking forward to seeing that,” he says.

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