The increase in lamb sales of around 30% during the lockdown, coupled with growing revenue from levies on the sale of rams, has given the Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association the confidence to take a fresh look at marketing and promotion.
That was the good news from the association’s virtual general meeting, where breed president Alec Telfer told members that the board was considering the continued existence of the breed. “It’s time to take a fresh look, so we’ve entered into discussions with Scottish Rural Development, a marketing consultancy run by Lorna Young and Liz Ramsay, and they’ve been contracted to come up with a development strategy. for the association.
“This is important work, in that it will produce a blueprint for how we will move our association forward. They have already asked the members about what they expect from the association and what improvements can be made and a first digital audit has been carried out. We hope to have the first draft of recommendations by mid-May,” Telfer said.
Blackface sheep farmers have already embraced social media, with the association’s page racking up some 13,905 likes with many posts reaching over 20,000 people. Additionally, the ‘Keeping the Hills Alive 2’ video in which James Hamilton explains the importance of Blackface Sheep at the top of his family’s stratified sheep farming system in Aikengall, Thurston Mains and Nunraw, reached just under 100 000 people, with two more videos planned for this year.
Such is the health of the charity’s bank balance after two years of historically low promotional spending due to Covid, that some £130,000 has been transferred to NFU Mutual to safeguard funds for future promotional spending.
Additionally, levies on tups have fallen from £63,500 in 2020 to £76,620 last year. Total income for 2021 was £145,426 compared to £140,348 which, minus expenses of just over £82,000, resulted in a net surplus of £64,625 for 2021.
Unfortunately, the Association’s 120th anniversary dinner in January had to be canceled due to Covid restrictions at the time, but there are plans to hold a similar event later in the year.
Plans are also underway for a national Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association show, to be held this year on Sunday July 31 at United Auctions’ Stirling Mart. Newly appointed judges include Billy Renwick for the Southern Type; Tom Adam for the North type and Philip Walton will place the North England type.
Mr. Telfer, of Selkirk, remains president for another year as it is hoped that the association’s operations will return to near normal. Sandy Smith, based in Aberdeenshire, also continues as vice-president, with Derek Redpath, The Yett, elected junior vice-president.