A valley native, Andy’s been farming alongside Yeo Valley for around 15 years, now we’re lucky enough to have him curating our organic flock.
Andy remembers visiting the original Yeo Valley farm when he was a child. “A friend’s father helped milk the cows there. Little did I know that, years later, I would be working so closely with the family’s business!”
Being a shepherd is considered quite a traditional job, “there are sheep farmers in almost every country in the world, it’s such an old profession, and this means there is such a wide knowledge base. There’s always someone wanting to share ideas in that community. In terms of new ideas for the future, I really want to explore how we can make the most of the wool we are producing. Wool is a great by-product of sheep farming and it deserves to be much more highly valued.
I really enjoy the everyday challenges and being outside, I also enjoy working with the apprentices that we have and inspiring them to hone their talents but I think my favourite part is shearing! After university, I travelled around the country shearing sheep and crafting my skills. You could say I was a kind of nomadic shepherd! I’ve even shorn sheep for England a few times which has been a real highlight!
What’s great about working with Yeo Valley is their keenness for an integrated flock of sheep, they want to explore where the flock can offer benefits. I believe sheep have a vital role within agriculture. They can push beyond sustainability, making a dynamic relationship that can actually make things better rather than keeping them the same.
A planned grazing regime can make the most of what’s called the ‘Golden Hoof Effect’, which is basically the result of the sheep’s natural grazing habits. It cuts the mechanical process performed by a tractor and topper, reducing costs and replacing herbicide sprays, not to mention adding fertilizer!
When I’m not at work, you’ll find me doing Dad things, hanging out with my two boys. At ten and twelve, they’re very active and like playing a lot of games.”
Now that the lambing season has ended, Andy can recover from a very hectic few weeks. “Lambing is a really intense time, quite emotional, knowing when to get involved can be tough, although less than 10% of the ewe’s need any help, ‘timely intervention’ is so important to keep all the sheep and lambs healthy. If you’re starting with a healthy flock, then you’ll hopefully get healthy lambs.
I feel lucky to be doing what I always wanted to do, and incredibly lucky to be doing it in this spectacular scenery.”