Meet the young farmer who thinks Yorkshire's sheep sector has a bright future

A bright future is how one young farmer on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border sees the sheep sector in the UK and he should know, with feet in several camps.

Chris Adamson has his own award-winning flock of Kerry Hill sheep which he shows at the Great Yorkshire Show, manages his grandad’s commercial flock of Lleyn-cross-Cheviots, runs his own agrimarketing company and is employed two days a week by the National Sheep Association (NSA) as activities & events officer and as Northern Region manager.

Chris said the NSA has an important role to play in helping shape political thinking on behalf of its farmer members.

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“We punch above our weight in terms of the positive voice we provide for the sheep industry. Our CEO Phil Stocker is involved with influential policy makers in government who go to him for advice.

Chris Adamson

“That’s where the everyday sheep farmer benefits and ensures the sheep industry thrives and prospers. Lobbying, hosting national and regional events all around the country, our magazine and a weekly email update to all members are the mix that shows we have the finger on the pulse.

“We need to do all we can to ensure that any new government schemes are attractive enough for farmers to take them up.

“I honestly believe that the sheep sector has a bright future. Lamb prices are still running high. I saw an article the other day about how the consumption of lamb has increased and the NSA is undertaking a lot of work with universities and other organisations on how sheep are more of a solution to carbon sequestration than a problem and how sheep capture it.”

Chris farms on his parents’ small acreage at Whitfield Farm just outside Littleborough on the Todmorden road and at his grandad’s larger acreage at Sladen Fold Farm just across the road. Chris said the die was cast on his own future back in his early teens. He’s now only 27 but has achieved so much in the sheep world.

“I showed a keen eye in sheep when I was growing up. My parents never farmed but my mum’s dad, my grandfather Colin, has Sladen Fold which runs to 100 acres and with moorland rights.

“I’d spend time with him and when I was 13 I went to a school in Somerset called Brymore Academy where they taught agriculture. I won best agricultural student there and did the same when I studied at Reaseheath College in Cheshire.”

Chris said his career in agriculture hasn’t all been about sheep.

“I went to America in 2012 when I had just turned 18 and worked on a harvest team of about 13 of us, many of them Irish. We worked our way up from Texas to North Dakota with six combines, tractors and trailers. I ended up on the grain cart most as you had to think more about where to go next. The combines were all autosteer. It was a great experience.”

Chris said he had a job teaching on the farm at the school he had attended in Somerset, but that sheep have always remained his passion.

“I have shepherded near Glossop on a hill farm that runs around 2,000 Swaledale ewes and now look after grandad’s farm as he sadly isn’t in the best of health, but it is my Kerry Hills where my love lies.

“I started with them in 2013 just after I’d returned from America and they caught my eye. I’d had a few Mules that I’d put to the Suffolk tup but I wanted something where I could get more involved on the pedigree side and looking at bloodlines.

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“I went to York Rare Breed Sale and it was a real eye opener when I saw how much the Kerry Hills were going for. It was too rich for me on the day but a woman who had seen me bidding unsuccessfully came up to me and said she had some stock at home if I wanted to take a look. That was my start.”

Chris had reserve male champion at the Great Yorkshire Show in 2019 and has recently won the national breed award for best small flock of the year and went on to be reserve overall flock champion. Chris said he has ambitions to go further but won’t be moving up in numbers.

“It’s about having a nucleus of really good stock of around 15-20 quality breeding ewes. The markings have to be absolutely spot on to the breed’s defined markings and it is quite hard to breed absolutely correctly.

“Getting the right genetics and the right ewes to consistently breed correct sheep is the game.”

Chris said he’s happy with this year’s lambs that are already on the ground having been born in the first week of January. The rest of this year’s crop of Kerry Hills is now lambing this week.

“Showing is something I really enjoy, but it is breeding good pedigree stock to sell that is the real test. I have five ewe lambs and two ram lambs left from last year’s crop.”