Once again the Festival had a broad and interesting series of talks on topics relating to smallholding.

All sessions are now available to watch on demand:


9:00am Welcome message

Fergus Ewing, 
Cabinet Secretary Rural Economy and Tourism, 
Scottish Government

9:15am A new life in the country…realising your rural dream

Emma Chalmers, Martin Rennie, Scott Holley – Galbraith

Join Emma Chalmers, Martin Rennie, and Scott Holley of Galbraith Group as they answer some the questions most frequently asked by smallholders looking for their dream holding.

10:15am Electric fencing

Grant Webster, Kerbl / Rutland Electric Fencing

Just getting started with electric fencing? Is your existing fence doing the job it was intended to do? Join Grant Webster from Kerbl/ Rutland Electric Fencing for troubleshooting tips, set-up guides and a firm grounding in all the potential uses of electric fencing for smallholders.

10:45am Flower farming

Valerie Orr, Blooming Bees

Blooming Bees, Forfar was established in 2014 by Kelly Orr, growing fresh seasonal flowers for florists, farm shops, weddings, events and DIY flower enthusiasts.

Valerie Orr joined in 2020 after moving to Scotland from Northern Ireland. There Valerie had established a successful flower farm.

With a clan of mini flower farmers between them and arable and livestock farming enterprises alongside the flowers, they find two heads are better than one to keep supplying fresh, seasonal, beautiful blooms to the County of Angus and beyond.

An informal presentation on flower farming in Scotland and some of the basics of growing your own cut flowers commercially.

11:30am Weather watching: effects of 
seasonal variation & climate 
change on livestock health

Dr Caroline Robinson, SRUC

Our climate is becoming associated with increasing numbers of pitfalls for livestock managers on farms, smallholdings or crofts. Whether you are a startup planning your infrastructure and grazing, or an experienced keeper who is well aware of the issues traditionally seen in your area, there are likely to have been unexpected changes in disease or management conditions in recent years, and there will be more to come.

Working in an SRUC diagnostic postmortem facility, our vets see all the times that something has gone unexpectedly and badly wrong for good livestock keepers, and we can use this knowledge to help others prevent the same problems. Join us to learn what weather forecasts should raise a red flag for action or monitoring, what changing seasons could do to your accustomed worm control or routine, what considerations you might need when planning new infrastructure, and what causes the most common weather-related sudden deaths or disease outbreaks that we see.

Dr. Caroline Robinson is a Veterinary Investigation Officer with SRUC Veterinary Services. In this role she investigates farm and exotic animal diseases, consults to vets in practice, monitors wildlife disease and provides veterinary advice to the police and the SSPCA. In addition, SRUC provides health and welfare advice to farmers and smallholders, and Caroline’s particular interest is the provision of services to smallholders and small farmers, with an emphasis on preventing problems before they occur.

12:30pm Trees on the smallholding

Iain Moss, Woodland Trust Scotland

Iain Moss is an Outreach advisor for the Woodland Trust Scotland, specialising in woodland creation projects of all sizes. His main role is as advisor to third party landowners who wish to plant native trees and woods on their land – he will survey the site, produce reports and avail possible funding avenues as well as provide advice and guidance with any woodland related questions the landowners may have. The Woodland Trust is a charity and all of our advice and guidance service is free of charge

Iain’s talk will be a short precis of the Woodland Trust – who we are and what we do, followed by planting on crofts/smallholdings – how we can help and a bit of advice on design/siting/species selection etc. and top trees for smallholders.

1:15pm Small-scale, humane slaughter of poultry

Jade Spence, Humane Slaughter Association

Hobbyists and small producers often ask HSA how they can protect the welfare of their poultry at the time of killing, whether culling sick or injured inviduals or if choosing a method of on-farm slaughter for year-round or seasonal meat processing. To prevent suffering and achieve acceptable welfare, we must consider birds’ anatomies and behaviour, with respect to the available techniques. In turn, describing to potential consumers why certain procedures are performed, encourages informed food choices and wider adoption of humane practices.

The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) is over 100 years old and is a charity recognised internationally for promoting scientific, technical and educational advances towards improving the welfare of food animals, worldwide, during transport, at markets, slaughter and killing (e.g. for disease control or welfare reasons).

Jade Spence is the HAS’s Technical Officer. Jade advises industry, smallholders and students on humane principles and techniques, and of the latest technology and good practices for animal welfare. Jade writes practical HSA guidance on how to maintain a high level of welfare for mammals, poultry and fish, and further communicates the benefits of high-welfare standards by expanding HSA’s range of translated publications (including Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Russian).

2:00pm Red mite in chickens / Avian influenza winter 2020 update

Dr Caroline Robinson, SRUC

Red mite is increasingly becoming an issue in small-scale poultry, particularly given the higher temperatures seen in UK summers in recent years. In response to this, a confusing abundance of products and recommendations can now be found on animal care websites and forums as to the best way to treat or prevent red mite. Join us to find out where red mite is likely to come from, when they are likely to affect your flock, what the issues are with treatments and how to prevent things going wrong.

Caroline will also provide the latest update on Avian Influenzas (Bird flu) risk for winter 2020 for all poultry keepers.

Dr. Caroline Robinson is a Veterinary Investigation Officer with SRUC Veterinary Services. In this role she investigates farm and exotic animal diseases, consults to vets in practice, monitors wildlife disease and provides veterinary advice to the police and the SSPCA. In addition, SRUC provides health and welfare advice to farmers and smallholders, and Caroline’s particular interest is the provision of services to smallholders and small farmers, with an emphasis on preventing problems before they occur.

2:45pm Planning for biodiversity

Carol Littlewood, Littlewood Landcare

Carol started work on farms at the age of 14, spending her weekends and holidays on a mixed arable, pig and dairy farm in Hertfordshire. Carol studied through the Open University while working on the deer farm at Glensaugh Research Station, gaining a First Class Honours Degree in Natural Sciences with Biology, including units such as Ecology, Environment and Evolution. In 2001, Carol was offered the Farm Conservation Adviser post with FWAG, covering Angus; and FWAG went into liquidation in 2009 she immediately set herself up as Littlewood Land Care, carrying on with all the work she used to do through FWAG.

She carried on several of the roles she had when with FWAG in a voluntary capacity, including being Chair of the Farmland / Upland Working Group of the Tayside Biodiversity Partnership and being a member of the South Esk Catchment Partnership. In 2009 Carol also took on the part-time role of Project Co-ordinator for RHET Angus Countryside Initiative, which sits well alongside her consultancy work and allows her to pass on her enthusiasm for working in the rural sector.

In this seminar Carol will:

  • consider what to look at when thinking about the base level of biodiversity at your site.
  • look at the benefits of having a plan for enhancing biodiversity on your smallholding.
  • discuss setting yourself targets.
  • point out the benefits of setting a budget.
  • highlight recording what you find on your smallholding and feeding it into citizen science projects.

3:15pm How the rumen works

Siobhan Macdonald / Kirsten Williams / Karen Stewart, SAC Consulting

For all of the sheep, cattle and goat keepers listening in today, this webinar will explain how the rumen works, so you can keep your livestock in top condition. Kirsten and Karen explain the workings of this amazing vat of liquid bacteria! We discuss energy and protein, bacteria and gas, along with some practical considerations for feeding small groups of animals. Siobhan explains the Farm Advisory Service and how to obtain free advice and find loads of helpful information.

Kirsten Williams is a beef and sheep specialist with SAC Consulting based in the North East of Scotland. Kirsten also farms herself along with her husband and two children, were they have cattle, sheep and a turkey enterprise.

Karen Stewart is a Ruminant Nutritionist with SAC Consulting based in Forfar. Karen lives on a beef and arable farm in the east of Scotland and is recognised as the font of all knowledge when it comes to nutrition of livestock!

Siobhan Macdonald has a croft near Beauly and works as an adviser with SAC, helping crofters and smallholders, and also manages the croft and small farm section of the Farm Advisory Service.

4:00pm Starting a small-scale food business

Sandra Bannister, Midlife Homestead

Sandra Bannister is a retired university lecturer and with a Doctor as a husband, who had developed their home and land into a smallholding business, in small increments over 3 years. A love of the outdoors, enjoying learning new skills and knowledge, a keenness to grow their own food and raise their own livestock resulted in Midlife Homestead starting in 2018. Since then Sandra and Jon have become grandparents, coped with Jon retiring and then returning to work and expanded their business in 2020, due to the increased interest in locally grown food , pork and lamb products.

Becoming a Trustee of Smallholding Scotland in 2019 has given Sandra access to like-minded people willing to share their knowledge, skills and contacts. As neither Jon nor Sandra are from a farming background, being able to ask questions and seek advice is an essential requirement for them being able to care for their livestock, grow successfully and develop their business model.

A flock of Shetland sheep, many hens, two donkeys, and at times many pigs and their offspring has resulted in very early morning starts and getting used to working whilst wet and cold…. yet Sandra always reminds herself that it always beats an 8am office meeting. Being able to work autonomously, problem solve and learn from the things that (occasionally) go wrong are her basic tenets of this lifestyle and work that gives satisfaction, a small income and definitely stops any “Midlife Crisis” happening! She’s too busy for that!

4:30pm Regenerative Agriculture & Small Farms

Nikki Yoxall, Grampian Graziers

In this session Nikki will explore the principles of regenerative agriculture and how they apply to small scale farming, smallholding and crofting.

Considering #RegenAg as a framework to support decision making on farm, and what that might look like in Scotland in a practical context.

Nikki and her husband James run Grampian Graziers – integrating native and rare breed cattle into agroecosystems and landscapes to promote biodiversity, soil health and water quality.

Having worked in education for over a decade, Nikki is passionate about knowledge transfer and exploring new approaches to farming practice. She works for the Pasture Fed Livestock Association as Research Coordinator and the Nature Friendly Farming Network as Sustainable Farming Lead – Scotland. Nikki is currently undertaking a MSc in Sustainable Food and Natural Resources – and is focusing her dissertation research on Agroforestry.

You can find Nikki on social media @Howemill and learn more about Grampian Graziers on their website.

5:15pm Survey of Smallholders and Crofters – the results!

Hannah Bishop, SRUC and Ed Hill, Thrums Veterinary Group

Hannah Bishop is a veterinary epidemiologist working in the Epidemiology Research Unit (ERU) at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). She works on a wide range of projects including chronic diseases and antimicrobial use in sheep. Her background as a veterinarian has imparted her with a down-to-earth communication style and a passion for seeing research translated into real-life, beneficial changes on farms, smallholdings and crofts.

In 2019, the ERU completed a survey of Smallholders and Crofters. The questionnaire covered a variety of topics from husbandry to health. During her talk at the Smallholder Festival, Hannah will be sharing the encouraging findings of this survey and signposting participants to valuable sources of further advice and support.

6:00pm Adding value to wool

Sue Blacker, The Natural Fibre Company

Join Sue Blacker of The Natural Fibre Company as she takes us through selling and adding value to your wool. If you are well on your way to producing, come and hear more about the current market for fibre, and where opportunities can be found.

Alternatively, if you are just considering a potential flock for fibre in the future, learn about the different characteristics of wool produced by different breeds and which sheep could produce the fleece to suit your needs.

6:45pm Rabbit rearing for smallholders

Stuart Campbell

Stuart Campbell has put this presentation together as he firmly believes raising rabbits is something to which every smallholder should give serious consideration.
Rabbits can be raised on hay and water alone if need be what other animal or bird can put meat on the smallholder’s table for such a low cost and without the need to buy in expensive milled feeds? In the Spring and Summer months it is easy to raise rabbits entirely for free on a diet of grass supplemented with vegetable leaves, dandelions and other weeds – who doesn’t have ample supply of those on a smallholding?

They take up very little space, they are totally silent, are easy to kill/prepare at home and can provide an income selling them as breeding stock or pets, easily paying for themselves. There is also a reasonable market for decent rabbit pelts, making a higher price than most people are getting just now for sheep fleeces!

If you are looking to rear your own meat at home for the table at an extremely low cost then nothing compares to rabbit.

They are cute though, it can be very hard sometimes to accept that these small fluffy bunnies are going to be dinner one day.
If you can get past that though then the only question left to ask is, why don’t you already have some?

Stuart Campbell studied various Poultry Production courses at Auchincruive Agricultural College in Ayr before spending many years in the commercial poultry industry between all types of commercial farming, such as hatchery management, rearing for both meat and egg production, breeding, egg production, turkey rearing and breeding, including artificial insemination, game birds and even ostrich farming.

He lives within a small village in East Ayrshire with a medium size garden, into which he has managed to squeeze chickens, turkeys, quail, rabbits, hawks, owls, ferrets and even bees as well as a few raised beds for vegetables.

7:15pm Homeopathy for shepherds

Chris Aukland MRCVS, Holistic Vet and Lynnie Hutchison, Sheep Farmer

Holistic Vet Chris Aukland and Sheep Farmer Lynnie Hutchison guide you through their top remedies for common problems in sheep and lambs, including:
stress, injuries, foot rot, pinkeye, pests – i.e. ticks, worms, fluke, flies; and common lambing problems such as ringwomb, mis-mothering, mastitis, fading lambs, failure to suckle, failure to thrive etc.

Chris Aukland MRCVS is a founder member of Whole Health Agriculture and HAWL. He teaches and supports farmers throughout the UK in the practical use of homeopathy and is a member of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons.

Lynnie Hutchison, Sheep Farmer – Lynnie farms organically in East Sussex and uses homeopathy extensively and with confidence – ‘We’ve used homeopathy more and more with increased understanding. You can never do a double blind trial but the results in our flock have more than convinced us of its worth.’

NB: The effectiveness of homeopathic preparations is unproven, and disputed within veterinary science. You should never stop using conventional drugs and treatments without the knowledge and approval of your vet.

8:00pm Poly units – a cost effective alternative to traditional livestock housing?

Rob Black, SAC Consulting

Rob Black is an agricultural and rural business consultant for SAC Consulting, and is enthusiastic about helping all those in the crofting, smallholding and growing communities with their polytunnel queries, from growing fruit and vegetables to livestock housing.

In today’s talk, he concentrates on where, how and which poly units can be a viable and cost effective livestock housing solution for small farming units – come along to find out more about whether poly units could suit your holding and stock.