Woolkeepers Meet The Farmer: Introducing Angus
At Hypnos we live and breathe sustainability. It’s been an integral part of the ethical journey we’ve been on for the last decade, which includes partnering with like-minded people and proven organisations like Red Tractor farming standards, and being part of The Woolkeepers®. The Woolkeepers® initiative focuses on bringing together the community of farmers, manufacturers, and brands to offer a transparent and ethical source of wool, offering our customers comfort with integrity.
In our latest ‘Meet the Farmers’ blog, we’re introducing you to Hertfordshire based farmer Angus MacKay, whose wool we use in our mattresses.
Like Hypnos, Angus’s farm is a family run business, with Angus and his father Daniel managing the running of the 700-hectare farm while mum, Lorna fronts tupping, lambing, shearing and much more.
Their passion for farming and analysing how they can improve the land they work on through natural methods drives everything they do. This includes looking more closely at the use of substances such as weed killers on the land, which they’d noticed were becoming less effective against some of the unwanted plants growing here. Indeed, this was the catalyst for conversations between Angus and his father, which focused on adapting their way of working with nature and led them to start working with sheep five years ago.
Sheep are a great way to tackle weeds and overgrowth, efficiently helping to maintain landscapes and habitat to control the environment in a natural way. It was for this reason the MacKay’s decided to turn their farm into a mixed arable and sheep farm, with the idea of making better use of the land and allowing the livestock to naturally combat the farm’s issue with weeds such as black grass which has grown a resistance to herbiscides.
After much deliberation around the breed of sheep to buy, the MacKays decided on Romney sheep, renowned for their higher quality wool and hardiness, which allows them to live outside all year round as nature intended. Making sure the sheep would be well cared for and would have a comfortable life was key for the family.
“Our first flock in 2016 consisted of 300 sheep,” Angus says, “This quickly grew to 1,000. We’re learning on the job, as sheep farming is new to us, but we’ve received welcome advice from several boards and bodies which has helped us run our flock in an ethical way, ensuring the sheep are well cared for, happy and are well looked after.”
The mixed farming method now taken by the MacKays is proving to be beneficial for the farm, the grass and the sheep. Angus explains: “The sheep are helping to combat any problems with weeds, and any waste they produce fertilizes the land in a natural way and makes it more resilient to any extreme weather events.”
A family affair
Angus and his family love working with their flock of sheep and although they’re relatively new to it, they’re enjoying learning each and every day. Angus added, “Our mixed approach to farming is very different to the fast paced, high yield, high cost economic and environmental ways of arable farming. In terms of our attitude to lamb and wool production, I think you could say we have a ‘modern approach to traditional tasks’. It’s really important we embrace nature and how nature intended things to be but enhance things in a modern way where we can.
“For example, over winter we keep all the sheep outdoors as nature intended, but we graze them on stubble turnips as there is insufficient grass for them. This gives the sheep exactly the nutrition they need to thrive and produce healthy and happy lambs.”
But this operation can’t run without all the family’s help. Both Angus and Daniel manage the business and operations of the farm, with Daniel heading up the arable side and Angus taking care of the sheep. Lorna, Angus’ mum, is in charge of the daily organisation for tupping, lambing, shearing and animal movement reporting, as well as accessing the flocks general health to pre-empt any potential challenges and make sure all the sheep are healthy and happy.
“We also have a team of shearers who join us in July and work with us for a few days a week. We’re a great team and all have a vital role to play in the day-to-day running of our home and the farm.”
All in a day’s work
“Part of constantly trying to improve efficiency within the business is keeping a close eye on the sheep’s welfare. It’s important they are not sick or under-fed and are happy and living life to the fullest on the farm. We care about all our animals and ensure high welfare for them all because it’s the right thing to do and also because it yields better wool too.” Angus explains.
For the MacKays, having more companies such as Hypnos who
Angus concludes, “Working with The Woolkeepers® not only benefits us but it gives the public confidence in the end product. Every industry needs a mechanism which pushes for fairer policies and a transparent process. This is a dedicated model connecting farm to shop, and we’re happy to be working within it.”
The Woolkeepers® initiative works with Red Tractor Standards to assess safety, animal welfare, land and much more. Hypnos is excited to be part of The Woolkeepers® and is proud to shine a light on the progressive work farmers like Angus are doing.
For more information about The Woolkeepers® visit Woolkeepers.co.uk.