Farmer Profile: Will and Kev Utley

WEST SCRAFTON FARM, COVERDALE

Will and Kevin Uttley

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Will and Kev farm together with their wives at West Scrafton, and have lived here all their lives – their father, grandfather and great grandfather farmed here before them. They have roughly 500 acres of inbye land, enclosed by around 28 miles of dry stone walls, and also have grazing rights on the common. While their father used to favour Swaledales, and enjoyed showing the pedigrees, Will and Kev’s focus is on breeding sheep for the meat market that have larger carcasses, so they keep Texel crosses and cross Swaledales with Bluefaced Leicester sheep to breed Mules. In total, they have a flock of 1100 breeding sheep. They also keep 130 suckler cows, with the calves bringing in a steady income. The farm needs to support both families: Will and Kev both have three children who have gone through university.

Will and Kev say that their father was a traditionalist, and they have been trying to evolve the farm, both altering the main breed of sheep, and reseeding pastures to produce better grass, which in turn produces bigger sheep.

In addition to the farm, Will’s wife, Kath, has a small holiday cottage and Kev’s wife sells yarn and rug-making supplies over the internet. Looking ahead, the brothers are unsure what will happen to their farm; they have six children but none of them wants to step in. The problem extends to West Scrafton: in the late 1960s there were more than ten farms in the village. Now there are only four, there are few young people in farming, and no new children have been born here in the last ten years. In the much nearer future, with Brexit on the horizon, both brothers are concerned about the impact this may have but emphasise the importance of adapting, and evolving their practice – something they have always done. ‘We’ve dealt with ups and downs that are thrown at us. You deal with them, if times get hard you tighten your belt, it passes and you carry on and that’s how farming’s been and always will be.’

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