Young farmers: why agriculture is booming

Long hours, intense physical labour, low pay and foxes in the hen house: who’d be a farmer today? A growing number, it seems. We enters a brave new world of drone tractors and designer sheep

At the Three Counties Show, the shearing competition is in full swing. Tucked into one corner of the vast showground in Malvern, Worcestershire, is a stage into which are fitted six little booths like the starting gates on a racecourse. Each one has a number, a chalked-up name and an electrical point into which the competitors fit their shears. Six men line up and on the signal each one opens the gate, extracts a sheep, flips it on to its back, wedges its head between their thighs, bends over and starts shearing, belly first. The ewes do not seem quite as happy with this arrangement as the audience does.
Each shearer is trying to remove the fleece as quick and clean as pulling off a jersey, no nicks or cuts, and no more than three minutes per sheep (the current British record stands at 30 seconds).

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Meet the man with 20 jobs

Billy Muir, the man who almost single-handedly keeps the island of North Ronaldsay afloat

Three of us are sitting at the kitchen table at Billy and Isobel Muir’s farmhouse on North Ronaldsay: Robert, the photographer, me, and Billy. Isobel is making lunch. Or she’s trying to make lunch, but Billy keeps getting up and down to look for things, shifting the framed pictures of grandchildren from the mantelpiece, moving the Herd Register For Female Bovine Animals three inches to the left. He’s grumbling under his breath.

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