Serving the Farming Industry across the Midlands for 35 Years
A 25-year-old farmer who started his own 160-ewe sheep flock has won a silver digital innovation award in the British Farming Awards. Top of the flocks

Despite coming from a farming family, William Roobottom lost interest in agriculture during his early teens. But his passion was reignited a few years later when he needed to earn a bit of money.

“I went back home and drove the tractors and helped dad out and fell back in love with it,” he says. Rather than pursing an accountancy career as planned, William decided instead to study agriculture at Bishop Burton College.

Graduating last year with a degree in agriculture with farm business management from Harper Adams University, William says switching from accountancy to become a farmer was the best decision of his life.

Today, he runs a thriving flock of 160 pedigree Lleyn sheep at Cowley Hill Farm, Staffordshire. Breeding his own replacements, the aim is to expand to 300 ewes over the next two years and develop a secondary B flock.

“They are a good, easy lambing breed,” William explains. “We are going to cross the poorer ewes and the better ewes will stay pedigree. We’ll breed our own replacements from the A flock and the not-so-good ones will slip into be flock.”

Marketing expert

Easier to manage than some other breeds, Lleyns graze harder than some continental breeds and are more prolific, adds William. But his silver award was for being runner-up in the 2021 Digital Innovator of the Year category in the British Farming Awards.

As well as word of mouth, pedigree sheep for sale are advertised through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube – building on William’s expertise as a part-time marketeer for Datamars, the livestock data management specialists.

“Many breeders advertise in the breed magazine but people my age don’t tend to read it. I can’t believe how much I’ve sold through the Internet. People just randomly call me on my mobile. It really does make it work.

“The secret in successful marketing is being consistent, explains William. “I post two videos every week on You Tube. They are always at half past seven on a Wednesday and Saturday morning – so people know when to expect it.”

Paying tribute to his family, William  says parents Neil and Julie – and grandparents Graham and Rachael –  encouraged him to start his own flock.

Decision-maker

“It was important for them and for me that I have my own separate enterprise – and that they trust me to run it. We discuss decisions but at the end the day I get the final say after everyone has had their input.”

William also pays tribute to his sister Ellie, lambing helper Lauren Bates and girlfriend Sophie. “She puts up with me working at stupid o’clock at night – when really I should be sat with her watching television.”

Four main tups go into the flock in October – all pedigree Lleyns selected for their genetics as well as conformation to the breed standard. Ewes are vaccinated and scanned in early January ahead of lambing at the start of February.

Girlfriend Sophie helps Lauren at lambing. “It’s the busiest time of year until March. After that it is encouraging the lambs to grow. They are vaccinated at one-month-old, with male lambs away at 16-20 weeks old.

“Lleyns are not as fast growing as Texels – but for me, the other breed qualities more than compensate for that. We cut the first haylage at the start of June – usually the same week that the showing season starts.

Future plans

“We show the sheep at the Staffordshire Show and six weeks later we are more into hay. That’s when all the lambs go – usually to the Ross-on-Wye breeding sale in September – and that’s the sheep farming year.

“We scanned last year at 180% and then we lost 10-15%. I want to get better and I’m learning all the time. I enjoy the business side of things and it has to pay for itself – as much as I love the sheep, I wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make money.”

Passionate about what he does, William says he uses his YouTube channel to show people what farming is really like. “Clarkson’s Farm has done a really good job for farming – and I like to show real farming as it is,” he says.

As well as expanding the flock to 300 ewes, the goal for the next five years is to become renowned as a good quality breeder. “I never say the best because I have respect for other breeders who are better than me and have been doing it for years.

“Maybe in 20 years, I will get there. But breeding top quality livestock is a long-term ambition – it doesn’t happen overnight. If I could just be mentioned alongside those top names, it would mean the world to me.”

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