Young farmer fo­cus

The Galloway News - - FARMING REVIEW - Jackie Grant

As a six-year-old girl, Ash­ley Mar­shall used to traipse be­hind her dad while he was out in the fields lamb­ing his ewes.

Nearly 20 years later, she’s still fol­low­ing in her fa­ther’s foot­steps by forg­ing a ca­reer in the farm­ing in­dus­try she’s pas­sion­ate about.

Every week­day morn­ing, the 25-year-old gets out of bed at 5.30am to start milk­ing 120 cows.

Every third week­end, she’s out in the morn­ing and again from 3.30pm for the sec­ond shift of the day.

Then it’s on to her other job as a wait­ress, bar­maid and some­times cook at a nearby ho­tel.

It can be tir­ing at times and Ash­ley ad­mits if she sits down, she could eas­ily “fall asleep”. But farm­ing is in her blood, and she can’t imag­ine not be­ing in­volved in the way of life that she loves.

Born at Shaw­head, Ash­ley, dad Robert, mum Va­lerie and big brother Wul­lie even­tu­ally set­tled up north in the Aberdeen area.

Mem­o­ries of help­ing Robert on the farms he worked on are still fresh in her mind.

“I was about six when I lambed my first ewe. If dad’s hands were too big to get in, it was my wee ones that had to get them out.

“Af­ter that, I used to fol­low him around with a wee hes­sian bag that I put lambs in. “At one point, we had just un­der 2,000 sheep. “Every day af­ter school while dad was out­side check­ing them, me and Wul­lie would check the ones in­side. Wul­lie used to catch them and I’d lamb them.

“As we got older, we started do­ing more around the farm. I also worked as a lam­ber for a few years and dealt with all the usual prob­lems like twin­ning them on.”

Af­ter leav­ing school, Ash­ley would spend her days help­ing dad be­fore start­ing her other job in a ho­tel at 5pm.

Spare time was taken up with her first love of show­ing cat­tle at agri­cul­tural shows across the coun­try.

“Me and Wul­lie used to show them to­gether and I’ll never for­get the rol­lick­ings we used to get off dad at times if he thought we could do bet­ter.

“I’m glad he was like that be­cause it en­cour­aged us to work harder and do it right.

“Mum didn’t farm but she was the one work­ing be­hind the scenes, getting things ready for the shows. If hadn’t been for her, we wouldn’t have been able to go to any. “There’s no bet­ter buzz than do­ing well at a show.” Two years ago, she moved back to her roots in Shaw­head af­ter meet­ing part­ner Hay­den Ross, of Romes­beoch Farm.

She said: “I started work­ing at the Gal­loway Arms Ho­tel in Crock­et­ford and then heard that Ian Somerville of Lar­glea Farm was look­ing for a milk­ing as­sis­tant.

“I’d never milked a cow in my life, but I’ve been there a year and a half now. Ian’s a good boss and we work well to­gether.

“It’s quite a phys­i­cal job and prob­a­bly still re­garded as more of a man’s task than a woman. Th­ese days, it’s not quite sit­ting on a three-legged stool with a bucket.”

Ash­ley’s been on the re­ceiv­ing end of a few kicks at times and if a rest­less cow doesn’t like her putting her hands un­der it and around its legs to get the units on their ud­ders, it won’t be long in let­ting her know.

A member of Lower Niths­dale Young Farm­ers Club, Ash­ley said: “You’re head is right next to their legs and if they kick out, you could eas­ily end up with a cracked skull or bro­ken arm but that’s just part and par­cel of farm­ing.”

With more women than ever be­fore play­ing a ma­jor role in Scot­tish agri­cul­ture, Ash­ley would en­cour­age her fel­low fe­males to get their hands dirty and show what they’re ca­pa­ble of.

Ash­ley added: “I def­i­nitely want to stay in farm­ing in some form. Women used to be in the farm­house kitchen but nowa­days, we’re out do­ing our bit.

“At the mar­kets, you’d find the ladies work­ing in the of­fice, but now, they’re out at the pens getting in the sheep or the cows.

“A lot of folk don’t ac­tu­ally know my name, just as Rab Mar­shall’s daugh­ter, but that’s okay.

“I’m proud to be fol­low­ing in my dad’s foot­steps. Farm­ing’s not just a job for the boys.”

Farm­ing ad­vo­cate Ash­ley Mar­shall in the milk­ing par­lour at Lar­glea Farm, Crock­et­ford

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