Young farmer focus
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