Expressions of interest are invited for the position of Part-Time Livestock Manager with the potential to convert to a full agricultural tenancy
BACKGROUND AND CURRENT FARM OVERVIEW
The Isle of Ulva is situated off the west coast of the Isle of Mull in the West of Scotland and was purchased by the North West Mull Community Woodland Company (NWMCWC) on behalf of the local community in 2018. The farmland covers a total area of 1,462.63ha which comprises mostly hill ground at the centre of the island, former township ground across lower-lying areas along the coastline, and better-quality ground at the eastern end of Ulva. The old township ground along the southern and western coast is unfenced and forms part of one open hill block with the moorland, measuring approx. 1,100ha. The in-bye to the east covers approx. 130ha and consists of a mostly fenced off field system. A large coastal hill park stretches across approx. 190ha of former township land along the north coast.
In 2020, 10km of stock fencing was erected to create a boundary between the hill block and road leading to the neighbouring island of Gometra, to create the north coast hill park, and to replace derelict fences on the in-bye ground. In 2021, bracken control was carried out across 158ha, and follow-up bracken control is planned for 2023 and 2025. NWMCWC established a cattle herd comprising of 34 pedigree Highland heifers which are run extensively alongside a small sheep flock. A Highland stock bull will be joining the herd in early summer 2022.
There are 4 sizeable woodland blocks on the island which do not form part of the farm. An Agri Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) is currently in place until the end of 2024 to help gradually reintroduce and build up agricultural activity in an environmentally sympathetic way. AECS management on Ulva is aimed at protecting and encouraging local biodiversity and specifically targets vulnerable priority species such as farmland waders, Corncrake, Hen Harrier, Marsh Fritillary and Twite. Ulva is also one of the last remaining homes of the Slender Scotch Burnet Moth, and targeted livestock grazing and bracken control are used to protect and maintain its habitat. An Integrated Land Management Plan (ILMP) including agricultural land use assessment has been drawn up for NWMCWC to provide a framework for agricultural activity consistent with the other social, environmental and economic priorities on the island, and is available on request.
LOGISTICS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Ulva is accessed from the larger neighbouring Isle of Mull via a pedestrian ferry which operates across the 150 metres wide Sound of Ulva. This ferry can only accommodate relatively small items of freight. Bulkier items including building materials and livestock have been transported recently on larger vessels on an ad hoc or special charter basis. This has worked well but is only an interim solution which requires some coordination and forward planning between the community group and vessel owner. Going forward, the community group is working towards providing a dedicated
larger capacity ferry service between Ulva and Mull. There are no public roads on Ulva, and except for the main tracks at the eastern end of the island, most routes are only suitable for offroad vehicles. In order to maintain the unique character of the island, the only vehicles permitted are for essential use which includes agriculture. The Ulva Ferry Primary School is located less than half a mile from Ulva Ferry on Mull, and the nearest high school is in Tobermory in the northeast of Mull. A bus service operates for both schools.
JOB DESCRIPTION AND REQUIREMENTS
NWMCWC seeks a motivated and enthusiastic person who will take on the day-to-day management of the cattle herd and sheep flock on Ulva and deal with all aspects of livestock welfare and production, some basic farmland maintenance, and compliance with the grazing requirements of the agri-environment climate scheme. The successful applicant will be expected to work independently, although some contractor help is likely to be needed at key times during larger livestock handlings and will report directly to one point of contact within the community group. The applicant should be able to keep all relevant records unless it is agreed with NWMCWC to share record-keeping between the livestock manager and the agricultural consultant.
Candidates will need to demonstrate relevant farming experience, preferably in similar landscapes and logistically challenging locations, although there is an opportunity to benefit from mentoring on a nearby farm on the Isle of Mull for any new entrants or candidates wishing to expand their knowledge about hill livestock farming or otherwise wanting to take advantage of support to settle into this position.
NWMCWC envisage a candidate who is passionate about sustainable farming practices and agroecological farming systems, preferably with a focus on adopting a production system to suit the environment on Ulva including native (-based) livestock breeds.
The candidate will also need to be sympathetic to the wider ethos and objectives for sustainable social and economic development of Ulva and the role of agriculture within that. The community group looks for candidates with a willingness and ability to play a part in the developing society and organisation of life on Ulva as the population increases. An ability to work constructively and sensitively with others for the common good will be an important attribute.
Note: Many of the other priorities and activities on Ulva will have interactions with agriculture. In particular, tourism (upwards of 7000 visitors per annum), house renovation and building work, environmental and archaeological studies etc.
CONTRACT & REMUNERATION
The post of part-time livestock manager will be for a duration of approx. 2.5 years from late spring/early summer 2022 until 31st December 2024. The position will be available from 1st April 2022 onwards and NWMCWC are happy to negotiate the start date.
With regards to time commitment as part of the contract, an average of 61 hours per month is anticipated for the remainder of 2022, increasing to an average of 76 hours per month from 2023 onwards when the cattle herd will be calving.
Depending on qualifications and experience, a monthly salary of between £732 and £912 is offered for the remainder of 2022, increasing to between £976 and £1216 from 2023 onwards. Employee benefits include a contributory pension scheme and paid holiday entitlement.
From summer 2022 onwards, a generously sized four-bedroom property will be available on a service tenancy basis. This accommodation, the Manse, has been newly refurbished to a high standard. Monthly rental for the Manse is £520 plus an additional small service charge towards roads, water and sewage.
For a successful candidate wishing to commence their new position on Ulva in spring, accommodation is available under a separate agreement through the Ardalum Hostel on Ulva until the Manse is ready.
FUTURE PLANS AND POTENTIAL TENANCY
NWMCWC are keen to realise Ulva’s potential as a vibrant, active livestock farm that can not only contribute towards the social and economic sustainability of the wider northwest Mull area and its residents, but can do so in an environmentally beneficial way that preserves important local habitats and species. After the initial part-time employment as livestock manager, or earlier by mutual agreement, NWMCWC would like to offer the successful candidate the opportunity of a full tenancy of Ulva Farm, subject to satisfactory performance by the candidate.
Recognising that the current locations of the accommodation and farm steadings may not be ideal once the farming business has grown to its optimum potential and size under a tenancy, NWMCWC would eventually like to offer a farmyard in a location better suited to the running of the farm where the farmhouse and farm steading(s) are in one place.
ADDITIONAL INCOME OPPORTUNITIES
NWMCWC recognises that some candidates may wish to generate additional income over and above the part-time position as livestock manager and is keen to encourage other opportunities such as providing visitor services and accommodation or further land-based work.
For candidates wishing to take on further agricultural work for the initial period or longer-term, there are many different contracting opportunities on the neighbouring Isle of Mull, ranging from fencing to sheep gathering, livestock handling and sheep shearing. There is also a part-time contractual or employed position available on a nearby cattle and sheep farm on Mull which can be offered together with mentoring for new entrant candidates or candidates wishing to improve their hill livestock farming knowledge and skills.
Any suggestions to generate further income would be welcome for discussion to ensure that an attractive package can be offered to the successful candidate (and their partner/family).
There is potential to grow the currently small sheep flock on Ulva, whether during the initial few years or thereafter, and NWMCWC welcomes a discussion on this. There is also the potential for a candidate to run their own small sheep flock on Ulva, subject to agreeing on numbers and grazing location, especially within the context of AECS management
SELECTION PROCESS AND CONTACT DETAILS
We are working with the Scottish Land Matching Service to help us assess applications and draw up a shortlist as a basis for inviting candidates for detailed discussions and a visit to Ulva. In the first instance, expressions of interest along with a CV including present situation and relevant experience should be directed to the Scottish Land Matching Service via email email@example.com , referencing Ulva in the subject heading.
Although not essential, candidates are also encouraged to share their own vision of their preferred agricultural production system and farmland management, or what vision they have for agriculture more generally.
All contacts and information will be dealt with fairly and in confidence.