Kirkley Hall Farm Hosts International Sheep Dog Society Trials for the First Time in Eight Years

Kirkley Hall Farm Hosts International Sheep Dog Society Trials for the First Time in Eight Years  
Date Published: 19 May 2017

Northumberland College welcomed over 50 dogs and their handlers from the International Sheep Dog Society to Kirkley Hall Farm last week for a Northumberland Heat Open Sheepdog Trial.

The trials, of which there are a total of 27 across Northumberland throughout the year, ran from 8am in the morning until 5pm on Thursday 18 May and included three different categories

  • New Handlers (Those who haven't ran a Novice route before)

  • Novice (Those who haven't ran an Open League route before)

  • Open League (Open to all, usually ran by those who wish to gain National points) 


The event, which is the first Northumberland Sheep Dog Society Trial in eight years to be held at Kirkley Hall, saw Shepherds from as far as Scotland to Manchester come together to compete.

The International Sheep Dog Society is a member organisation and registers over 6,000 Border Collie pups every year on behalf of its members.

Kirkley Hall Farm Stocksman, Michael Stephenson, organised the event. He joined the College in 2011 as an Animal Management student and has since progressed to full-time employment on the farm.


Michael said:  "I have four Border Collies who work with me at Kirkley Hall Farm that I've trained from puppies, so I thought now was a perfect time to host the trials."


"It's great to put Kirkley Hall Farm back on the map for these sorts of events, which are important in the farming community." 


During the competition, dogs were guided through a series of commands to complete a variety of tasks that reflect their everyday work with a packet of sheep.


Each competitor started their race with 100 points and for every mistake made during the run, the judge, Stuart Wallace, who is a well-known Shepherd from the Boarders region, deducted points.


Michael added: "Each handler will have a preference when giving their commands, either by voice, by whistle, or a combination of both."


The six top placed competitors of the day who secured the most points were awarded with National Points, meaning they will now stand a chance of qualifying in the International Sheep Dog UK Finals. 


18-year-old Megan Young, Northumberland College's Farm Apprentice, assisted on the day, ensuring the trial ran smoothly and letting the sheep out for each trial.


Megan is also in the process of training her own sheep dog to work on the farm and compete in trials.


She said: "Being part of Sheep Dog Trials was great experience and is something I look forward to competing in in future.


"I love working outdoors and on the farm. Every day is different, but I do a mixture of bedding, feeding and tagging the sheep and cattle.


"During the Spring I have been involved with the lambing here at Kirkley Hall, so this year I've really had the opportunity to expand my skills thanks to my Apprenticeship and the help from the Agriculture team here."


The 190-acre Kirkley Hall estate along with 1314 acres at Carlcroft Farm, provide a valuable hands-on teaching resource for our students studying on our various land-based courses including agriculture and horticulture.

The farm runs as a commercial farming operation with sheep and cattle livestock as well as arable farming operations, providing financial returns to the College.

Its gardens exceed four hectares and include the National Fagus (Beech Tree) Collection, a Victorian walled garden, woodland gardens and 1,330sqm of amenity and commercial greenhouses.


Those interested in studying a course in Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus should visit for more information.