Martin Macqueen and his wife, Julie, have been farming for about fifty years. They run “High Road Sheep” on the Jim Bowen Farm in Alleghany County, just nine miles south of Hot Springs. The primary tenant of Bowen’s ninety acre farm is John Mitchell a beef farmer. However, Martin worked several years for John’s cattle operation, and now he is kind enough to let the Macqueens run the sheep there in return for part-time work.
Martin became interested in livestock breeding as a child on his grandfather’s farm in northern Scotland, and has spent his working life primarily in that field.
He left Scotland in 1965 after graduating from Agricultural College to take a job managing a livestock operation in Maryland. Julie and Martin met and married there, and after eight years, moved to Pocahontas County, West Virginia where he ran their own livestock operation for 23 years on rented property, raising cattle, sheep, horses and stock dogs. Julie taught school all those years. In 1996, Martin took a job managing a large cattle ranch in Iowa, but the death of the primary owner shortly after brought them back to the area. They returned to work for John Mitchell, a longtime friend who maintains an extensive cattle operation. In 2008, John downsized the breeding operation and Martin went to work for Wesley Woods in Highland County, overseeing cattle and founding a sheep operation. When Wesley had a change of plans, he sold his new flocks to Macqueens. With their new sheep, the Macqueens relocated to Alleghany County.
The Macqueens now run about 70 ewes comprising two registered flocks, North Country Cheviots and Suffolks. The primary purpose of their operation is to provide high quality breeding stock for the commercial shepherd. The sheep are not bred for show but are meaty and moderately framed; they are bred for practical and profitable functions, carcass merit and the utilization of grass and forage as the primary ration. The Macqueens consign ram lambs to performance test programs, and employ artificial insemination to improve genetics.
They were fortunate to exhibit the Supreme Ram over all breeds at the 2012 West Virginia Purebred Sheep Sale, selling for $2000, a record for that sale and the highest price ever for a North Country Cheviot in the United States. Breeding stock recently sold included a number to Vermont, a large group to West Virginia, and to Kentucky, with a sale pending to Oregon. Their surplus male lambs provide a number of slaughter animals going to the restaurant trade.
In addition, Martin and his wife have run a livestock photography and graphics business that includes show and farm photography in several states as well as computer graphic design and production.
(Photographs by Martin Macqueen)