The humble neep the past star of farming

Scottish past farming skills

Agricultural heritage

The story being told here is about the vital role the neep played in farming in the past in Aberdeenshire. It played a key role as part of agricultural heritage. You can see the entire year of the neep at our Scottish heritage film archive.The Neep or the turnip was an essential for agriculture in two ways. It fed the cattle and other stock during the winter and early spring from October to May. This is all part of our Scottish heritage story telling.

It was also a valuable crop rotation contributor. This enabled the land to become more fertile when annually rotated across the farmers’ fields. Carney Heritage productions film archive captured the full story on film. Today in 2023 the Neep has a less essential contribution to make as the staple diet for stock. It nevertheless has an important place in today’s agriculture.

Neep barrow

The neeps were sown in mid May using the neep barrow which was pulled by a single Clydesdale horse. The Clydesdale horse played a vital role in Scotland’s agricultural heritageBy mid-June they were ready to be hoed. That was the process of singling each plant and removing all the weeds from the rounded drill. Before they were hoed the farmer would shim the drill that removed the side weeds. The the weeds between each drill were also removed. This made hoeing easier.


Hoeing was a lonesome and boring task when done yourself. It became more preferable when there were others in the park hoeing with you at least you could have a blether. Hoeing was very much part of our agricultural past. Hoeing stopped in Aberdeenshire in the mid-1990s when precision sowing of the neep seed was possible, and spraying took place to keep the weeds down. But how good was the spray for the cattle that ate the neeps and for us who ate the cattle. The start of intensive farming had truly arrived.

Once the neeps were hoed and shimmed some weeks after they were left to grow till they were needed in October for feeding the cattle, Clydesdales and sheep. The farmers wife would also use the neep to supplement the rural diet. This is all part of Scotland’s rich past heritage. So the neep was a star of farming life in many ways.

Pooing neeps

The neeps were pooed or pulled from the drill using a tapner to cut of the root and the earth and sometimes the shaw of the neep. They were thrown into a row and then another row was formed 4 drill over the field . This allowed the Clydesdale horse and the box cart to drive between the two rows and allow the bailie to load the neeps into the cart.

Carting neeps with the Clydesdale

The neeps were then carted home to the farm and tipped into the neep shed. From there they were hashed or sliced using the Plump neep hasher which was a hand operated single neep hashing piece of equipment. The hashed neeps were then carried in a wire scull and fed to the cattle which were tied up in stalls with tow cattle in each stall. The neeps were the only source of water for the cattle and they formed the main diet for the cattle all winter. The past farming work owed a great deal to the Clydesdale horse. It was a sad day for many horsemen when the tractor replaced this magnificent animal who was the farmers best friend.

So the neep was a celebrity of agriculture and essential for stock husbandry for almost 100 years. See this part of Scotlands past on film at our website

Don Carney of Carney Heritage Productions