HUGE CROWDS AT NSA NORTH SHEEP: A huge number of NSA members (enjoying free entry for the first time this year) and non-members enjoyed NSA North Sheep this year, withcrowds flocking through the gates at Millstone Moor Farm, Cockermouth, Cumbria, all day. A highlight of the event was a charity auction fir the #StayStrongStu campaign, which supports the 25-year-old farmer and rugby player, Stu Ridley from Tynedale, who has an inoperable brain tumour. Host farmer Neil Marston and his fellow Bluefaced Leicester breeders provided straws from two top rams to be auctioned on the day, which both sold to the same bidder – vet Neil Lang – raising £2,800 for the campaign. A more familiar feature of NSA North Sheep – the Young Shepherd of the Year Competition – saw 21-year-old Robert Walker from Brennand Farm, Clitheroe, Lancashire walk away with the top prize of £300 and the Ali Johnson Perpetual Trophy. The runner up was Matthew Emmet from Wythop Hall Farm near Cockermouth with third place going to William Emmerson of Weardale. Robert will now go on to represent the NSA Northern Region at the UK finals to be held at NSA Sheep 2016 in Malvern. The event also saw two important presentations – David Croston MBE was given the George Hedley Memorial Award (full story here) and John Geldard, recently retired NSA Chairman, was thanked for his hard work for the organisation with the gift of a new crook. Read the full report from NSA North Sheep here.
MORE NSA SHEEP EVENTS IN COMING DAYS: This weekend sees the NSA Eastern Region’s Youthful Shepherds Event, which all young people in the sheep sector are encouraged to attend. There is also NSA Highland Sheep on Tuesday (see more below) andNSA Sheep South West in a fortnight. Entries for the Young Shepherd of the Year Competition and Carcase Competition are both open – see the website for more information.
WIDE RANGE OF WELSH ISSUES RAISED: NSA Cymru/Wales Regional Development Officer Helen David and NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker met with Welsh Government officials on Monday, including Andrew Slade, Group Director for Agriculture, Food and Marine, and Christianne Glossop, Chief Vet. Phil reports: “A range of policy topics were covered, such as the Basic Payment Scheme area-payments consultation, EID Cymru, the tagging and movements reporting of animals from the historic flock going to slaughter, and TSEs and carcase splitting. Dealing with members concerns over forage area eligibility in the uplands, it was confirmed that areas of molinia grass would remain eligible and are not under threat. Sheep health initiatives and the sheep scab working group recommendations were also discussed, with the Welsh Government making a strong case for the need for baseline information and better knowledge on the scale of the scab problem in Wales. The work required is being mapped out so that at least we understand how such information could be assessed and monitored.” Also in Wales this week, two members of the NSA Cymru/Wales Committee – Llew Thomas and Shaun Hall Jones – represented NSA at the Wales TAG project event on Wednesday. The event demonstrated the efficiencies of EID and recording.
USEFUL DIALOGUE WITH SCOTTISH POLITICIANS: Three representatives from NSA Scottish Region met with Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative party this week, as well as MSPs Alex Ferguson and Murdo Fraser. The first topic discussed by Sybil MacPherson (NSA Scottish Region Chairman), Maimie Paterson (Committee Member) and George Milne (Development Officer) was levy repatriation. George reports: “We requested that Ms Davidson gave her support to Scotland and helped negotiations continue smoothly by speaking to her UK counterparts. This could eventually see levy monies paid in a proportionate way, reflecting the amount of time an animal has spent in each country. The result would be an increased amount of money coming to Scotland, mostly as a result of lost levy on lambs slaughtered and processed south of the border. Ms Davidson agreed to follow this up. We then moved on to CAP convergence money, which is due to be reviewed in 2017. Everyone agreed that all, if not a higher percentage, of this fund should be returned to Scotland following the review.”Another topic discussed was proposed new legislation on succession and inheritance rights, which could have significant effects on family farms. Mr Fraser gave an accurate update on the current position and how the proposed new legislation by SNP government, in principle, would force a farmer to pass on his farm to all of his children equally, which could result in many small units being created. Everyone agreed that no benefit could be achieved by this and action should be taken to stop this legislation being approved. George continues: “We also discussed the current depressed lamb trade and raised our concerns for the reminder of the year. Factors around the current climate change targets were also addressed. At the end of the day, a worthwhile and constructive meeting was held and discussions will certainly be followed up in the future.”
FOOD AND FARMING CONSULTATION LAUNCHED IN WALES: NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker attended the Welsh Farming Conference at the Royal Welsh Showground on Thursday, where Farming Minister Rebecca Evans launched a consultation on a new strategic plan for farming and food that would focus on the business of farming. Phil reports: “The aim of this work is to establish a shared vision for a modern professional industry that would be achieved by working together – something Ms Evans is clearly keen to achieve and is leading by example through her willingness and enthusiasm to listen and engage. In her opening address, she recognised that there was a spotlight on the use of the RDP money in Wales due to the maximum level of modulation that was set. This is something NSA has been pushing hard for ever since the modulation rates were discussed, and our position has always been that there is sense in using CAP money to steer farming in a more resilient and sustainable direction, but that it should be kept clearly and firmly within the direct farming economy to aid farming businesses. Given that the Welsh Government is still in the process of resolving the detail of the Basic Payment Scheme, there is some nervousness about this new strategy being potentially another document that gathers dust; it is therefore down to everyone (including NSA) to make sure that this doesn’t happen and that we make the most of this opportunity.”NSA Cymru/Wales Region will be working on a response to this important consultation over the next couple of months. Members can read more about it and respond individually here. Other speakers at the conference included Emyr Roberts of FUW, Stephen James of NFU, Peter Kendall of AHDB, Allan Wilkinson of HSBC, Director General for EU Agriculture and Rural Development Pierre Bascou, Welsh Government’s Andrew Slade, and farmer Aled Jones.
REPRIEVE FOR ELS AGREEMENT HOLDERS: The NSA English Committee recently discussed a new level of reporting requirements being placed on sheep farmers in ELS agreements. Bryan Griffiths raised the issue, as he and others who had contacted him, had been written to by Natural England to say that, as an ELS agreement holder with livestock options, they would have to record exactly when and where sheep and cattle were grazing. NSA is pleased to learn that Natural England and Defra have acknowledged the practical challenge of farmers having to recording livestock movements by land parcel, and so implementation of the new requirement has been postponed while alternative approaches are considered. Natural England had brought in the requirement to meet EU rules on providing evidence, and so NSA understands that an alternative will have to be found, albeit hopefully a more realistic one.
PROGRESS ON ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE: One year on from its first antimicrobial action plan, the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) has provided an update about positive steps being taken by the industry to tackle rising resistance to antibiotics in livestock and humans. These include improved biosecurity controls to prevent the introduction and spread of disease onto and between farms, considerable work to enable the collection of better antimicrobial usage data for reporting to the VMD (including a requirement for Red Tractor farmers to record antimicrobial use), and the embedding of responsible use in veterinary surgeon CPD training and practice inspections. John FitzGerald, RUMA Secretary General, says work on implementing the plan will continue and a further update published in 2016. Mr FitzGerald has also provided an article about sheep farmers and antimicrobial awareness in the coming edition of Sheep Farmer, which will arrive with members in a few days’ time.
TAKE NOTE OF MEAT WITHDRAWAL PERIODS: The Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) has released the figures for animal medicine residues found in food products during 2014, revealing that out of 39,836 analyses only 123 were found with residues above the reference point. This is a high compliance rate, but could be higher and underlines the importance of everyone involved in meat production always observing medicine withdrawal periods. The small number of breaches for sheep included antibiotics (sulfadiazine and oxytetracycline), wormers (closantel and fenbendazole) and OPs (diazinon).
ONLINE LIVESTOCK SYSTEM TO BE TAKEN DOWN FOR ONE WEEKEND: NSA has been inform that, due to essential maintenance work, various livestock systems to be unavailable from 8am on Saturday 20th June to 4pm on Sunday 21st June. This will include the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS), CTS Online, CTS Web Services, Ear Tag Allocation System and CTS Self Service Line.
BWMB LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE: A newly designed fresher-looking website has been launched by British Wool Marketing Board, including updated information on activities such as shearing training, marketing, the regional structure and useful advice for producers on fleece rolling and presentation. The site will also allow producers to register online or amend their registration details. BWMB’s new website can be found at www.bwmb.org.uk.
DON’T MISS NSA HIGHLAND SHEEP ON TUESDAY: A comprehensive farm tour by tractor-and-trailer and a short, sharp seminar in the morning, repeated in the afternoon, will be among the highlights of NSA Highland Sheep 2015 at Fearn Farm, Tain, Ross-shire, on Tuesday 9th June. “This is shaping up to be a great event for the sheep industry in Scotland and is sure to attract a large gathering of sheep farmers from all over the north and west of Scotland as well as from the north-east and central Scotland and further south,” said NSA Scotland Region Chairman Sybil MacPherson. Tractors and trailers will leave the farm steadingat regular intervals throughout the day and visitors will have the opportunity of viewing the Fearn section of the Scott family’s flock of 4,000 ewes of various breeds and crosses, which is spread over Fearn and three other units, as well as the farm’s well-known 60-strong herd of pedigree Beef Shorthorn cattle. One of the main focuses of the farm tour will be grassland management and presentations made at various stop-off points. Visitors will also have the opportunity of viewing a pan buster and vredo drill demonstration. Meanwhile, the two seminars at 11am and 1pm will be chaired by NSA Scottish Region Development officer, George Milne, with four speakers giving 15-minute presentations on the topics ‘How to pass the flock to the family and not the taxman’, ‘Contract farming: opportunities for farmers and new entrants’, ‘Breeding sheep fit for the future’ and ‘Where’s the market for lamb?’. We look forward to welcoming you on the day, where you will also be able to enjoy a tasty Scotch Lamb burger, courtesy of Bonar Bridge butchers Ormiston and Watt Limited. QMS, a sponsor of the events, has welcomed the commitment of the event organisers to service locally-sourced new season lamb on the day. Uel Morton, QMS Chief Executive, says: “We are delighted to see that quality locally-produced Scotch Lamb will be top of the menu at NSA Highland Sheep. It is great to see sheep farmers take pride in serving the fantastic lamb they work so hard to produce at an event like this, held during Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.”
TIME FOR A NEW PAIR OF WELLIES?! NSA Highland Sheep on Thursday will present the third of five opportunities to win a new pair of wellies from Dunlop and NSA. One lucky visitorwill be selected at random to win a pair of Dunlop Purofort Professional full safety (with a steel toe cap and midsole) or Dunlop Purofort Vallay (a new style of outdoor performance boot with leather trimming). All you have to do is pop along to the NSA stand and put your name in the hat – which is just want Caroline Evans of Ludlow, Shropshire, and Mr R. Montague of Lauder, Berwickshire did. They were the winners at NSA Welsh Sheep and NSA North Sheep respectively. The draw is open to members and non-members, and will be held at NSA Sheep South West and NSA Sheep Northern Ireland too. Click here for more information.
AUDIENCE WANTED FOR NEW SHEEPDOG TRIALLING SERIES: NSA members have been invited to be part of the audience when ITV films a new series featuring ‘celebrityshepherds’. Hosted by Gabby Logan, the show Flockstars will feature eight celebrities who, under the guidance of three professional mentors, have been learning to compete in sheepdog trial-style challenges. There will be four days of filming from Thursday 11th June at the Sterling Quarter Horses Equestrian Centre in East Sussex, and it is free to apply to be part of the audience. Go to http://www.applausestore.com/book-flock-stars and use the promotional code NSU.
OPPORTUNITY AVAILABLE FOR YOUNG PERSON: Following NSA’s work on promoting the value of grass breaks and sheep within arable rotations, and the opportunities for new business set-ups, we have been made aware of a chance for someone to start their own sheep flock within a large-scale and diverse farming operation in Essex. Presently 200-300 acres of grass is available, easily increasing to 500 acres for the right person. There would be the opportunity for additional paid work within the farming operation at certain times of the year and particularly at the start of any agreement. As with other opportunities promoted by NSA, we are initially inviting expressions of interest to email@example.com ‘Sheep on arable unit’. If you missed last week’s Weekly Email Update opportunity about a flock of sheep being offered on lease to a young person, look out for Sheep Farmer magazine, arriving with members this week.
SUMMER WORK PLACEMENT WANTED: NSA has been contacted by a very enthusiastic young man from the Republic of Ireland who particularly wants a work placement in the UK mainland this summer. Jack Wickham (17) explains his situation: “I have plenty of experience with sheep and cattle. I have some experience with farm machinery but not the very modern machines. I would love to work on big farms in England during the summer. I don't ask for much money; just really enough to pay for some flights home and some spending money. More than anything, I want to get more experience and learn new things. I am a very quick learner and love farming. I much prefer working with sheep then cattle. I have some experience in lambing, dipping, weighing and dosing. I am a very quick learner and if there was anything that you wanted to teach me I would pick it up quickly as I want to learn new methods.” Contact Jack on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0035 30877 883400.