NSA looking for Progressive Young Shepherds

At its biennial northern event, NSA North Sheep 2015, The National Sheep Association will, once again, be looking for the best young shepherd or shepherdess in the North. Aiming to encourage the next generation, the “NSA North Sheep Young Shepherd of the Year Award”, sponsored by Askham Bryan and Newton Rigg Colleges, will be held at NSA North Sheep 2015, which this year is being held at Millstone Moor Farm, near Cockermouth, on June 3rd.

The closing date for entries is Monday 11th May and there will be a maximum of 20 entries. The successful 20 will be chosen on the strength of their written entry to the competition. The 1st Prize winner will not only receive £300 prize money and the Ali Johnson Perpetual Trophy, but they will go on to represent NSA Northern Region at the NSA Sheep 2016 finals at Malvern in July 2016. In addition to the first prize of £300, 2nd wins £200, 3rd – £100, 4th-£50, 6th-£20 and 7th to 10th £10 each. The 2013 winner of Young Shepherd of the Year competition was Josh Ryder of Central House Farm, Haverah Park, Harrogate.

The aim of the competition is a test of key shepherding skills in five areas, and is open to young people who will be aged up to 26 years on 27th July 2016. All entrants must live in the NSA Northern region [the traditional county areas of Northumberland, Co Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire, Isle of Man, North & East Yorkshire], must have a British Wool Marketing Board Blue Seal Certificate for shearing and complete an application form.

Tasks to be completed on the day by each competitor are to:

1. Complete EBLEX lamb selection
2. Shear two sheep (must have BWMB Blue Seal Certificate)
3. ATV Handling, complete a set course
4. Give examples of correct foot care techniques/ handling, vaccinating & dosing
5. Answer questions on flock management and health issues

Matt Bagley the Head of Agriculture at Newton Rigg College, Penrith gave some further background to these tasks which the young shepherds are expected to excel in: “This is a multi-skilled competition, a test of skills, knowledge and aspirations which covers the main features of handling sheep. There is a written test in the form of a questionnaire where entrants have to answer questions on current industry-related issues. There are a number of practical tests on administration procedures to sheep, such as worming and dosing and the shearing competition.

“The ATV competency element is a very important part of this competition. ATVs are fantastic machines and essential for the modern shepherd, but there are so many accidents that we feel it is an essential skill to consider. We will be testing health and safety aspects and all-round handling competency and speed awareness, as well as awareness of the bike itself.”

Giving an insight into the background of the competition, and his perception of the interest in sheep farming today, Matt concludes optimistically: “We have at Newton Rigg, 270 agricultural students studying via apprenticeships or full-time courses. There is a huge interest within Cumbria in sheep in general and showing sheep and getting sheep to the highest levels.”

He adds: “Within the younger generation, there is a considerable amount of talent and a deep rooted history in the sheep industry. The competition side between the young people is increasing in popularity which I find very heartening, as it gives these young people, who are of course our farmers of the future, an opportunity to showcase their skills. For the competitors competitions inspire them as they can see just how good their knowledge and skills are.”

NSA North Sheep 2015 is hoping to attract over 7000 farming visitors and 230 trade stands from across the UK. The Young Shepherd of the Year Award is particularly apt as this year the focus of the event is very firmly on the future of the Sheep Farming Industry.

Organiser Julie Sedgewick says: “We are delighted this year’s NSA North Sheep 2015 will be held in the heart of one of the UK’s most important sheep producing regions. We remain acutely aware that the biggest long-term challenge which continues to face the industry is encouraging young people to become involved. The competition is designed to help equip tomorrow’s sheep farmers with the skills they need and give recognition to the skills they have acquired. I’d like to thank Yorkshire’s Askham Bryan and Newton Rigg Colleges for sponsoring the event, and for their continued commitment to training local young people in land-based skills.”

In addition to the NSA North Sheep Young Shepherd of the Year Award, the event is a great forum and meeting place for the whole industry. There will be shearing and ready steady cook competitions, farm tours, a busy seminar programme, a trade show and farmers’ market.

The full competition rules and an entry form can be downloaded at www.northsheep.org.uk or for further information please contact Heather Stoney-Grayshon at heathernorthsheep@btinternet.com or on 07599 823105.

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