The NSA Central Region Early Gathering, held at the end of last week (Thursday 26th January) marked a successful start to a busy year of events for the National Sheep Association (NSA). The winter event at Bakewell Market, Derbyshire, premiered a brand new look and the additional content went down well with visitors from far and wide.
With a new style came a new format, meaning much more of the event was moved undercover and within the warmth of the market concourse. There was a packed programme of seminars, interactive workshops and demonstrations, all with a topical theme of health. This broad theme covered everything from the health of sheep and the sheepdog, to the health of farm businesses and farm records.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “It was fantastic to be able to welcome such a crowd to this event, with the new format and improved weather on previous years all contributing. All the workshops and demonstrations proved popular, and particularly the seminars on how young people are securing the future health of the industry, and a well-timed Brexit health check for farm businesses.”
Fred Love, an NSA Next Generation Ambassador and sheep farmer from Retford, Nottinghamshire, spoke in the first seminar session on starting a sheep enterprise from scratch. He says: “When I started out in 2012 with a goal of establishing a flock of 1,000 ewes I knew I’d need to work hard to achieve this. I treat land like it is my own, keep it tidy and pay the rent on time and I’m always honest. My mantra is work hard until your idols become your rivals.”
A look at Brexit provided a frank and forthright discussion about the future for the sheep industry, giving the audience cause for optimism but also some stark facts about realities going forward. Panellists included Martin Redfearn of the Policy Group and David Swales of AHDB. Mr Redfearn was clear in his message that ‘doing what you have always done will not do’, while Mr Swales presented a mix of optimism and concern regarding the post-Brexit future for the sheep industry.
Interactive demonstrations provided an informal setting for visitors to get involved, including a session from sheepdog expert Katy Cropper who shared her thoughts on keeping sheepdogs healthy and making the most of them on farm. Workshop sessions highlighted some key messages around the sustainable use of wormers with independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings.
There were also very strong entries in the NSA Next Generation Shepherds and Inter-Schools competitions. At just 17 years old, William Leese of Eccleshall, Staffordshire, performed very well on the day to walk away with the top prize. Like many of the competitors on the day, he attended the event as part of a group from Reaseheath College, Cheshire.
Mr Stocker concludes: “A huge credit goes to all those that helped plan, organise and deliver the event. In particular Anne Payne, NSA Central Region Manager, and Alastair Sneddon, NSA Central Region Chairman and Senior Partner at Bagshaws. Hopefully all who attended will have gone home with information to benefit their businesses for some time in the future.”