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NSA Welsh Sheep 2013

NSA Welsh Sheep Report

Young entrants mean the future is bright

With an inspirational young farming family hosting NSA Welsh Sheep, there was a real emphasis on the future of the sheep sector and opportunities for the next generation at the event.

This was fully explored during three afternoon seminar sessions, which all focused on ‘getting started’ and reflected the achievement of event hosts Sion and Claire Williams and their example as new entrants. Tony Evans of Andersons gave a frank and realistic picture of the realities of getting started, as well as presenting some very innovative and sensible solutions in terms of partnerships. There was also discussion about the example set by the owners of the host farm, Alfor and Elwyn Thomas, which was seen by many as a template for successful regeneration of the farming industry.

NSA’s Jonathan Barber led a session on NSA’s Young People and Sheep initiative, focussing very much on the wealth of experience that NSA draws together via its network of regions. And Nick Davies of Dunbia added his own experiences of getting started from scratch, including running 2,000-head of sheep and now playing a key role within the meat supply chain.

Dyana Webb, chair of the ‘getting started’ sessions, says: “It was apparent from all the afternoon’s discussions that there are exciting opportunities available for young people within the sector. Couple this with the wealth of support available and the obvious willingness of the industry as a whole to help youngsters, and it is clear that the industry is in a very positive position to face the challenges ahead. It was extremely encouraging to see so many youngsters at the event, who took the time to attend the seminars and ask some very detailed and demanding questions of the speakers.”

Other topics also demanded attention at the event, including Schmallenberg, given that the vaccine announcement came that day, and liver fluke, with the fluke seminar drawing around 140 people and meaning there was standing room only to hear experts and affected farmers speak.

The wet autumn and winter created huge problems for farmers, not just because of liver fluke, and was quickly followed by the terrible snow in the spring, so it was heartening to see so many people come to NSA Welsh Sheep, keen for refreshment and reinvigoration after the worst twelve months most can remember. It effectively marked the end of a dreadful period in Welsh and UK farming, with producers determined to look to a bright future.

Event Organiser Helen Davies said: “It’s the best ever Welsh Sheep and shows the event is going from strength to strength. There was a real community spirit and the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant. Everyone pulled together and was ready for a great day out. Welsh Sheep has established itself as a must for anyone to do with the sheep industry.”

The Young Shepherd of the Year competition was won by Rhydian Thomas of Rhydycymerau, Lampeter.  He is a former Gelli Aur and Aberystwyth student and works on a neighbouring beef and sheep unit as well as helping his parents on the family farm.

It was also a great day for David Pittendreigh, NSA Cymru/Wales Chairman, who was not only able to glory in the success of the event, but also topped the wool-on-the-hoof awards with a North Country Cheviot hogg from his farm at Llanllwni, just over the hill from the event. Another highlight of the day was the Ready Steady Cook competition, where TV personality Dai Llanilar beat the engaging Meinir Jones of Ffermio in the final heat with his lamb-inspired dish.