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NSA Welsh Sheep 2017

Industry Upbeat at Welsh Sheep 2017 

Thousands of visitors to a hugely successful and upbeat Welsh Sheep 2017 returned home well briefed to meet future challenges. Seminars, workshops and a very supportive opening speech from Brecon Beacons National Park Chair, Melanie Doel, inspired flockmasters facing difficult and challenging times. 

She said Welsh Sheep 2017, held at Llwyn Bedw Farm, Talybont on Usk, near Brecon, presented an opportunity for sheep farmers to be proud. It was a day to showcase the industry and a reminder to decision makers just how much sheep farming means to Welsh communities. 

Mrs Doel added: “As a National Park Authority we recognise the importance of the farming industry in shaping the National Park and supporting its local communities. We fully appreciate, and I fully appreciate as Chair, and applaud the work farmers put in to shape these special landscapes in the Brecon Beacons and across Wales.

“I’ve worked and lived for much of my life in this beautiful Park and I know how passionate and devoted farmers are to keeping it special. We are keen to work with bodies such as the NSA on a day to day basis, but also more strategically in helping to shape policy post Brexit.” 

She recognised that, with the financing of economic development in many parts of Wales having been largely driven by EU funding, there is real uncertainty about future funding. It seemed unlikely that the UK would continue to be a part of the Common Agricultural Policy, so there had to be a major re-structuring of the way agriculture works. 

Welsh Government Agriculture Director, Andrew Slade, told the Brexit seminar that in a 25 year career in agricultural policy he had never known such uncertain and challenging times. He added that ‘so many things are potentially up in the air’, there was risk but also potential opportunity down the track. 

There was, though, a bright future ahead for agriculture in the UK, and particularly Wales if risk was minimised and opportunities worked on. It was important to get the approach to Brexit right across the whole of Wales, the mission was to make the best of Brexit for Wales.

Trade and market access, particularly with red meat, meant access to the Single Market is particularly important. Ninety per cent of the 40% of Welsh lamb exported goes to the Single Market. 

NSA Cymru Wales Chair Llew Thomas said that despite the weather, the crowds had come in huge numbers. The event had been an undoubted success for all concerned and he was grateful to everyone who had brought it together, particularly Event Organiser, Helen Davies. 

He thanked more than 150 trade stands, organisations and breed societies who had supported the event. And he also extended his gratitude to the sponsors, who had helped to make it possible. 

The venue, a traditional hill farm, rented from Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water, lies in the heart of the Brecon Beacons, with grazing stretching towards Pen y Fan, and extends to 1,000 acres. It has been home to five generations of the Williams family and supports a closed flock of 3,500 sheep and a herd of 70 suckler cows. In his welcome address, Mr Thomas said the Brecon Beacons was celebrating 60 years as a National Park. 

The beauty of the landscape was the result of grazing by sheep and cattle. Llew Thomas added: “Once again we thank everyone, especially the stewards and the host family, Stephen and Lisa Williams, their son, Luke, and Stephen’s father, Godfrey, and also people for their patience in getting here. “The atmosphere has been upbeat. The information and knowledge gained seems to have given people hope for the future of the sheep industry in these difficult and uncertain times.” Seminars on Brexit, the Future Funding of Farming and Antibiotic Resistance were informative, as were the two workshops, Planning for a Healthy Flock and The Woodland Trust’s How Trees and Woodland Can Help you. 

The farm tours proved extremely popular. Competition winners included Field Options with the best Outdoor Trade Stand, the Blackface with the Best Breed Society Stand and Shearwell Data with the best Indoor Stand. The Next Generation Shepherd Competition was won by 17 year old Ben Hanmer, of Ffrith, Wrexham. A Llandovery Whiteface shown by Wendy Morgan won the Native Upland section in the Hogg Sale, while A Owen won the Continental with a Roussin. 

The Wool on the Hoof competition was won by a Blue Face Leicester and the Shearing by Eirion Morgan & Will Workman. Ian Mathers won the Best Sheared Sheep competition.