The Northern Ireland region of the National Sheep Association held their ARMM last week which was very predictable with no changes to any of the office bearer positions.
Campbell Tweed and Brian Jamison remain chairman and vice chairman for another year with Ian McDonnell still holding the post of treasurer.
After the ARMM an open meeting for sheep farmers entitled ‘Fluke and Sheep Health’ proved very informative and interesting with much debate from the audience.
Subjects covered were symptoms and treatment of fluke presented by Dr Philip Skuce (born in Northern Ireland but now in Scotland for many years) from Moredun Research Institute.
Philip explained that in wet summers as we have had this year, snail populations multiply rapidly and snails are invaded by miracidia (the result of the fluke egg hatching) from May–July.
If wet weather continues, the snails shed massive numbers of cercariae (next stage in the fluke cycle) onto pasture during July–October.
Conversely, if the climate in May–July is dry or cold, fewer snails appear, fewer fluke eggs hatch and levels of contamination in the autumn are much lower.
Clinical fasciolosis resulting from summer infection of snails arises usually from ingestion of large numbers of metacercariae over a short period of time in July–October.
Dr Jason Barley and Aurelie Aubry from the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute gave the reasons why farmers should implement their own flock health plan and explained the programme they have introduced to participating farms and what they hope to achieve.
The purpose of a flock health plan is to create a planned, managed approach to flock health so that preventative treatments are given at the most appropriate time of the year, and the shepherd can identify specific seasonal health risks to his or her flock throughout the year.
A flock health plan is not something you do and leave on the shelf. To be effective it must be continually analysed and updated to reflect the current health status of the flock if the shepherd finds any changes within the flock.
NSA communications officer Joanne Briggs was the final speaker and briefly covered Brexit and why NSA were keen to have feedback on what the members’ thoughts were.
The NSA needed to list the priorities of their members, which meant that the regions needed to discuss and feedback to HQ. At present NSA needed responses especially on markets and trade, future support schemes and regulation and policing
She also announced to the audience that the 2017 Young Ambassador Programme was open and all those interested should apply before 18th December.
The five delivery sessions provided annually for NSA Next Generation Ambassadors are a mix of classroom activities, practical sessions, farm walks and site visits. They challenge the group to think objectively about their own businesses and the wider farming industry. Each session is two or three days long and is provided at no charge to the successful applicants.
Topics covered in previous years have included:
r Grassland management, sheep nutrition and body condition scoring
r Performance recording and understanding EBVs
r Market intelligence, lamb marketing options and specifications
r Health planning
r Measuring and driving on-farm efficiency and profitability
r Accounts/financial management
r Managing grazing agreements, rental opportunities and tenancies
r Options for share farming agreements
r Anthelmintic resistance
r Sheep handling
r ATV driving and maintenance
r Branding and promotion
r Wool processing
r Time management, negotiation skills and leadership skills
r Promoting the industry and inspiring the next generation
r Media training
Being a NSA Next Generation Ambassador is about strengthening the sheep sector as a whole, as well as developing individual’s skills, and so ambassadors are encouraged to also share their experiences with others.