Northern Ireland excel at NSA Sheep event

Iain Wilson and Russell Smyth proudly show off their achievements
Iain Wilson and Russell Smyth proudly show off their achievements

NSA Sheep 2016 held at The Three Counties Showground in Worcestershire, the premier technical event for the sheep sector, saw a busy day of strong crowds and trade stands reporting a huge amount of business conducted. NSA says the positive atmosphere surrounding the event reflects ‘cautious optimism’ within the industry as a whole.

Farming Minister George Eustice attended the event, welcoming visitors at the opening ceremony and joining a discussion panel about the future of direct payments for farmers. He spoke about trade negotiations and the increasing likelihood of getting market access for British lamb into the USA, as well as ways for the Government and agriculture to work towards common post-Brexit goals.

Mr Phil Stocker, CEO for the NSA, said: “Mr Eustice made it clear the Government is working to create trade deals across the globe, including positive steps towards market access for lambs in the USA. Much of this work started before the EU referendum, but NSA Sheep 2016 gave us the opportunity to really stress the importance of continued access to the EU common market and just how crucial negotiations in this area will be.

“The minister’s comments on support payments to farmers were generally well received by visitors, with an air of excitement and interest from people about what he was saying. He made it clear he does not want to hear suggestions from the industry of remaining with the status quo and NSA accepts Mr Eustice’s invitation to pitch innovative approaches and options that will serve the industry well, push it forward and be justifiable to the public.

“The launch at the event of an NSA report into the complementary role of sheep in upland and hill areas proved very timely, as this outlines the public goods provided by farmers and what is needed to recognise and support the fine balance between production, environment and society. Another area that matches the minister’s desired approach is the existing NSA proposal for an animal health scheme to incentivise forward-looking approaches to exotic and endemic diseases.”

In the competitions, Richard Carter of The Marches region was winner of The Young Shepherd of the Year and picked up a cheque for £1,000.

The winner of The Under 21 Section of the competition was one of N. Ireland’s entrants Iain Wilson of Islandmagee, Co Antrim. Along with his team mate Russell Smyth N. Ireland gained second place in The European Young Shepherd Team Competition.

Russell and Iain were the winning competitors at The NSA SheepNI Event in 2015 and were kindly sponsored by First Trust Bank. Travelling out to the event with them was a fellow member of Gleno YFC Stephanie McIlroy who was narrowly beaten in The Ready Steady Cook Competition by the eventual winner Michael Ritch of The Scottish Association YFC.