After months of planning and organising NSA SheepNI 2019 took place on Monday 1st July in Ballymena Livestock Market.
A good number of visitors showed interest in the event and trade stands seemed very pleased with the amount of potential business generated.
The uncertainty of Brexit may have discouraged the smaller, less committed sheep farmers but those intent on staying in the business were well focused and keen to improve their sheep enterprise.
Campbell Tweed accompanied President of RUAS Mr Billy Martin around the stands as he acted as stand judge. Mr Martin showed a great interest while going around the stands and thoroughly enjoyed his task.
Sheep Breed Stands: 1st, Scottish Blackface Sheep Society; 2nd, Dorset Horn & Polled Dorset Sheep Society; 3rd, Beltex Sheep Society
Indoor Stands: 1st, Shearwell Data; 2nd, Animax-Vet Ltd; 3rd, TGM Software Solutions
Outdoor Stands: 1st, LEAM Agri; 2nd, Clipex Ltd; 3rd, Stockmaster
Competition for the best stand has been increasing over the years and there was some very hard work put in to some of the breed stands. The breeds make the whole event quite a spectacle with their efforts.
The Young Shepherd Competition, sponsored this year by Ceva UK Animal Health, was a series of six sections including shearing, lamb selection, quad handling, veterinary knowledge, body condition scoring and a written test.
The top two young shepherds now represent Northern Ireland at National and European level for the next two years.
Ceva UK Young Shepherd Competition: 1st, Ryan Adams, Coleraine; 2nd, Alexander Boyd, Newtownabbey; 3rd, Iain Wilson, Islandmagee
Best Under 18: Matthew Robinson, Ballycarry
The British Wool Marketing Board oversaw the Fleece Competition where local grader Alan McIntosh placed the fleeces.
Coloured Wool: 1st, Freda Magill, Rathfriland
Long Wool: 1st, Robbie Morrow, Whitehead
Lustre Wool: 1st, Freda Magill, Rathfriland
Champion Fleece Freda Magill, Reserve Robbie Morrow
The sheepdog sale saw a smaller entry coming forward with regular consignee N McEldowney, Draperstown, topping the sale with a dog at £1,450 followed by E & P McCormick, Cushendall who received £1,200 for his bitch.
In the seminars, Alex Higgins from AFBI, Hillsborough explained the various reasons why soil health had such a large influence on the production achieved and gave an interesting talk on how to look after the soil to improve its structure.
The second seminar was delivered by Dr Tommy Boland, from University College Dublin, and concentrated on forage and herbal leys. The research at UCD has been developed in two primary directions.
The first of these is to identify which is the best combination of species to include in specialised sheep swards: the second is to quantify the performance of ewes and lambs on such pastures.
Dr Boland admitted that more work is required to develop species of clover and a range of herbs which are more persistent under Irish conditions.
However, initial results are strongly suggesting that significant lamb growth rate gains can be achieved by using multi species pastures, as opposed to single variety perennial ryegrass swards.
There was a good debate with the audience on his findings.
The third seminar was given by Dr Elizabeth Earle, from Agrisearch and local NSA committee member, and followed on from the previous speakers by giving an explanation of how best to utilise the forage that has been grown. The potential to increase stock numbers by better grazing regimes is startling and from discussion after her talk a number of farmers are already employing her suggestions on grazing.
Final speaker of the day was CEO of NSA Phil Stocker, who spoke about the role of NSA and the importance of a voice for the sheep industry keeping pressure on those in government to explain the role and benefits of sheep in the countryside.
This was a very busy and enjoyable day which would not have been possible without the support of the sponsors and the help of a large number of hard working people who the organisers are indebted to.