Statement from NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker regarding the continuing Covid-19 outbreak

19th March 2020

A message to all NSA members and supporters from NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker:

"The deepening impact of Covid-19, Coronavirus, has been sobering during this week. On both a global and a national level the NSA offers its condolences and best wishes to all who have been directly affected, either individually or through relatives and friends. Health and wellbeing are of utmost importance, but the economic impact being felt by some in society will be causing real hardship, and more broadly the disruption and related costs will be felt for a long time to come. 

"Within the sheep farming world, we are fortunate to have close and supportive communities around us and despite the self-isolation policies we are hearing of many examples where once again people are helping to look after each other. On one hand, working in relative isolation and not coming into contact with many others brings problems and risks – on this occasion, it can be said to be beneficial and many sheep farmers would say they already live in a world of semi-permanent isolation. 

"Being lambing time, for many it will have been very much business as usual, looking out at a world that appears to be in chaos but as this episode continues it will affect everyone and sheep farmers, just like everyone else, need to be taking steps to reduce risks and to do what they can to look after relatives, friends, and neighbours. While coronavirus is a very different situation to Schmallenberg and Blue Tongue etc, livestock farmers should have a reasonable grasp of disease transmission and risk assessments and we should be in a good position to apply the best possible biosecurity principles alongside a growing understanding of the nature of this virus and advice coming from health specialists. 

"We are hearing of temporary lambing positions being cancelled but also of a resurgence of interest from both farmers and lambers to help those in need at this busy time. Our advice is simply that members should follow Government advice and apply this to their own situations, particularly ensuring that no one having had symptoms should be brought into contact, and that at risk categories of people should be isolated.   

"This outbreak is also causing havoc with farmer meetings, Defra meetings, and planning for the Spring and Summer events. The number of agricultural shows that have been cancelled or postponed is growing by the day and at NSA we are on the verge of making decisions on NSA Scotsheep originally planned for 3rd June and NSA Sheep 2020 at Malvern on the 28th July. Announcements will be made via our weekly e newsletter and on our web site, and once we reach decisions on our summer events we will be notifying the farming press. If these events are cancelled then we will be looking to run alternative events later in the year as the situation allows. 

"Following Government advice, most NSA staff are now working from home although the office will be manned at most times. Thanks to modern technology all staff are keeping very busy and phones will still be answered during office hours and emails responded to.  We would however appreciate members patience if they experience any changes in normal service."