Meet the 2016 NSA Next Generation Ambassadors
Three years into the NSA Next Generation initiative and NSA selected its 2016 Ambassador Group. You can read about the 12 young people from around the UK that were selected for the programme here, and read more in the Profiles section of the website.
The Ambassadors enjoyed five delivery sessions through the year, which were generously supported by the following companies and individuals. NSA is indebted to them all. NSA Regions & Ram Sales for funding the wider NSA Next Generation programme, and AHDB Beef & Lamb, APHA, British Wool Marketing Board, Dunbia and NSA Sheep 2016 for financially supporting the Ambassadors in 2016. Also for delivery session partners AHDB Beef & Lamb, Barenbrug, British Wool Marketing Board, Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, Craven Cattle Marts, Dunbia, Farmers Guardian, Old Mill Accountancy Group and SCOPS. Farm walks were provided by Martyn Fletcher (Wiltshire), John Henderson and Harry Coates (North Yorkshire), Kate Robinson (Gloucestershire), Richard Sparey (Herefordshire) and Andy Wear and Jen Hunter (Bristol), with additional presentations from farmers Kevin Harrison (Gloucestershire), Hillary Mann (Gloucestershire), James Robinson (Cumbria), Antony Spencer (Warwickshire), Campbell Tweed (County Antrim), Richard Vines (Herefordshire) and Samuel Wharry (County Antrim).
You can see where each of the 2016 Ambassadors is based in the UK by finding their number on the map.
1. Jacob Anthony (22) Glamorgan: Having taken over the sheep element of the family farm at Tondu, Bridgend, Jacob is enjoying driving the business and planning expansion from his 800 Lleyn cross Texels to nearer 1,000.
He is already implementing changes to make the flock more efficient, particularly in terms of labour. Half the flock is now lambed outside, with plans to move more in this direction while still creating
systems to collect precise performance data. Finishing lambs off grass is another priority, with all lambs sold deadweight off the farm.
So haw has Jacob found flock management so far? He modestly says his father has been ‘very good at letting me make my own mistakes’ since he took charge of the flock in 2013 after leaving college!
Jacob won the selection panel over with his clear passion for promoting the industry and says this is something he wants to do more of in the future. He says: “There is a massive opportunity for farmers to engage with the public, as there is currently an increase in interest from the public in how food is produced. We can take advantage for the benefit of our industry as a whole.”
Top fact: Jacob got involved in promoting the industry when the lamb price slumped in the summer and appeared on the telly in a piece for ITV Wales.
2. Ellen Helliwell (22) Gloucestershire: Employed as a stockman on a mixed lowland farm in the Cotswolds with a popular farm park, Ellen’s shepherding job includes all the usual farm jobs with the added element of doing it alongside hundreds of visitors. It also involves a fascinating mix of running rare sheep breeds alongside a commercial flock.
It is a long way from the tenanted hill farm that her parents run in the Peak District, and while she says her heart will always be in the uplands, Ellen is thriving on the contrast of her current role. She is involved in all the nutritional, health and management of the flocks, which include 400 Lleyns and New Zealand Romneys and 150 sheep from 12 rare breeds.
The combination has given her a unique insight into the many differences and similarities between upland and lowland farms and Ellen speaks passionately about the need for both to work together, particularly on breeding sheep within the stratified system. Ellen’s long-term aim is to have her own tenancy and she hopes to gain confidence and knowledge as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador to help her on this journey.
Top fact: With her roots in Derbyshire, Ellen entered the Young Shepherd of the Year competition at the NSA Central Region Winter Fair in 2013 and walked away with the top spot and prize money when aged just 19.
3. Hannah Jackson (23) Cumbria: Alongside her work as a self-employed contract shepherd on a number of farms, Hannah runs a flock of pedigree Hampshire Downs and 60 North of England Mules near Carlisle.
Having established herself from scratch with no farming background, she is working hard to establish a reputation for both her professional shepherding services and the sheep she breeds. She has a clear appetite for knowledge and passion for promotion and describes her targets at twofold – to be an innovator within the sector and a role model for other new entrants.
Hannah visits schools to educate people about farming and food production, she is an avid Twitter user and takes every opportunity to shout up for sheep farming. When asked how she might balance an education role with future flock expansion, Hannah told the selection panel: “I definitely want more sheep, but I never want to forget the journey I’ve had and how I’ve got here. It’s important to share
that with other people.”
Land is the biggest constraint for Hannah’s current flock, but she has implemented rotational grazing to make the most from the grass on her parent’s smallholding, and is investigating options for exchanging her shepherding services for access to land.
Top fact: Hannah helps with her parents’ business offering team building away days for corporate companies. She demonstrates her sheepdog handling skills, exchanging sheep for people, to highlight good communication skills.
4. Jamie Laurie (22) Dumfries and Galloway: There is no chance of resting on your laurels when Jamie is around! Both his NSA Next Generation Ambassador application and his subsequent interview were littered with an endless list of plans for the family farm at Lockerbie.
He is a partner with his parents on the tenanted farm and continually ‘convincing dad’ of potential improvements with the 1,400 sheep and 130 sucklers. The breeding is predominantly South Country Cheviot, Easycare and (decreasingly) Highlander. Some Cheviots Mules are produced for sale as breeding females and other Texel cross progeny sold finished or as stores.
Jamie would like to move to more of a closed flock and is already breeding his own Bluefaced Leicesters. He would also like to use more Shetland ewes.
“I got the Bluefaced Leicesters when I was 10, after telling my dad we should be breeding our own tups,” he says. “This has proved successful, as the homebred tups last far longer. The Shetlands were also to convince my dad, as I am a firm believer in a small, efficient ewe (or cow) producing more output per acre. I am now convinced the Shetlands are the way to go – although they’re not perfect, yet.”
Top fact: It’s not all about Jamie telling his dad what to do! He says advice that came from his father (that ‘knowledge is light to carry’) drives him to always keep learning and taking opportunities.
5. Fred Love (23) Nottinghamshire: Starting as a first generation sheep farmer just four years ago, Fred has made quick progress and already runs 600 Lleyn ewes. That is alongside a shearing round managed with a friend and taking in 20,000 sheep.
Finding grazing ground for sheep can be difficult in an area where competition from arable farms and anaerobic digesters is high, but Fred is a believer that sheep can benefit arable rotations and hopes to increase access to land from his current base near Retford. Fred’s target of more land and high stocking rates is linked to an ambition to grow to 1,000 in the next five years, with more ewe lambs sold for breeding and quality prime lambs sales from the remainder.
Fred wants to surround himself with positive people in this quest, saying the NSA Next Generation Ambassador group ‘with likeminded people who see a positive future like me’ will inspire him further. He wants to give back to the industry in time too.
“I want to be a role model and show it’s not impossible to start from nowhere and build up,” Fred says, adding that he’d love to offer apprentices and training within his business in the future.
Top fact: While shearing has helped fund Fred’s flock expansion, it has also helped him to success in NSA Young Shepherd of the Year competitions, taking best placed under 21 in a regional competition a couple of years ago.
6. Oliver Matthews (27) Somerset: A business based on sheep and poultry with enough capacity for his younger brother to be involved too – that is the ambition for Olly on the farm he has taken over from his grandparents at Yatton.
He has increased sheep numbers from five to 550 in the last five years, alongside a thriving Christmas poultry, and is even considering phasing out the 70 suckler cows to increase the flock further.
Olly is openly frank about his desire for more knowledge to drive his flock, saying he wants to learn about business analysis and costs of production to better compare the performance of his early and later lambing flocks. He’s also keen to look at grazing options for his Mules, Suffolk Mules and Texel Mules. He is already finishing all his Charollais and Texel cross lambs, sold deadweight, but has ambitions to do this more efficiently in the future.
As well as driving his own business, Olly is exciting about opportunities to be involved in the wider sector and NSA in particular, saying sharing experiences and networking with people through committees and groups is the best way for everyone to learn and be inspired.
Top fact: Olly considered being a vet at one stage, even completing a degree in Bioveterinary Science as a stepping stone, but could never shake off his first passion of being a farmer.
7. Alex Olphert (23) Hampshire: Despite being busy as a partner in the family farm at Petersfield and running 1,750 ewes, Alex also helps his neighbours with contacting, harvest work and a shearing run of 10,000-head.
The home farm is just 80 acres, so a lot of rented land, winter keep and conservation grazing means sheep and electric fences need to be moved most days. The ewes are Texel cross Beulah Aberdales, which Alex has found to be very prolific, with most lambs finished off roots in the run-up to Christmas and a few sold as stores.
Alex is already taking on more of the business responsibility and hopes to help his father towards retirement in the next five years. He plans for the flock to have increased by another 250-head in that time and be fully EID recorded in a bid to collect data to drive production. Alongside this Alex plans to increase his shepherding work, not decrease it. He says: “It helps to see other systems and methods, helping to grow my skills and improve other flocks locally. If I can ever find a window, I would love to get to New Zealand for a couple of months too – to see what everyone is talking about!”
Top fact: Alex was sponsored by NSA South East Region to attend the Sheep Breeders Round Table in November, which he describes as an ‘incredibly interesting and worthwhile weekend’.
8. Dan Pritchard (30) Swansea: With a farm shop and a specialist product in the form of salt marsh lamb, Dan will be an interesting addition to the group of Ambassadors this year. Last year he and his family sold 600 of the lambs from their 1,000-ewe flock privately, with plans to increase this number in the future.
The salt marsh is at Llanrhidian, on the Gower peninsular of South Wales. The family has common rights to graze 4,000 acres here, as well as the 250-acre farm. Dan says: “The tide book is our bible.
We get one every Christmas and plan everything around it. Shearing, weaning, lambing, everything is down to that.”
The added aspect of selling lamb privately, through the farm shop and directly to butchers, means Dan is particularly interested in promotions and protected brands. For his family’s Gower Salt Marsh Lamb and for wider industry brands, Dan would like to see more activity on social media and online to add value to lamb as a premium product.
Dan is keen to embrace and share best practice messages in his role as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador, saying EID, genetics and biosecurity are of particular interest to him and his business.
Top fact: Dan has recently joined the Pasture-Fed Livestock movement and would like to see more potential exploited from consumer interest in this area.
9. Tom Richards (22) Shropshire: The power of modern technology means Tom (who more often goes by the name of Ernie) was able to do his NSA Next Generation Ambassador interview from Fuji! He coincided the visit with a working holiday to New Zealand before starting a new job on the England- Wales border.
Ernie starts as assistant shepherd on the 1,000-head purebred Lleyn flock, with a strong ambition to progress to head shepherd in time. He is very excited to be working under the guidance of his new boss and improve the flock in terms of breeding animals and prime lambs reared. The current target is to sell at least 20 quality, performance recorded tups a year, with 30 being the next step. In the longer term, Ernie would like to progress from shepherding to having his own flock, and has an interest in the Roussin as a crossing sire for Lleyn ewes.
Online promotion is something Ernie sees as a powerful tool, within farming to sell genetics and outside farming to raise awareness of the sector. He is keen to start this through his current role in YFC, encouraging fellow members to learn more about lamb cuts and cooking.
Top fact: Ernie approached NSA to help find a work placement as part of his course at Aberystwyth University. He ended up working in Cumbria, with the then NSA Chairman John Geldard, followed by a stint in Canada.
10. Michael Ritch (24) Aberdeenshire: While not a new entrant to farming, Michael is new to having sheep around. He returned to the family beef and arable farm three years ago and, having encouraged his father and grandfather to buy an extra block of nonarable land with no buildings, breeding sheep became a new thing for the business.
Store lambs had always been bought in, for finishing on grass and turnips, but Michael has now established an outdoor lambing, low input multiplier flock for the Logie Durno brand. He is enthusiastic about the flock and keen to increase numbers and improve grazing management, but says he still has a lot to learn about sheep and hopes the ‘exposure to new ideas, outlooks and opinions’ as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador will benefit him and the sheep.
Michael struck the selection panel with his very business-minded attitude and his belief that young people with a lot of ambition have a bright future, as long as they focus on efficiency and keeping production costs low.
Top fact: Having previously done a degree in chemical engineering with a view to working in the local oil industry, Michael says the opportunity to come home is one he has never regretted. “I’ve been able to stop the business winding down and drive it forward instead,” he says. “I love the farm and, once I was home, that was me; I lost interest in the oil industry very quickly.”
11. Robert Spink (24) Norfolk/Suffolk border: Unusually for arable men based on the east side of the country, Robert believes sheep give him just as much opportunity, if not more, than crops.
He has been working to find the right balance between crops and sheep on the family farm, which he took over after losing his father nearly three years ago. Identifying poorer part of the 120 acres where the sheep are more suitable, Robert has developed a real appetite for exploiting the role of sheep in other parts of the arable-dominated area of Diss where he lives.
His aim is to increase from 120 Mule ewes to 400, selling an increasing number of homebred Texel Mules for breeding. He is already finishing store lambs and knows there is potential with that too. Robert’s passion for sheep means he’d also like to swap contracting work on a tractor for shepherding and shearing instead.
“There is no family connection with sheep, but I’ve got the wind in my sails at the moment and am really starting to get my teeth into it,” Robert told the selection panel. “I want arable farmers to understand where sheep can fit in and be the person to help achieve that. A lot of arable farmers are really good at working together, so why not with other sectors too?”
Top fact: As well as being focused on his own business, Robert is very keen to campaign for the sheep industry and says he is looking forward to being involved with NSA to push this further.
12. James Wright (23) Sussex: With a job off the farm as an agricultural sales rep, James is getting used to juggling responsibilities and ensuring there is always someone around to manage the sheep if he’s not there.
This managerial element of his activity will stand him in good stead as he pursues him goal of lambing 1,000 low input Romney ewes by 2018 and hopefully gaining a tenancy to ensure a more secure base. He is currently running 250 New Zealand Romneys and 150 Welsh Mountain cross Texels.
James is a strong advocate of the sheep sector and believes taking steps to exploit the diversity of systems and ensure a more even year-round supply would be a great step forward, alongside a move away from relying on subsidies. He is not afraid to speak his mind and, as someone who does not claim support payments, is happy to challenge those who do on the impact it has for young people trying to get into the industry.
As a first generation farmer, James says he is excited about the opportunities as an NSA Next Generation Ambassador to make contacts within the industry and learn more about the heritage of an industry that he is new to.
Top fact: In addition to his business commitments, James is a chaplain for the Farming Communities Network, meeting with farmers who have called the helpline for pastoral support.