About NSA North Sheep

NSA North Sheep 2017 is been held at West Shields Farm, Tow Law, County Durham by kind permission of WH & J Smith & Sons. Attracting in the region of 8,000 visitors, this is a key biennial event for the UK sheep industry.  Not only will it provide a platform for people to hear from industry experts and to visit hundreds of exhibition stands it will also highlight how one progressive County Durham Farm operates their commercial sheep enterprise.  The 2017 NSA Sheep Event will be held on Wednesday 7th June.

The Smith family farm in the region of 1,200 acres of traditional mixed farming enterprise.  The Smith Family are delighted to be hosting NSA North Sheep 2017 and are looking forward to welcoming all sectors of the sheep industry to West Shields Farm. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the system adopted by the family to optimise their commercial sheep enterprise of 1,350 breeding ewes, predominantly Mules. Alongside the sheep, they also amaage 300 suckler cows, mainly Angus cross.

As a family, the Smiths work together to drive their farming enterprise forward, grasping every opportunity that comes their way. The farm has utilised all possible natural resources, initially coals and nowadays wind and sunshine produce renewable energy. A further revenue stream comes from forestry and their own sawmill.

NSA North Sheep is seen as an industry staple on the national calendar.  It is a one day event where companies can benefit from promotion to a dedicated audience of sheep farmers.  It is a day when the industry gets to promote itself.  All compnaies and individuals who are involved in the sheep industry are invited to apply for a stand and/or sponsorship at the event.  Click [Here] to apply.

Looking Forward to North Sheep 2017 - Chairman Eddie Eastham

Former hill farmer Eddie Eastham now finishes around 1,200 bought-in sheep annually, alongside 200 gimmer shearlings at Longburgh Fauld.  Eddie took up the mantle of Chairmanship of the NSA Northern Region in February. A committee member for over 20 years and Treasurer for ten, here he looks forward to this year’s NSA North Sheep, being held at West Shields Farm, Tow Law, in County Durham, on Wednesday 7th June.

For the sheep farming community across Northern England, North Sheep, held every two years, is a major event and this year it is being held in an area where livestock is key. It is both a platform for open discussion and for sheep farmers to naturally gather the latest information and certainly this year with an election looking on and BREXIT looming there will be much for debate.  There are so many question marks for sheep farming and the wider industry as a whole, I do feel that it is very important for people to be as well informed as they can be, and our intention through North Sheep is to provide them with this information.

Becoming regional chair is a big honour for me and one where I hope to further develop the influence of NSA in the North of England. During a period of rapid change we have the ability to guide, and help the industry move ahead.

The National Sheep Association is a progressive organisation and one initiative which I have watched develop with interest, is our Young Ambassador Programme and I was keen to initiate the Young Ambassadors Seminar at this year’s event, as these are the individuals which will help to build the industry’s future. Now that the Young Ambassadors Programme has been running for several years we are delighted to have a representative from three of these years to speak at the seminar, and who better to Chair this than Thomas Carrick, our vice chair who is himself a former NSA Ambassador.

Going forward sheep farmers will face many challenges, unknown future trading conditions, and of course the outcome of BREXIT.  We rely on the European markets to purchase our lamb, especially France, so will we still have access on similar terms, or will this be reduced?

Over recent years a lot of effort has been put into developing new markets for UK sheep meat to destinations around the world. There have been some successes, and more will follow, but the volume involved is unlikely to be significant in the immediate future. If European markets do diminish it will be difficult to replace them in the short term.

We must also remember how important our home market here in the UK is, we need to ensure that we are producing for this existing market, recognise how it is changing and what we can do to develop it further.

The age profile of meat eaters, especially lamb, has changed and this is a key issue for us as producers. We currently have an ageing market so we are working with bodies such as AHDB [the Agricultural & Horticulture Development Board] who have already made steps towards targeting a younger generation. We need to develop this market, look at what their preferences are, and ensure that we are producing and marketing what they actually want to eat. That is why we have introduced the Lamb Festival at this year`s event. The festival will showcase the different cuts of lamb that consumers are now looking for and a tasting of ‘on—trend’ lamb dishes.

UK wide we have many inspirational chefs using lamb and one such person is Simon Hicks, of the Lord Crew Arms, Blanchland; he will demonstrate some interesting lamb recipes for the BBQ, using some of the less traditional cuts.  If we do not have people eating lamb, we do not have a market, so I really feel that this is an important element of the day for every sheep farmer.

I personally am delighted to see such a breadth of trade and society stands coming to the 2017 NSA North Sheep.  With all sectors of the industry represented, this demonstrates clearly the diversity of opportunities for farmers.  Breed selection is always important, and this year with 37 breed societies represented, farmers will have the chance to discuss the benefits of each, based on their own topography, management techniques and marketing preferences.

This year’s host farm, West Shields Farm near Tow Law is a 900 acre, traditional mixed farm in a true livestock area. The farm is a tremendous example of a productive, all-encompassing commercial farming enterprise, involving three generations.  The Smith family are more than aware that they need to maximise the potential from every opportunity, whether it be sheep farming, contracting or renewables and what they have achieved will be evident to all who attend.  Agreeing to host an event such as this, is always a huge commitment and on behalf of the entire committee I would like to sincerely thank the family for their support.

NSA North Sheep really is there to provide a platform for the entire sheep industry, from breed selection to meat marketing and wool production.  It`s all about learning, through open discussion, to technical knowledge transfer.  We have designed the seminars to cover a range of relevant topics and I would like to reiterate these are there to give those attending, the very latest information on key issues that will undoubtedly affect them going forward.  The NSA works hard to influence policy makers in terms of their support to hill and upland farmers and we have specifically programmed the Upland Seminar to ensure that these farmers are aware of the opportunities which will hopefully be open to them in the future.

So, I would just like to conclude by thanking everyone for their support, the Smith family in particular, the sponsors, exhibitors, and of course our committee.  Let us hope that the sun shines on June 7th and everyone benefits from an interesting, informative and enjoyable biennial sheep event.

The Smith Family & Event Organiser Heather Stoney-Grayshon
The Smith Family & Event Organiser Heather Stoney-Grayshon
Mule Ewe Lambs
Mule Ewe Lambs
Event Chairman - Eddie Eastham
Event Chairman - Eddie Eastham