NSA Welsh Sheep 2019 Report
The need to work together and speak with a common voice to meet the challenges of an uncertain future was emphasised at the NSA Welsh Sheep Event. The choice of setting, Glynllifon Agricultural College near Caernarfon, was particularly appropriate and the partnership provided a compelling setting for a great turnout.
Opening the event, Dafydd Evans Chief Executive Officer of Group Llandrillo Menai, said the traditional way of life was being challenged with many opposing public interests having an influence over future land use direction. These included access and tourism, environmental and care for natural resources, or the more extreme views of the rewilding and vegan worlds.
He said: “The future is about making what we do appealing to our marketplace and finding new market places.
“Agricultural Colleges have a key role here in developing new skills, showcasing innovation and leading on research. Not only for young people. There is an opportunity to influence the policies that affect us and the markets we depend on, but we will only succeed if we work together.”
He congratulated the NSA on setting up forums for discussion and also on the Next Generation programme. The opportunity it offered for young people very much chimed with the work at Glynllifon.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said it was highly significant that the Event was held at the college, with attention focused on the next generation. They were the industry’s lifeblood.
He said the NSA had been at the forefront, presenting the industry in a positive mode. Criticism of sheep farming had followed the Climate Change Committee and the United Nations Environment Report.
He added: “For all the noise that the anti livestock brigade make I think we are still a very strong sector and a very strong industry, with a lot more positives than negatives.
“On a wider scale, it’s fair to say that there is a lot of uncertainty out there at the moment and probably the one thing you won’t get as you go around the Event today is anyone who will tell you exactly what’s going to happen with Brexit.
“I’m not sure if anyone on Earth knows what’s going to happen next with Brexit. It’s added a lot of uncertainty to the situation we face, but throughout all of that there are one or two things that are really clear.
“The general direction of travel is I think going to be that farmers are going to be challenged to become more productive and at the same time to improve the environment. And that’s always felt like a real challenge to me.
“Most of the industry, when we start talking about increasing our productivity, felt that it would be a challenge to produce more to feed a growing population. Actually what’s come to light over recent months is that when we talk about the challenge we’re faced with, ie increasing our productivity, what people mean is that we need to increase our profitability and improve our margins.
“We can do that, sometimes by increasing our production, and we can do it sometimes by controlling our costs and it’s all got to be underpinned by understanding our businesses. I believe that this industry can do those two things.
“We can increase our margins and certainly our farmers would like to see sheep farming being more profitable and for it to produce more positive margins. And at the same time, there are so many good environmental outcomes that can come from our industry, not to mention all the social and the community and cultural good that comes from Welsh sheep farming.
“It’s something that’s very evident from sheep farming here. It is a very strong culture of small family farms. They are essentially micro businesses and that’s something we need to fight hard to make sure we protect in the future.
Competition results included the winners of the NSA Next Generation Shepherd of the Year. Tomos Glyn Davies of Prion, Denbigh, and runner up Daniel Williams of Rhosgoch, Anglesey, will compete against finalists from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England at the national Sheep Event in Malvern in 2020.
The best pair of continental hoggs was won by Derek and Cindy Steen of Coxhill Farm, Moffat Dumfriesshire with a Roussin and sold for 340 guineas each to Arfon Hughes of Tycerrig, Garndolbenmaen, Porthmadog. The best pair of native hoggs was won by Wynne Davies of Bronallt, Nefyn, Gwynedd, with a Lleyn.