Livestock News Archive


Scrapie Monitoring Scheme

You may have heard that changes are taking place with the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme as a result of amended EU regulations. I have summarised these below. We have updated the rules and conditions of the SMS scheme and you can see them at;
I would also like to take this opportunity to inform you that some SMS flocks lost their valued status due to non-compliance with the rules. Common reasons for the loss are detailed below.
SMS – Common reasons for loss of status

  • Purchase of Ram from non-SMS flock. Only a ram with the ARR/ARR scrapie genotype is allowed to join a SMS flock from a non-SMS flock. Breeders are encouraged to genotype rams before sale as it is best for SMS members to buy a ram with the ARR/ARR genotype rather than taking a gamble on a purchase which turns out not to be ARR/ARR. If you have already used a ram in your flock that comes from a non-SMS flock and it does not have the ARR/ARR scrapie genotype it is too late.
  • Purchase of Females from non-SMS flocks. If you want to buy from non-SMS flocks make sure that purchases are of ARR/ARR genotype.
  • Purchase of in-lamb females at non-segregated sales. Very few sales (held from September 1st to April 30th) applied for segregation. As a consequence any stock bought at these sales are classed as non-SMS, unless of ARR/ARR status. Flocks purchasing stock at these sales will lose SMS status. Flocks taking stock to these sales will lose their status if unsold stock are returned home. There are many sales of in-lamb animals in the late autumn period. Purchasing at these sales may jeopardise your flock status.

Please make sure you are not in any of the categories above.
Can I also remind you as an SMS member that ALL FALLEN STOCK should be submitted for testing.

Ian Pritchard
PSGHS Manager


Amended EU regulations, effective from July 1st 2013, bring EU trade requirements more in line with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). In order to demonstrate Scrapie freedom an increased surveillance period of seven years is now added and is required for some countries.
There will be 2 categories of status for SMS members.

1) Negligible Risk – this is equivalent to Scrapie free and is for flocks/herds showing compliance for at least 7 years. Movement of sheep and goats (and their embryos/semen) to the 4 member states( see below) with an approved control programme can only take place from holdings with this status. Some South American countries also stipulate animals of Negligible Risk status.

2) Controlled Risk – is freedom for at least 3 years and is intended for all the other member states that do not have an approved scrapie control programme in place. This is similar to the current situation. Controlled risk flocks may achieve Negligible risk status after being monitored for 7 years.

Questions and Answers

Q: Why have these changes been introduced?
A: To align EU rules in this area with those recommended by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), mainly to enable Member States (MSs) which are considered Negligible Risk or have an approved National Scrapie Control Programme to protect their status by only allowing ovine/caprine animals of a similar health status.  

Q: When will these changes come into effect?  
A: These changes came into effect from 1 July 2013.

Q: Is there a transitional period?
A: Yes.  

Q: What is this transitional period?  
A: The transitional period only relates to how the holding of origin is classified in terms of the classical scrapie risk. Until 31 December 2014 evidence of Controlled and/or Negligible Risk can be provided by routes other than membership of a government approved scheme.  
However, from 1 January 2015, it must be through such a scheme which, in the United Kingdom, is the Scrapie Monitoring Scheme (SMS).  The SMS is provided by SAC Consulting: Premium Sheep and Goat Health Scheme (PSGHS). SAC Consulting is part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Q: What needs to be done to obtain/retain Negligible Risk status?  
A: The criteria are broadly equivalent to those for a scrapie free establishment as recommended in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code – namely that of demonstration of freedom from classical scrapie for at least 7 years.  
Movement of sheep and goats for breeding and fattening to Member States with an approved national control programme for classical scrapie (currently Austria, Denmark, Finland and Sweden) can only take place from holdings having such a status unless they are ARR/ARR genotypes (and provided the holding is not under any official classical scrapie related restrictions).  
This is subject to the following:  

  • Certification verifying that the sheep is ‘ARR/ARR prion protein genotype’ and the certification issued by an approved laboratory which tested the sheep and, at the time of testing, undertaken either as part of the National Scrapie Plan (NSP) in Great Britain (now closed) or the Northern Ireland Scrapie Plan; or 
  • The testing was carried out by either AHVLA or SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services under the terms of their export approved schemes. Export approved genotyping can only be done by AHVLA or SAC Veterinary Services.  
  • The certifying Official Veterinarian (OV) must be satisfied that the individual sheep identification correlates with the laboratory information relating to the genotype result.

Cellmark no longer do scrapie genotype testing.

Q: What needs to be done to obtain/retain Controlled Risk status?  
A: This reflects the status quo (demonstration of freedom from classical scrapie for at least three years).

Q: Can you trade within the EU in sheep and goats and their semen/embryos if you are not in the SMS?  
A: Not from 1 January 2015 as, from then, you must be in the SMS if you wish to trade within the EU in sheep and goats and their semen/embryos. The only exception is ARR/ARR sheep (and their semen/embryos).  

Q: If a flock has complied with the requirements for the SMS, for say 5 or 6 years, (and so nearing “Negligible Risk” status) should they be only purchasing animals from a flock with the same or more years of compliance?  
A: Yes. For a flock/herd to achieve or retain Negligible Risk status, then all obtained/purchased animals must come from other SMS flocks/herds that have (1) Negligible Risk status, or (2) are of ARR/ARR genotype and not from flocks/herds subject to scrapie restrictions. If purchasing from a Controlled Risk flock/herd caution must be taken to ensure that the flock/herd has been monitored for at least the same number of years. If this does not happen progress to Negligible Risk status will be delayed.

Q: If I am not a member of the SMS but now wish to join to trade within the EU in sheep and goats and their semen/embryos what do I need to do?  
A: It is advisable to join the SMS. Please contact the Premium Sheep and Goat Health Schemes (PSGHS) office on 01463 226995 or at if you are currently not a member of the SMS.  

Q: If you have a query over how these changes will be managed who should you contact?  
A: If you are a current member of the SMS (or intend to join in the future before 1 January 2015) please contact the Premium Sheep and Goat Health Schemes (PSGHS) office on 01463 226995 or at for any queries you have on how these changes will be managed for members of the SMS.  

 Q: If you have any general queries on exports who should you contact?  
A: Please contact the exports team at AHVLA Carlisle on 01228 403600 if you have any general queries in relation to these changes.

Q: How many fallen stock must I test?
A: The new rules state ALL FALLEN STOCK. In effect these are animals, over 18 months of age, dying on the holding. It does not include animals that enter the food chain. There is a derogation for goat herds in that it does not apply to animals culled at the end of their working life.

Q: Where do I send fallen stock?
A: These should be delivered to your local SAC Consulting: Veterinary Services Centre or the local centre of AHVLA.
The onus is on you to get fallen stock tested – there will be a charge for this. Submitting carcases to knackeries, hunt kennels, etc. does not meet SMS rules.

Q: Where can I see a current list of SMS members?
A: Please look at If your name is not on list please contact PSGHS on 01463 226995 or at The list published will only include producers who have authorised PSGHS to publish their details. The list will identify negligible risk and controlled risk breeds and holdings. Defra and AHVLA are issued with updated list monthly.

Q; Where can I see the rules and conditions of Scrapie Monitoring Scheme (SMS)



The Shropshire Sheep Breeders’ Association is affiliated to the National Sheep Association

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23rd January 2015

ALL SET FOR NSA CENTRAL REGION WINTER FAIR: With less than week to go before the NSA Central Region Winter Fair it is all systems go for the event on Thursday 29th January 2015 at Bakewell Mart, Derbyshire. You can find everything you need to know about the event here and download an Event Guide here. Commenting ahead of the event, Alastair Sneddon, senior partner for NSA Central Region Winter Fair hosts Bagshaws, says. “Farmers need to do all they can to protect their businesses from the factors over which they have no control. Essential to any defence is the latest knowledge, and I am confident that a day spent at the NSA Central Region Winter Fair will stand you in good stead and provide an essential transfusion of technical and political information.” Entry to the NSA Central Region Winter Fair is FREE for members. Spread the word, because if you bring along a friend or neighbour who is not currently an NSA member and they sign up on the day they will get their entry fee refunded and you BOTH get entered into the prize draw to win a Shearwell EID stick reader kit.
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NSA NEXT GENERATION AMBASSADOR GROUP 2015 CONFIRMED: This week saw the end of a lengthy and difficult selection process for the 2015 NSA Next Generation Ambassador Group. Word had spread of the success of the programme last year and we were overwhelmed with top quality applications this time around, making it a tough job for NSA staff and regional committees to select just 12 people for the final group. All applicants have now been contacted to confirm if they have gained a place or not and we look forward to sharing the final line-up early next week.
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NSA PROMOTES INTEGRAL ROLE OF UPLAND SHEEP FARMING AT RESEARCH FORUM: NSA had the opportunity to take part in an upland science workshop in Cardiff on Thursday, where researchers from across a wide range of disciplines (social science, soils, water and agriculture) met to discuss work being done and future needs for the hills and uplands of Wales. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, was invited to speak at the workshop about the future of livestock in the hills and uplands. He reports: “We know about the interconnectedness of farming, the environment, our natural resources and communities, and it was refreshing to see scientists and researchers covering all these areas come together. A common theme was the need for holistic research and the linking/integration of research programmes, for example connecting the work on poverty in Wales, or the management of peat soils, with work on the sustainable intensification of food production. While it was great to get to know about much of the work being done it was also clear that there is much we still don’t know and interestingly it was suggested that grip blocking in peat uplands in order to re-wet peat, in the expectation that it would decrease methane outputs, was actually showing an increase in methane outputs. I had the chance to make the case for how central livestock farming is to keeping the uplands the way that most of the public would wish to see them, and that sensitive and traditional farming in the uplands delivers multiple public benefits that still aren’t being taken account of. In my view there is much that can be done in the uplands to actually increase their contribution to food security whilst not just maintaining but improving our environment. Conversely there is evidence that past policies have not just reduced productivity but degraded some of our upland ecology at the same time.”
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DISEASE ERADICATION PLANS UNDER DISCUSSION IN SCOTLAND: Attendance at this week’s Animal Health and Welfare stakeholder meeting in Edinburgh proved important, as it now looks like one or possibly two sheep diseases could be targeted by a joint industry and government group to look at a major reduction or eradiation plan, similar to what has been in progress on BVD in cattle across Scotland. George Milne, NSA Scottish Region Development Officer, attended the meeting and suggested the need to start looking at sheep diseases in order to identify one that could follow a similar scheme to that of BVD. The idea was welcomed by the Scottish Government and other stakeholders, and another meeting will be held in the near future when George will be able to share the views of NSA Scottish Region following discussions the next time they get together.
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NEW COUNSELLOR TO BOOST TRADE OPPORTUNITIES WITH CHINA: A trip to China by UK Secretary of State Liz Truss has been followed up by the announcement of a new position – a UK Agricultural and Food Counsellor – to be based in China to further future trade opportunities. This is a big investment by the UK Government and our own levy money via AHDB, and for the first time will see an individual with responsibility to help British companies tap into China’s growing interest in products and speciality foods. The role has been filled by Karen Morgan, who currently leads Defra’s competitive farming team and will take up the new role in Beijing this spring. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, comments: “We very much welcome the creation of this new role and, from what I saw on my trip to China last year, it is an essential step if we are to take advantage of this growing market. We are still some way from securing direct access into China for sheep meat, and to have someone based there and working for us will undoubtedly help pave the way. It is a big investment but should be a use of levy funds that reaps rewards in due course.” You can read the announcement from Defra about the new position here.
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BUSY TIME FOR RED TRACTOR ASSURANCE: Following information in last week’s NSA Weekly Update about a Red Tractor Assurance meeting in Devon next week, two more meetings in Yorkshire and Warwickshire have been planned. All three are open meetings starting at 6pm and providing opportunity to discuss recent changes to the assurance standards and a proposed move to whole life assurance for beef. Bryan Griffiths, NSA South West Regional Chairman, comments: “Following concerns raised by members over the revised Red Tractor Assurance standards introduced in the autumn of 2014, I approached the RTA and discussed the possibility of a meeting between senior members of RTA and West Country farmers. The concept has since been developed and expanded to include NFU and NBA, as well as NSA members. This is a great opportunity for farmers to convey their views on the future purpose and direction of farm assurance.” The three meetings are:-

  • Thursday 29th January at Padbrook Park Hotel, Cullompton, Devon, EX15 1RU.
  • Tuesday 3rd February at Skipton Livestock Market, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 1UD.
  • Thursday 12th February at the Warwick Complex, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG.

Running alongside these Red Tractor Assurance meetings, RTA is also currently consulting on new standards for livestock markets and collection centres. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “NSA is working with a number of members with interests in these areas to ensure a response that reflects the experience of those involved. We accept that standards cannot stay still forever, but our fundamental position is that the requirements must be proportionate, avoid duplication and at a level that encourages participation.”
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VITAL MEETING ON CARCASE SPLITTING PLANNED FOR FEBRUARY: NSA and NFU met this week to prepare for a jointly organised and delivered meeting to seek solutions to the problems caused by tooth eruption and carcase splitting. The meeting, to be held in early February, will involve livestock industry bodies, unions, Defra and the devolved administrations, Food Standards Agency, Chief Veterinary Officers and others. NSA will keep members informed as this important meeting takes place. The work follows the NSA’s TSE report which was launched last year.
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INTERNET TECHNOLOGY OVERCOMES BAD WEATHER! NSA members and supporters who attended the NSA Scottish Region annual dinner the other day will know that the two 2014 NSA Next Generation Ambassadors from Scottish were invited to speak at the event. Jennifer Craig from Lanarkshire spoke about the Ambassador Programme and how it had benefited her family business, but Andrew Prentice was preventing from travelling across from Iona when bad weather stopped the ferries. He instead sent a video message, which you can view on the NSA You Tube channel at The dinner followed the NSA Scottish Region AGM, where Sybil Macpherson and Ian Hepburn were elected for another term of office as Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively. Other office holders also remain in position.
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CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS SOUGHT FOR WELSH UPLAND FORUM: The Welsh Government is seeking to appoint a chairperson and seven independent members to the Upland Forum for its fourth term (2015-2018). The Upland Forum was established in 2005 to advise the Welsh Government and National Assembly for Wales on issues that have an impact on the hills and uplands of Wales. Members are expected to serve voluntarily for at least four meetings a year and some additional events (travel expenses claimable), while the Chairman is paid £114 per day. Appointments will be made by Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food. Applications close on Tuesday 10th February; click here for more information.
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RESEARCH SUGGESTS SOYA ALTERNATIVES: With sheep keepers looking for affordable sources of protein in the run-up to lambing, Eblex has shared results from a project it was involved with alongside HCC, Adas and Reaseheath College looking at alternative protein sources to soya. Liz Genever, Eblex Senior Livestock Scientist, reminds producers that rumen degradable protein (found in grass, hay, silage and green leafy brassicas) must be boosted with digestible undegradable protein in late pregnancy to provide ewes’ energy needs. While 3% of soya imported into the UK being fed to sheep, it is well used as a feed ingredient for in-lamb ewes, but Dr Genever says cheaper alternatives can offer the same levels of protein (see table). She comments: “There were no significant differences in animal performance between the diets. The soya-based diet was the most expensive and the diet based on wheat distillers dark grains was the cheapest, based on feed prices from January 2014. These diets were fed as TMR, and while not all producers have access to TMR facilities, some will have the opportunity to mix their own diets and could consider some changes. If diets are to be changed, help from a nutritionist is crucial and forage analysis should be carried out so feeds can be used to complement it.” Read more about the research findings here.
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GLUCOSE SHORTAGE: NSA had heard from members that they are struggling to get hold of glucose products for treating hypothermic lambs and twin lamb disease in ewes. Some investigation suggests manufacturing problems in Europe are the cause and suppliers will have product back in stock in March. In the meantime, Paul Roger of the Sheep Veterinary Society says it is safe and legal to make your own and is providing a recipe that will be added to the NSA website soon.
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SHEEP RUSTLING CONTINUES: The problem of sheep thefts was highlighted once again this week with an NSA member from Colwall, Worcestershire, reporting 75 ewes stolen from his field, possibly over some period of time. Please remain vigilant to thefts, do what you can to secure remote fields, and encourage neighbours to report sightings of livestock trailers at unusual times of the day.
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SHEARING EFFORTS RECOGNISED: The 2014 BWMB/Lister Shearing Personality of the Year award has gone to Richard Jones of Corwen, Wales (pictured). The award is presented annually for the person who has promoted and encouraged others interested in shearing and who has gained the respect of the UK shearing industry. Richard represented Wales in the 2012 and 2014 World Shearing Championships and became the first Welshman to win an open show in New Zealand.
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PRIZES FOR BLACKIE FINISHERS: The third annual competition for Blackface lambs finished in Southern Scotland and Northern England, held at Dunbia LLanybydder, Wales, saw the biggest entry so far – 132 lamb carcases from 22 consignors, bought by Dunbia for the Sainsbury’s Taste The Different range. The champion lamb came from the heavy class and was a 21kg U3L from W.A. Wilson & Co, Yarrow, Scottish Borders (pictured), and reserve a 19kg R3L carcase from Hugh Hamilton, Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway. Champion pair was two 18kg U3H lambs from Jim Walker, Sanquhar, Dumfries and Galloway.
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CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE VALUE OF YOUR NSA MEMBERSHIP? NSA is looking for testimonials about why you are a part of NSA and what your value from your membership package. If you are willing to provide a comment that NSA can use in its membership recruitment activities then please email Charlotte Underwood at NSA Head Office –
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NOTE TO NSA WELSH SHEEP EXHIBITORS: Helen Davies, NSA Welsh Sheep Event Organiser, says applications for trade stand space at the event close at the end of January. Breed societies and companies wishing to book space should do so now by contacting Helen on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or for an application form. Applications for NSA events later in the year close in due course and you will find contact details for all Event Organisers at
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SCOTTISH FARMERS’ VIEWS SOUGHT ON WELFARE AT SLAUGHTER: Janie Orr, an honours student at the Royal Agricultural University, from the Scottish Borders, is asking NSA members in Scotland to share their views on welfare at slaughter. Click here for the short, anonymous survey.
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THREE JOBS ON OFFER AT AHDB: Three very different roles are currently being advertised by AHDB to support the English beef and lamb sector. One position is for a Senior Analyst in the market intelligence department, a role that involves researching, analysing, interpreting and clearly communicating relevant information. Those familiar with the team at Eblex will know this was the role held by Paul Heyhoe until very recently. Applications close imminently for this position so anyone interested should act now. Applications for the other two positions are open for slightly longer. These are for a Breeding Advisor with the Signet Breeding Services team, responsible for recruiting and retaining clients, providing advice to develop genetic improvement programmes, and creating knowledge transfer material – and a Beef Scientist responsible for the delivery of a variety of industry-facing knowledge transfer activities and research and development projects.



NSA REGIONAL CHAIRMAN HOSTS SHEEP VET SOCIETY: The Sheep Vet Society held their spring conference near Weston Super Mare from Monday to Wednesday this week (19th-21st May) attracting just over 100 delegates, mainly practicing vets. On the second day they visited NSA Marches Region Chairman Kevin Harrison near Bath for a farm tour and there were many positive comments that followed (from both delegates and Kevin). Phil Stocker attended part of the conference. He reports: “It really does give you confidence when you see the number of enthusiastic vets attending a specialist conference like this and keen to be part of the Sheep Vet Society.  The age range also suggests there is no shortage of new entrants into this strand of our industry and sheep farmers should feel confident that we have a society here in the UK (SVS) that is world renowned for its involvement in sheep health and disease research and practical application. I would encourage all NSA sheep farming members to ask their vet if they are part of SVS – by doing so they will undoubtedly provide an improved service for you, and together we can continue to drive the health and productivity of our sheep in the right direction.”
NSA DISCUSSES CAP REFORM WITH LOCHHEAD: The end of last week saw NSA office holders meet with Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to discuss CAP reform, including payment regions and voluntary coupled support. Scotland is looking at splitting payment regions into arable, temporary grazing and rough grazing and in last week’s meeting NSA emphasised the need for area payments to be set high enough to give long term support and stability to sheep farmers across Scotland, allowing them to invest in the future. The concern is that the area payment for rate for rough grazing will not do that. George Milne, NSA Scotland Regional Development Officer, says: “Splitting the rough grazing region into two was discussed, which is something representatives felt there was a requirement to see. One suggestion was to look at Pillar Two funding and see if some form of top-up could be administered to add additional support to those with higher stocking densities. Discussions around a voluntary coupled scheme also took place, and while this may be an option, it is certainly not a solution and comes with a vast amount of conditions and red tape. It is felt by the majority of NSA Scottish Region Board that this is not the best way forward for the sheep industry, with the use of a better targeted area payments strongly supported instead.” Discussion on all elements of CAP reform will continue into next week, prior to the Cabinet Secretary make his announcement.
NEW LAYOUT SHEEP CENTRE WORKS WELL AT BALMORAL: Edward Adamson, NSA Northern Ireland  Regional Development Officer, reports that good weather saw an

increase in visitors to Balmoral Show last week (14th-16th May). NSA provided a sheep centre (as it does at the Royal Highland and Royal Welsh) – a marquee accommodating a NSA presence, breed societies and commercial trade stands. Edward reports: “Most visitors were content, as they’d had a good lambing and grass growth was good. Our change of layout on the NSA stand got a favourable reaction and exhibitors were pleased. Most questions at our stand involved CAP reform, the expected outcomes and decisions still to be made. The election on 22nd May brought out a not unexpected increased number of politicians but little commitment from them!”
GOOD NEWS ON OPEN ACCESS IN WALES: The Welsh Government announced on Wednesday (20th May) that planned legislation granting open access to land in Wales had been delayed pending further consultation. While it is important to encourage people to enjoy the countryside in all areas of the UK, NSA and others were hugely concerned that the Welsh Government’s plans were not sensitive enough to farmers and others who manage the land. A statement by John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport, which includes reference to more consultation before any legislation is drafted, can be read here.
MOVEMENT ON SCOTTISH 13-DAY STANDSTILL? While England and Wales are looking to assess their six-day standstill and Northern Ireland no long has a standstill period in disease ‘peacetime’, Scotland still has a 13-day standstill requirement. This was raised at the Animal Health and Welfare Stakeholder Group meeting this week and a request made to discuss in detail the pros and cons of moving to a shorter timescale, bearing in mind Scotland’s robust tractability system. It was agreed that a meeting would be set up in the near future, inviting all interested parties to fully investigate the current situation.
FIGHTING RURAL CRIME: Since writing to all police forces in the UK to raise the profile of sheep worrying by dogs, NSA has been discussing all elements of rural crime in recent weeks. This included Caitlin Peck, NSA Communications Officer, attending the Herefordshire Rural Crime Conference yesterday (Thursday 22nd May) when key members of the West Mercia force called for the police and the public to work together to tackle rural crime. Discussion at the meeting, attended by farmers and industry representatives, focused on a drive to increase trust and co-operation, with Mayor Patrick Darling (High Sheriff of Herefordshire), David Shaw (Chief Constable of West Mercia Police) and Bill Longmore (Police and Crime Commissioner) among those who appealed for members of the rural community to help the police act on rural crime by reporting incidents and sharing information. There were also pledges of a renewed effort among police forces in the area to prioritise rural incidents. Mr Shaw said: “Today’s the start of a very significant change. I can’t honestly say we’ve given some of you the focus you deserve. We need to form what is in the true sense a partnership.” Crime Risk Adviser Charles Naylor spoke about the ‘Stop That Thief’ scheme in Kingham, which has seen farmers fit gates and doors with alarms that are triggered when a potential criminal approaches, intended to scare burglars before they can begin a break in. The project has been a success in Kingham and will now be rolled out across Herefordshire; farmers in that area should contact their local police to express an interest. 

REMINDER 1: TAIL DOCKING: With the show and sale season approaching it is a time when many of our sheep are on view. It may be a little late in that docking will already have been done, but NSA would like to remind all sheep farmers of the legal requirements of docking sheep. The Welfare of Livestock (Prohibited Operations) Regulations 1982, as amended by the Welfare of Livestock (Prohibited Operations) (Amendment) Regulations 1987, prohibits tail docking of sheep unless sufficient tail is retained to cover the vulva in the case of female sheep and the anus in the case of male sheep. 
REMINDER 2: WITHDRAWAL PERIODS The FSA routinely tests for residues of medicines and parasite treatments to ensure food safety. This relates to stated withdrawal periods being properly met and the NSA encourages all sheep farmers for the sake of confidence and trust in our product to adhere closely to withdrawal periods and to ensure that medicine books and flock registers are up to date. 
ASULAM NOW ON SALE FOR EMERGENCY USE FROM JULY: The Bracken Control Group reports that, as anticipated, asulam has been granted an Emergency Authorisation for bracken control in 2014. The Emergency Authorisation has two periods – the one permits purchase and storage of asulam products between Monday 19th May and Monday 15th September, and the other permits application between Tuesday 1st July and Friday 31st October. It is illegal to apply or store asulam outside those dates. There are rules about methods of application (e.g. weed wipers, drift sprayers and spot applicators are not authorised) and information about this, plus a list of contractors, can be found at
GET SHEEP MARKET PRICES ON NEW EBLEX APP: Eblex has launched a new mobile app providing the latest market prices and trends along with access to the most popular areas of the Eblex website. Users will be able to view events, news, localised weather reports and other tools and resources on their mobile phone. James Wilde of Eblex says: “The app obviously needs wi-fi or mobile data connectivity to download and update but, importantly, it means latest saved data can be accessed even when off-line, which is an advantage in more rural areas where coverage can be patchy at best. It means producers, processors and other industry stakeholders can access key services without waiting until they are in front of a computer screen.” The Eblex Mobile app is available for free on both Apple and Android platforms. To find it, visit Apple’s App Store or Google Play and search for Eblex.
NEW SHEEPDOG TRIAL AT NSA SOUTH SHEEP: Visitors to NSA South Sheep 2014 on Saturday 28th June will be treated to a new sheepdog trial, introduced for the first time at this year’s event. The competition, which will take place in a picturesque valley setting on the event site, is being organised by the Sussex Sheep Dog Society and will feature Open and Novice classes. Anyone wishing to enter should send their details, including name, address, telephone number and email, to John Marsh, West End Farm, Gatehouse Lane, Goddards Green, Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 9LE, 01444 246962 or Find out more about the sheepdog trial and other events at NSA South Sheep 2014 here. AND REMEMBER THERE IS ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT TO ENTER THE NSA SOUTH SHEEP PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITION – CLICK HERE TO ENTERFOR DETAILS.
SIX SHEARING COURSES IN NI IN JUNE: CAFRE and BWMB are running a series of shearing courses across Northern Ireland in June, aimed at everyone from the complete novice to the competition/contract shearer. The courses are two days each (9.30am-4.20pm each day) and will cover every aspect of shearing, from setting up equipment and pens to packing and presenting the fleece for sale. Course locations are Claudy (6th/7th June), Saintfield (10th/11th), Draperstown (13th/14th), Kilcoo (17th/18th), Ballycastle (20th/21st) and Glenwherry (24th/25th). Booking is compulsory – contact CAFRE’s industry training administration team at Greenmount Campus on 02894 426873 or
THREE FARM WALKS FOCUSING ON LAMB GROWTH RATES: The next step in QMS’s project to drive efficiency in the lamb supply chain is a series of free farm walks organised by the Borders, South West and Central lamb supply chain groups. All three farm walks will focus on maximising lamb growth rates in early season through good grazing and flock health management, plus optimal weights for selling lambs. The first walk is hosted by Graham Lofthouse, Bankhouse, Stow (27th May), then Colin Mair,  Montgomerieston, Dalrymple, Ayrshire  (28th May), and the James Hutton Institute farm, Hartwood, Shotts (10th June). Register your attendance with Kirsty at QMS on 01314 724040 or
FOCUS FARM EVENTS TO LEAD EBLEX HEALTH AND WELFARE CAMPAIGN: Eblex is creating a network of 19 sheep focus farms across England as part of a campaign addressing health and welfare issues. The farms will play host to a series of events during the 12-month project, starting with a programme of summer meetings focusing on lameness and the five-point lameness management plan. Both upland and lowland farms have been selected. The first focus farm meetings will be held in Callington, Cornwall, on 28th May and Dorchester, Dorset, on 5th June. As well as the activity on the focus farms, Eblex will be running a number of sheep health workshops designed to help farmers focus on issues on their own farms. These sessions will cover health planning, lameness, infertility and scab. See Eblex’s events schedule here.
ENTRIES OPEN FOR BRITISH FARMING AWARDS: Entries are now open for Farmers Guardian’s ‘British Farming Awards’, which recognise creative thinking and progress in agriculture. If you know someone who has made a change or innovation in their sheep farming business, why not nominate them for Sheep Innovator of the Year? You can even nominate yourself! There are 11 categories in total, including Farming Partnership of the Year, Family Farming Business of the Year and Farmers Guardian’s Farming Hero. Entries close on 31st July. Find out more here.
JOINT WORK EXPERIENCE PLACEMENT WANTED: Pearly Sanjita Garg and Sophie Turrell (both 17) are looking for a two-week placement on a sheep farm anywhere in the UK, ideally in mid-July. Both are A-level students looing to study veterinary science and have experience working with animals, including the two of them completing a lambing course. They would like to be placed together and are keen to take on any sort of farm work, saying they are enthusiastic and keen to learn. They are based in Woodford Green, Essex, so would require accommodation if travelling any distance. You can contact the pair on or 07825 017362.

NEW LEGAL HELPLINE ON OFFER FOR NSA MEMBERS: NSA is delighted to offer a new legal helpline for members, at no extra cost over the existing membership fee. You can call Clarke Willmott LPP, a national law firm, for up to 30 minutes of free advice on the telephone, after which you can instruct them to take further action if appropriate or use an alternative company. When you call the hotline number of 08719 193505 and give your NSA membership number you will be directed to the best person to deal with the enquiry in Clarke Wilmott’s agricultural team. There is no limit to the number of times you can use the service, so you can access additional 30-minutes sessions if you have more than one legal issue over a year, but you must have your NSA membership number to hand.
STUN/NON STUN DEBATE CONTINUES: Following another All Party Parliamentary Group debate on this subject, the media focused heavily on halal and stun/non-stun slaughter yesterday and today (Thursday 8th and Friday 9th May). Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “One of the most disturbing things is how radio phone-in programmes  give a voice to callers irrespective of whether the information they give is right or wrong, and I’m sure many people will have got the impression over the last couple of days that if it’s halal it’s not pre-stunned – this is very wrong. New Zealand lamb attracted a lot of attention but we know the vast majority of lamb from NZ is to halal standards and is also pre-stunned, giving the best possible welfare at point of death. NZ processors do this so they have the widest access to all the markets they supply, and this is no different from our main processors here in the UK. While I can accept the value of giving maximum information to the consumer this somehow also needs to be backed up with accurate and realistic knowledge and the contentious issue here for most of the public is not whether it’s halal accredited or not, it’s whether its pre stunned or not. Defra has made it clear that the Government does not intend to take away the rights of religious communities, so non-stun slaughter will continue, but the derogation to the slaughter regulation is to allow for where this demand exists and as far as possible should be limited.” Read the NSA press statement here.
TWO DOZEN BREEDS REPRESENTED AT NSA FORUM: NSA’s annual event for sheep breed societies attracted a very healthy audience, with 50 attendees representing 24 breed societies. The event focused on the need for pedigree breeders to meet the demands of the commercial farmer and a full report can be read here. Pictured below pedigree breeders Dai Morris (far left), Margaret Lawrence (centre) and Tim Tyne (far right) with commercial farmers Sion Jones (left) and Martin Greenfield (right) – they all provided case studies of the working relationship between breeders and producers. A separate summary report has also been sent to all NSA affiliated breed societies.
May Update
LOTS OF AGENDA ITEMS FOR NSA BOARD MEETING: This Wednesday (7th May) saw the NSA Board of Trustees met at the Sheep Centre, Malvern, for the second of its meetings in 2014. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, explains the set-up here: “This body of men and women are Trustees and Directors of the Charitable Company of the NSA so oversee the governance of the association as well as giving guidance on more practical sheep farming matters.  The Board is supported by a Finance and General Purposes Committee and a UK Policy and Technical Committee in respective financial and HR, and policy and technical matters – it may sound complicated but it gives a sound base to the NSA and works really well in practice This week’s meeting included subjects as broad as ensuring that the association is optimising the use of our resources, including our HQ site at Malvern and our financial reserves, planning for our annual report and this year’s AGM, and also discussing our three main events for 2014; NSA Scot Sheep in Berwickshire on Wednesday 4th June, NSA South Sheep on Saturday 28th June, and NSA Sheep 2014 at Malvern on Wednesday 30th July.  Suffice to say our Trustees went home looking more tired than they arrived!”

LATEST ON MOVEMENT REPORTING IN ENGLAND: The new ARAMs movement reporting system is now just over a month into operation and although there were introductory hiccups we can report that (whatever is said in the farming press) that Defra and SouthWestern (the company operating ARAMs) are working hard, taking guidance from industry bodies including NSA, to make rapid improvements so the system operates effectively for the industry.  One of the first teething problems was that the list of CPH registered for sheep, provided by AHVLA to SouthWestern, clearly didn’t cover all the holdings actually keeping sheep. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We have been urging sheep farmers to check with AHVLA that all their holdings are properly registered, which has definitely helped, but AHVLA and SouthWestern also took this on board and on Wednesday night this week the ARAMs system was closed overnight to allow all CPHs registered for any species to be loaded into their system – simply allowing recognition when sheep farmers try to register.  There are now over 2,250 farmers with electronic accounts registered with ARAMs, around 7% of sheep keepers in England, and with many of the hiccups now being overcome and more numbers of sheep starting to move we would expect many more to register over the coming months. Of course paper moves from farms are still perfectly permissible and while ARAMs is still accepting the old ALMS forms, the new ARAMs movement forms should be being used and can be downloaded and printed from their website and should also be available from markets and abattoirs.”
FINAL REMINDER! This is your final reminder ahout the NSA Sheep Event video competition (with a prize fund of £700), as entries close on Friday 16th May. Click here for more details.

EBLEX REPORT LINKS LAMBING BCS WITH WEANING WEIGHTS: An Eblex report has linked ewe body condition score (BCS) at lambing with lamb weaning weights. The study shows that for every one unit increase in a ewe’s BCS at lambing (up to BCS 3.5) her lambs would each weigh 1.5kg more at weaning. This pattern highlights the benefit of targeting optimum BCS at lambing, as thinner and fatter ewes are vulnerable to other problems too. Ewe BCS at eight weeks post lambing and the change in BCS from lambing showed no effect on lamb weaning weights. Nerys Wright of Eblex says: “Ewes with greater fat reserves are better placed to meet the milk production demands of lambs when diet is deficient by mobilising body fat. Thinner ewes are likely to struggle when the energy is deficient, because they have less body fat to mobilise. The rate a ewe mobilises body fat to meet requirements during lactation can affect her performance in the next tupping season. Ewes which are thin at weaning will require additional time and supplementary feed to achieve the optimum BCS for tupping.” Target scores for different types of ewe can be found in the EBLEX BRP publications Target Ewe Management for Better Returns and Improving Ewe Nutrition for Better Returns.
DON’T GET CARELESS OVER LIVER FLUKE: SAC Consulting has put out a warning this week following concerns that sheep farmers are getting careless about liver fluke because it did not hit the headlines as much this winter as last. Heather Stevenson, SAC Consultant, says: “The very welcome drier summer of 2013 put the brakes on fluke development. There were fewer wet areas for the mud snail that hosts the fluke during part of its life cycle and this in turn meant there were fewer numbers of infectious cysts on the autumn grass for sheep to ingest. In addition the increased awareness of fluke encouraged farmers to treat their stock for fluke and reduced losses. But if it rains a lot this summer fluke eggs passed in dung at this time of year will end up as infectious cysts on the autumn grazing. Since the weather can’t be accurately predicted it is better to be safe than sorry and the May/June period is a good time to treat sheep in order to break the fluke cycle.” Remember, treatment is specific to your farm so consult your vet or animal health advisor first and pick a product that is suitable for the time of year. More information at And read the latest instalment from ‘George’s Journal’/the Scottish Fluke Action Group here.
FLYSTRIKE WARNING: A couple of NSA members have already reported cases of flystrike, due to the wet and warm weather. The forecast is damp again for many places this weekend so many flocks will see an increased threat.
SEE YOU AT BALMORAL SHOW: If you’re at Balmoral Show this week (Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th May) call in to the NSA Sheep Centre, featuring trade stands from NSA, breed societies and commercial companies. It’s located next to the sheep judging rings.
EXCELLENT FARM TOURS AVAILABLE FOR SCOT SHEEP VISITORS: Visitors to NSA Scot Sheep 2014 will have the chance to look around host farm Quixwood and ask questions about its stratified closed flock system. A 45-minute guided tour will be running on the day of the event, taking in soil condition demonstrations by SRUC and display areas of different grass species courtesy of Watson Seeds. Quixwood is farmed by John Macfarlane and his son Ian, who run 1,500 ewes over its 2,500 acres. The farm policy is focused on minimising feed imports through the use of home grown feed. The Macfarlanes produce their own Mules to put to Texel tups, and breed their progeny with Suffolk rams to get slaughter lambs. Iain Macfarlane says “We are planning to take this policy one stage further by breeding our own replacement Blackface ewes in the future”. Find more information about Quixwood Farm and NSA Scot Sheep here

CALLING ALL YOUNG SHEPHERDS: It’s no too late to enter the NSA Marches Region Young Shepherd of the Year competition on Saturday 7th June. Under 27s can compete for a £600 prize fund. Click here for an entry form.
TWO FARM WALKS AT EASY CARE OPEN DAY: The Easy Care Sheep Society is inviting NSA members to its annual open day and farm visits at Abbey St Bathans, Dunns, Scottish Borders, TD11 3TX on Friday 6th June. The event will start at the village hall at 11am and tour the farms of Charley and Andrea Walker (1,000 Easy Care ewes and 65 Welsh Black sucklers) and Duncan and Laura Shell (2,000 Easy Care ewes and 150 Angus cattle) before returning to the village hall for tea and discussion. There will also be an annual dinner that evening in Berwick-on-Tweed. Contact Iolo Owen if you wish to attend – 01289 331133 or [Please note NSA Scot Sheep is in a similar area on Wednesday 4th June – consider combining the two events if you’re travelling long distances!]  
ONE SHEEP FARM WALK AND FIVE RUSH CONTROL EVENTS IN WALES: Farming Connect demonstration farmers Richard Rogers is opening his farm gates on Anglesey on Thursday 15th May and inviting sheep farmer Neil Perkins (who also farms on the Welsh coastline but almost as far south from Anglesey as possible!) to look at his sheep management systems. Click here for information and booking instructions. Farming Connect is also running five events looking at rush management options on Monday 19th, Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st May. Click here for times and locations.
12-MONTH PLACEMENT WANTED: Liberty Turner (17) is looking for a 12-month middle year placement to start in September, as part of her level 3 extended diploma in agriculture at Reaseheath College. Liberty comes from a farming background of commercial and pedigree sheep and beef and is very interested in the sheep side. She has started her own pedigree Texel flock. Liberty says she is hardworking, full of enthusiasm and willing to take on any kind of work. Contact her on 07958 485327 or

April 2014


CAP, TSEs AND EID TOLERANCE DISCUSSED AS SECRETARY OF STATE SPENDS DAY WITH NSA: Happening just 48 hours after Defra’s announcement that it was moving CAP money up the hill to such an extent that moorland would see a 90% increase in payments to £56 per hectare, the long-anticipated visit from Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, yesterday (Thursday 1st May) was ideally timed. NSA Chairman John Geldard invited Mr Paterson to visit his farm near Kendal, Cumbria, when he first replaced Jim Paice in the 

top job at Defra 18 months ago, so it was great to see the visit finally going ahead, taking in a number of rural businesses at the gateway to the Lake District. John (right) is pictured here with Mr Paterson (middle) and NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker (left).

Phil told Mr Paterson that was NSA was very pleased with steps taken to move direct payments to farmers (Pillar One) up the hill but would have like to see more progress on money being better targeted to active farmers. He highlighted the equal importance of Rural Development Programme (Pillar Two) money going directly to farmers too, describing the proposed NSA Animal Health Scheme as a way to increase productivity and competitiveness, while also improving resource efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Phil says: “We acknowledge the animal health budget within RDPE is insufficient to fund this scheme on a major scale, but we strongly believe it is justifiable to talk about reassessment of Pillar Two priorities and a more equal balance between environmental projects and resource efficiency within food production systems. After all, it’s still a Common Agricultural Policy not a Common Environmental Policy. I think Mr Paterson appreciates NSA’s stance on this issue and the importance of not forgetting the vital role livestock farms play in economic activity and feeding the nation as well as further improving our iconic landscapes and environments. There is a lot of common ground between us when we talk about production, profitability and environmental enhancement running hand in hand.”

With the Secretary of State speaking very passionately about the role of agriculture and rural business in strengthening the UK economy, the visit also presented an ideal opportunity to talk about two key issues that NSA members know are holding the sector back – carcase splitting and the lack of tolerance for EID read rates. Mr Paterson picked both of these up very strongly and NSA will follow up the dialogue to ensure they remain on the agenda within Defra. John says: “The Secretary of State must be congratulated for his strong convictions and clear vision that agriculture is a vital part of our country’s economy. Now is a time of opportunity and it was very heartening to find common ground when discussing the huge potential within the sheep sector.”

ENDEMIC DISEASE A PRIORITY FOR RDPE: The day with Owen Paterson yesterday was perfectly bookended by two crucial meetings on Wednesday and today about the Rural Development Programme in England. The RDP team in Defra has held a series of workshops looking at potential animal health and welfare schemes in the future and the third of three sessions was held today (Friday 2nd May) in London. This was proceeded by a Sheep Health and Welfare Group (SHAWG) meeting on Wednesday (30th April) when consensus was reached on a scheme along the lines of what NSA has been proposing for some time now, financially incentivising farmers to proactively tackle endemic diseases appropriate to their farm, gaining funding for veterinary input and testing and grant funding for on-farm equipment such as handling and identification kit, quarantine facilities and biosecurity measures. The sheep group proposal to the RDP team today was along very similar lines to the cattle, poultry and pig sectors and so the next step is to model a scheme that all livestock farmers can access and make applicable to their farm. Joanne Briggs, NSA Communications Manager, attended today’s meeting. She says: “We are a very long way from definitely having a workable scheme, but steps are being made in the right direction. It is just very frustrating that all the RDPE streams seem to be so tightly confined by Defra, with little appetite for formulating programmes that cover more than one area. The pots of money are also incredibly small with 87% of the RDPE budget already allocated for agri-environment schemes.”

MORE NSA ACTION ON SHEEP WORRYING BY DOGS: The NSA sheep worrying by dogs campaign continued apace this week with letters sent to all police forces and regional Police and Crime Commissioners in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. NSA outlined the seriousness of the problem in rural areas and urban fringes and the incredible variability in police engagement around the UK revealed by the NSA survey of sheep farmers. The letters also highlighted the growing problem with rural crime in general and asked the police to engage with NSA and others to tackle sheep rustling as well as sheep worrying. Today (Friday 2nd May) also saw an excellent debate about sheep worrying on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show, involving NSA Marches Region Kevin Harrison. Click here to listen again.

As an example of the variability of action being taken by police forces, Avon and Somerset Constabulary is leading the way with the launch of a new Rural Crime Team. The team is promoting Farm Watch Schemes and encouraging farmers to mark property as ways to tackle rural crime. Superintendent Ian Wylie says: “We understand rural crime has a huge impact on both individuals and the local economy and, whilst it is falling, it still cost the UK £43m in 2012. We are already working closely with farmers and rural communities and over the past six months we have been talking directly to them to discuss the issues that concern them the most and ways we can improve our service. Launching the rural crime team is a direct result of those conversations.” Find out more about activity in Avon and Somerset with at, or local residents can call 101 and ask to speak to the local policing team.

SECOND 3IN1 FEEDER GIVEN AWAY: The second of six 3in1 Advantage Feeders has been given away in the NSA 2014 membership recruitment campaign, this time to Worcestershire farmer Andrew Baxter. A draw for the feeder is held every two months, with all new members eligible plus existing members who recommend a friend or 

neighbour. Mr Baxter is pictured here (centre) with NSA Marches Region Chairman Kevin Harrison (left) and Robert Ball of Advantage Feeders (right). Mr Baxter is a tenant on the Croome Estate, farming 670 acres in partnership with his wife. They run 350 ewes and  100 sucklers, as well as growing 450 acres of combinable crops. The North Country Mule ewes are put to Suffolk rams and the finished lambs sold through Worcester Market. The sheep and cattle are primarily grazed on HLS grassland that makes up part of the National Trust’s Croome Landscape Park. Mr Baxter paid to upgrade from the 800 model (holds 500kg of feed) to the 1800 (1,150kg). Download an entry form to pass to a friend and view terms and conditions

DON’T MISS NSA VIDEO AND PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPETITIONS: The deadline for the NSA Sheep Event video competition (with a prize fund of £700) is Friday 16th May. Remember, you do not need to submit a fully edited, professional video as event partner Farmers Guardian will be lending an expert hand to the eight shortlisted entries before them go live online for the big vote. Click here for more details. And if photography is more your thing, entries are open for a new photography competition, the results of which will be announced at NSA South Sheep on Saturday 28th July. The theme for the competition is simply ‘sheep’ and competitors are welcome to enter any image relating to the sheep sector. There is a £80 prize fund for entries into the Open section and £60 in the Junior section, Entries will be judged by a panel of NSA representatives, South Eastern Farmer magazine and the event photographer, but visitors to South Sheep will also be able to vote for the ‘people’s choice’ with a prize fund of £50. Enter here before Saturday 31st May.

NADIS BULLETIN AVAILABLE: The latest Health Bulletin from the National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) is available now, plus a NADIS webinar, sponsored by Eblex and DairyCo, offering disease alerts and topical disease challenges.

LEATHERJACK NUMBERS AT RECORD HIGH: An annual survey carried out by SRUC in west and central Scotland has revealed that leatherjackets (daddy long leg larvae) are at a 39-yer high and posing a significant threat to grassland. Professor Davy McCracken, SRUC Ecologist, says: “While over 90% of the fields sampled contained more than 0.6 million grubs per hectare, nearly 60% of the fields harboured populations of over two million per hectare. Densities like that, if left untreated, are likely to result in severe and visible damage to the grass sward or any spring crops sown after the grass. One result showed 13.6 million grubs per hectare, the highest density we have ever found in one field. Uninformed insurance spraying is not recommended, as grub populations can vary, not only from area to area but also within an area and from field to field on the same farm. It is essential that an assessment of leatherjacket densities is conducted prior to deciding whether any insecticide application is necessary. If it is needed then an insecticide should be applied as soon as the ground is dry enough to bear machinery.”SAC Consulting recommends that pre-ploughing insecticide treatments when the field is still under grass are more effective than those applied once any damage is under way in the spring-sown crop.

DATA SUGGESTS TOO MANY LAMBS KEPT BACK IN HOPE OF RISING PRICES:Eblex has called for the sheep industry to tackle the problem of over-fat lamb production. New figures released by the levy board reveal that while the proportion of old season lambs with a classification of ‘R3L or leaner’ increased by 2.2% in 2013, the percentage of new season lambs falling within that class dropped from 60.1% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2013. Eblex suggests the rise in over-fat new season lambs may have been caused by additional creep feeding as a result of last year’s poor spring weather. The figures also show that in November and December 2013 more than one in four lambs classified as ‘R or better’ fell into fat class 3H or above, leading to concerns that some farmers have been keeping lambs back in the expectation of price rises. Eblex Beef and Sheep Scientist Dylan Laws says: “Lambs in the correct condition for their designated market will maximise returns. Frequent, careful handling of stock is essential to ensure each animal has reached its target specification.” Click here for more detail and links to information about Eblex Better Returns Programme live-to-dead days held regularly at abattoirs across England.

NEW BOOK BITES BACK AT MONBIOT AND CO! The perfect antidote to the George Monbiot-led campaign to re-wild the uplands of the UK comes in the form of Philip Walling’s new book about the role of sheep in Britain’s history and future. Counting Sheep is reviewed in the May/June edition of Sheep Farmer magazine, which will be arriving with members any day now, and the author has also agreed to participate in ‘The Big Debate’ at the NSA Sheep Event on Wednesday 30th July (the same event that Mr Monbiot has declined an invitation to). The Daily Mail has even given Counting Sheep a good review! Find it here.

COULD YOU BE A FARMING MENTOR? The Get Mentoring in Farming programme has just passed half way in its recruitment of farmer-mentors and has announced a series of training events for mentors – Exeter on 6th May, Hertfordshire on 16th May, the Peak District on 22nd May, Warwickshire on 2nd June, Northumberland on 4th June, plus trade stands at NBA Beef Expo on 22nd May and the Livestock Event on 2nd and 3rd July. Trained mentors will be matched with farming businesses seeking support at Meet a Mentor events planned from July onwards. Get Mentoring in Farming is run by the Sfedi Group and supported by the Lloyds Banking Group, LANTRA, the Farming Community Network, Waitrose and the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs. Sarah Trouten, SFEDI Group says: “We are looking for mentors who can bring their experience to bear in areas including business growth, diversification, reducing costs, improving performance and using technology. Ideally, we are looking for people who have been there and done it themselves. Their ability to share that knowledge with others could prove the difference between a business succeeding or failing.” Find out more

SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TARGETS SOCIAL MEDIA WITH POSITIVE FARMING MESSAGE: The Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) has created a new Facebook page to run fun rural facts, posts on rural topics, Scottish food recipes and videos/interviews with Drew Sloan, Chief Agricultural Officer, and others within RPID, plus footage out and about on farms across Scotland. Find the Facebook page here. And don’t forget the NSA Facebook page either! It’

WOOL DEPOT OPEN DAY: The British Wool Marketing Board has invited NSA members to an open day at its Devon and Cornwall Wools Depot this Thursday (Thursday 8th May) at Pathfields, South Molton, Devon, EX36 3DU. Guided tours of the depot will run through the day (10.30am-3pm), looking at intake, grading and packing. There will also be wool demonstrations, sheet frame demonstrations, a competition to identify sheep breeds and information on prices, shearing training and the Campaign for Wool. Ian Hartley, BWMB Chief Executive, senior staff and board/committee members will be around all day to answer questions. To attend contact Depot Manager Mike Berry or 01769 572178. Please note that this event clashes with the NSA Breed Society Forum at the Royal Welsh Showground, so we ask that breed society secretaries and representatives do not double-book themselves!

GRAZING FOR GROWTH CONFERENCE IN SCOTLAND: Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has organised a Grazing for Growth Conference on Friday 30th May at United Auctions, Stirling. The event is part of a new campaign by QMS to help Scottish livestock farmers increase liveweight gain from pasture and wil include a programme of expert speakers followed by a visit to the Forth Monitor Farm. QMS Knowledge Transfer Specialist Michael Blanche says: “The aim of this event, which will feature a diverse line-up of expert speakers from around the globe, is to take a fresh look at grazing and animal performance from pasture.” Attendance is free of charge. To request a place or call 01314 724040. Find out more here.

DUTCH STUDENT SEEKING 10-WEEK WORK EXPERIENCE PLACEMENT: Dirk de Bruijn (22) is looking for a 10-week placement from the beginning of June, either on a commercial sheep farm or a mixed farm that includes sheep. The placement is a compulsory part of Dirk’s studies at the Higher School of Business Studies and Agribusiness in the Netherland, and he is trying to find a UK-based placement to improve his English and also learn more about the UK sheep sector. Dutch students are expected to live the family during their placement and do not require remuneration, although they will need some spare time to write reports and papers. Dirk’s family runs a large sheep flock, so he is very experienced in all aspects of handling sheep. He also has a driving license and HGV license. Email Dirk on



PROUD OF WHAT YOU DO? THEN SPREAD THE WORD FOR THE CHANCE TO WIN £400: With the nation getting excited about the launch of Lambing Live this weekend (visit the dedicated BBC page here) now is the time to put your own filmmaking skills to the test and enter the brand new NSA video competition ahead of the NSA Sheep Event on Wednesday 30th July. The competition is to find the best ‘advert’ for a career in sheep farming, and don’t worry if you’ve never picked up film camera before, as help is on hand.
We all know how rewarding living and working in the countryside can be, producing top quality lamb for British and international consumers, so this is your chance to shout about it and encourage youngsters to consider taking a shepherding job or a role in ancillary services when they are older. Show off how beautiful your corner of the UK is, how proud you are of your stock and why there are enough good things about your job to outweigh the days when it just never stops raining! This is how the competition will work:-

  1. Submit your video by Friday 16th May – tips below*
  2. An NSA judging panel will shortlist eight videos
  3. A skilled videographer at Farmers Guardian will edit the selected videos to create eight three-minute adverts and host them online
  4. The big online vote begins – vote for your favourite!
  5. The best three or four will be aired on large screens at the NSA Sheep Event for the final vote, and the video with the best combined vote (judging panel, online vote and event vote) will receive £400 first prize, with second and third attracting £200 and £100 respectively.

* You do not need to send in a properly edited video, just take lots of footage on your farm (up to one hour) and Farmers Guardian will do the rest. Tips for sending in footage include taking shots of your farm and you at work, as well as spoken bits to the camera. You can send the footage in any format but, particularly if you are using a video on a mobile phone, please select a high setting so the filming is of high quality. Sent your video to marked ‘Sheep Event Video Competition’. Click here for full terms and conditions.
10 DAYS TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE IN THE NSA FREE PRIZE DRAW: There are just 10 days left before the end of the month when the second draw will be made it the NSA 2014 membership recruitment campaign to win an Description: 3-in-1 Feeder (pictured). Everyone who joins the NSA automatically gets entered in the draw and existing members can also get their name in the hat if they recommend a friend or neighbour to sign up. There is no limit to the number of entries per person (the more people you recommend the more entries you get!) and if you’re not successful this time your name will remain in the hat for the four other draws being held this year. Find membership application forms, more information and terms and conditions at, or go to pages 10 and 11 in the March/April edition of Sheep Farmer magazine.
NSA SCOTLAND GETS MORE CAP DETAIL FROM SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT: Today (Friday 21st March) saw NSA Scottish Region Chairman Sybil Macpherson, Vice Chairman Ian Hepburn and Development Officer George Milne meet with Scottish Government officials to discuss CAP reform ahead of the Government’s consultation closing next week. George reports: “We discussed in detail the benefits and consequences of using coupled support in the sheep sector. It became clear that whilst an additional 5% of the budget may be available for coupled support, there were many burdens that would come on the back of this scheme being used. However, at this stage, all options remain open. We also discussed the possibility of splitting rough grazing into two regions, and it may well be that the use of land classifications may be an option to do this. Also discussed in detail was the splitting of the budget between region one and region two. The conclusions will be up for debate following the closure of the consultation, but at this stage we now have enough information to progress with a response that will provide the best outcome for the sheep sector.”

NSA RESPONSE TO GLASTIR CONSULTATION IN WALES COMING TOGETHER: The Glastir consultation in Wales closes a week today (Friday 28th March) and NSA has been firming up its response. As well as feeding opinions to NSA, farmers in Wales are also able to respond individually if they chose – click here. A few significant points include the ability to enter into targeted agreements without being part of an entry level scheme, the shifting of resources more towards targeted initiatives and away from entry level schemes for all, and proposals to offer advanced schemes and payments to all land over the 400 metre moorland line rather than just common land (this is possibly the ANC, areas of natural constraint approach, although no ANC in Wales has been confirmed yet). Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, adds: “There is recognition within the consultation document of examples where biodiversity and habitats have been damaged through a lack of grazing (finally we are starting to see recognition that livestock farming is central to upland ecology) with proposals to introduce minimum stocking levels to ensure optimum grazing levels.  Any views from members would be well received and copies of our draft response to help with individual responses can be provided by email.” Email Helen Davies, NSA Cymru/Wales Regional Development Officer, at
SIX-DAY STANDSTILL CLAIM BY MP COULD CAUSE CONFUSION: Followers of the Lib Dem MP Tim Farron may have seen that Tim has claimed to have secured the abandonment of the six-day standstill rule in England by 2017, following a meeting with Farming Minister George Eustice. NSA welcomes this intervention but we would not like members expectations to be falsely built. NSA has been lobbying hard for the implementation of all the MacDonald recommendations relating to sheep (not just the six-day standstill but also tolerance on sheep tagging requirements and other issues) and was informed by Defra some time ago that there would be a full review of the six-day standstill but no guarantee it will be abandoned – although abandonment is now one of the options that will be considered, whereas it wouldn’t have been entertained six months ago. The one decision that has been confirmed in England is the extension of the five-mile radius requirements to a 10 mile radius in 2016. We will continue to keep members informed of decisions as they are made, and keep up the pressure on Defra in this area.
OFFICIAL DEFRA GUIDANCE ON NEW MOVEMENT REPORTING OPTIONS NOW AVAILABLE: Defra has posted its new official guidance document to all registered sheep keepers in England today (Friday 21st March) so you should receive your copy in the coming days. This is an updated version of its ‘Identifying Sheep and Goats: Guidance on the Rules for Keepers in England’ (last updated in December 2009) and Defra has asked us to inform you that this is the very final time they will be posting a copy of this document out, as all subsequent updates will be made to the online version only. This is part of the Government’s ‘digital strategy’ and a general move towards putting everything online. A copy of the new guidance can be found in the members-only area of the NSA website, alongside information from SouthWestern about the new electronic database and a Q&A created by NSA. If you do not know how to log into the members-only area at, please email

NEW EBLEX BOARD MEMBERS APPOINTED: AHDB has appointed seven new EBLEX board members, including NSA Vice President and former Chairman Peter Baber. The other five new farmer members are Ed Green, Steve Conisbee, Philip Abbott, James Evans and Duncan Nelless, and public health nutritionist Gill Fine is joining as an independent member. All six incoming farmer members run sheep as part of their farming enterprises. Gill Fine is a former director of consumer choice and dietary health at the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The new appointees will take up their posts on 1st April.

GET THAT SPADE OUT TO ASSESS WATER DAMAGE: We may not have seen much frost or snow this winter but the amount of rainfall certainly made up for it and shows again that we are living in changeable and uncertain times. But we’ve now had a couple of weeks of far drier weather, drying winds and even some sunshine, and the result is that we are seeing ewes and lambs being turned out and grass starting to move in some areas. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Getting that grass moving is important, and considering the impact the wet weather may have had on soils equally important. All soils and regions will vary but getting that spade out and taking a look here and there to identify compaction and moisture below the surface should be the first thing that is done before we rush out with harrows, grass slitters and sub soilers. Before anything else, making sure soils are in optimum physical condition and ensuring the pH is within the right boundaries, is the best place to start.”
WARNING ABOUT CHEAP IMITATION BOTTLE TEATS: NSA has been contacted by Brian Hawes, Director of Paragon Rubber, who has become aware of a very poor and dangerous copy of the Pritchard Screw on Lamb Teat (pictured). Mr Hawes says: “Our product is made to a high standard with the nipple being made from latex and the bottle cap clearly marked as Pritchard Screw on Teat. The Chinese copy has no name on the cap and the nipple is made of very thin moulded synthetic rubber. It breaks very easily and our fear is that this may be swallowed by a lamb with disastrous effect. We wish to disassociate ourselves from this product and all resulting problems caused by it.”
FREE LAMENESS GUIDE AVAILABLE IN NORTHERN IRELAND: A newly developed sheep lameness guide is being offered for free to sheep farmers in Northern Ireland, thanks to AgriSearch, LMC and AFBI. The practical, pocket-sized publication helps producers diagnose the cause of lameness in sheep, identify treatment and prevention options, as well as follow best practice for foot bathing and foot trimming. Designed to fit in the pocket and stand up to use outside as you work with sheep, the ring-bound booklet combines photographs with bullet points on each possible cause of lameness. Email for a free copy, call 02887 789770 or ask a CAFRE sheep advisor.
FARMERS ENTERPRISE COMPETITION TO RUN AGAIN IN 2014: Following the success of the 2013 competition, Menter a Busnes it looking for five teams of three Welsh farmers to compete against each other in producing a profitable pen of lambs grazed on a crop of their choice. This year’s location will be Bangor University’s farm (the Henfaes Research Centre in Abergwyngregyn) and contestants will work with 50 Welsh Mountain lambs each, brought straight down from the Carneddau mountain range to be managed on two-acre plots of lower lying land at Henfaes. Although the five selected teams will not have to deal with day-to-day husbandry they will have full responsibility over choosing crops to be established, managing them and implementing grazing strategies, plus all other elements of animal nutrition and health, and deciding when lambs are ready to be marketed. Teams will be judged by a panel of industry experts on their management skills and profitability of the lambs, with a top prize of an electronic tablet device each for the winners. Click here for an application form, which must be completed by 24th April 2014. Details from Gwawr Hughes on 01248 660075 or
INVITATION TO EWE NUTRITION EVENT (WITH A SUBSIDY FOR ENGLISH LEVY PAYERS): Eblex has invited NSA members to an event it is running with the British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) looking at improving ewe efficiency through better feeding. The event, held on Tuesday 19th April at Nottingham University, will look at traditional ewe wintering diets compared to grazing swedes, options for replacing soya bean meal in ewe diets and whether the currently held metabolisable protein requirements for ewes are correct. Speakers will include independent consultant Lesley Stubbings on the unknowns of nutrition, Poppy Frater of Elbex on all-grass wintering, Jenny Sneddon of Liverpool John Moores University on sheep grazing behaviour, Adas’s Kate Philips on nutrition and mastitis, and vet Harriet Fuller on selenium and iodine requirements. The event is open to all at a cost of £60, but is subsidised to £30 for Eblex levy payers. Register at
ALSO SUBSIDISED, is a workshop on the potential of genetics and genomics to livestock and crop breeding programme on Thursday 27th and Friday 29th March in Cambridge. Click here for more information about the Advanced Training Partnership workshop, which farmers can attend with a 60% bursary from the Government.
WELSH LAMB TRIUMPH IN SWEDEN: A new supermarket opening on the Swedish-Norwegian border in April will stock nothing but PGI Welsh Lamb, following a successful trade mission by HCC (Meat Promotion Wales). The deal, which is tied up with Swedish importer Farskvaruhuset, will see in excess of 150 tonnes of Welsh Lamb per year supplied to this supermarket alone, including retail and vacuum packed chilled products and 1,000 whole carcases every six to eight weeks to suffice the demand of Norwegians across the border. Farskvaruhuset also plan to take four to six tonnes per month of retails packed Welsh Lamb for another Swedish supermarket chain with up to 400 stores. HCC says Scandinavia has opened its borders to Welsh red meat as a result of its PGI credentials, which guarantees authenticity, provenance and quality and can only be applied to sheep and cattle born and raised in Wales and slaughtered in approved abattoirs.
ROLE OF CAP IN THE WIDER ECONOMY HIGHLIGHTED: While the value of agriculture to the economy is frequently overlooked in the UK, it was the main focus at a CAP conference held in Seville, Spain, on Tuesday (18th March) organised by Asaja and Copa-Cogeca (Spanish and cross-European farming organisations respectively). Speakers acknowledged the positive role of agriculture in the economic crisis and the crucial role CAP played in facilitating it, which is being ignored in the current CAP reform. While there was much discussion about ways for farmers to mitigate falling CAP payments, there was also a powerful example of the need to communicate the importance of CAP to consumers. Asaja has been running a communication campaign called ‘The new CAP: future for farmers, future for society’, which included city farm events in Spain and Portugal attracting over 300,000 visitors. The campaign will also hold an event in the European Parliament in Brussels next week to portray positive images of agriculture and show the crucial role farmers play in providing quality, healthy food and environmental services, maintaining rural areas, for society, thanks to the CAP. Hopefully this will raise the profile of agriculture with MEPs who misunderstand the role of CAP.
OFFICE FURNITURE, FREE TO A GOOD HOME: NSA is in the process of finding a new tenant for empty office space at The Sheep Centre, Malvern, and has been advised to clear out all our old office furniture. We have amassed a considerable number of desks, tables and metal filing cabinets which we would prefer to re-home than throw away. If you would like any office furniture or know a business in the Worcestershire area that might be able to use them, please call 01684 892661 or email All the furniture is free, but you will need to collect it.
SEARCH FOR SOMERSET FARMERS TO HELP WITH SHEEP BEHAVIOUR STUDY: NSA has been contacted by Destiny Bradley, an agricultural student at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, who is looking for anyone lambing indoors in a large under-stocked shed in the Somerset area with around 200-300 ewes (commercial white, Mule/Suffolk varieties) who wouldn’t mind marking 20 in-lamb ewes of variable ages. Destiny is aware of how specific her request is but would welcome enquiries from anyone who thinks they might fit the criteria. She will then set up video cameras to measure the movements of the sheep to monitor their behaviour. Destiny says: “The study is already proving interesting, showing a high level of assisted lambing on the first two farms I monitored. My aim is to develop implements to encourage natural grazing behaviour within lambing sheds, which can be put into practice next season in the hope of achieving less assisted lambing and less stress to the ewe.” Contact Destiny on or 07784 648193.
FREE FEC KIT FOR FARMERS WHO PARTICIPATE IN WORMING PROJECT: Jeremy Fern from the veterinary research company Ridgeway Research is looking for sheep farmers interested in completing a survey linked to the development of a diagnostic tool and new methods to undertake faecal egg counts (FEC). Jeremy and his co-researchers at Bristol University hope the new tool will allow farmers to conduct quick, cheap and easy pen side faecal worm tests in order to decrease the use of wormers and the build up of potential resistance. The survey will find out what farmers would want from such a product and what their general worming practices are. Each person whom completes the survey will be sent a free FEC kit with full instructions and a stamp addressed envelope to return the sample at a time of their choosing. To volunteer to complete the survey please contact Jeremy on 01594 530809 or
HOST FARMERS SOUGHT FOR VISITING KIWIS – THEY’RE WILLING TO WORK AND THEY CAN SHEAR! NSA has been approached by Hugh Abbiss and Sam Hodsell, two 21-year-old agricultural students from New Zealand planning a farming tour of the UK this May. They’re hoping to take in as much of England, Wales and Scotland as they can between Tuesday 6th May and Sunday 18th May and would like to see the country via livestock farms, offering work in return for a visit. “Ideally 24 hours at each farm is about what we are looking for, maybe less depending on what suits,” says Hugh. “We’re definitely prepared to lend a hand in return for a bed and are both qualified sheep shearers. Our main priority is visiting farms, so at the expense of sightseeing if needs be.” Hugh and Sam both have extensive on-farm experience and can be contacted via Hugh’s email address –


  • MONDAY 26TH MAY: NSA NI SHEEPDOG SALE: Held in conjunction with Norbrook Closamectin in Ballymena Market.
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SCOT SHEEP: WEDNESDAY 4TH JUNE 2014: At the Berwickshire farm of Quixwood, Grantshouse, courtesy of the Macfarlane family. Details and sponsorship packages from Euan Emslie on 01430 441870 or
  • MONDAY 9TH JUNE: NSA MARCHES REGION COMMITTEE MEETING: 7pm at the Lower House Farm, Cannon Frome, Ledbury, HR8 2TG. All NSA Marches Region members are welcome, not just committee members.
  • WEDNESDAY 11TH JUNE: NSA EASTERN REGION FARM WALK: At Ickworth Park, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, by invitation of Paul Seabrook. To include the Eastern Region’s second Young Shepherds Competition of the year, subject to demand.
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SOUTH SHEEP: SATURDAY 28TH JUNE: Blackcap Farm, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, by kind permission of Tony Monnington and family. Details and sponsorship packages from Bob Blanden on 01666 860308 or
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SHEEP EVENT: WEDNESDAY 30TH JULY 2014:  The Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. Details and sponsorship packages from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER EARLY RAM SALE: MONDAY 4TH AUGUST: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA SOUTH WEST REGION RAM SALE: WEDNESDAY 20TH AUGUST: Exeter Livestock Centre. Contact Sue Martyn on 01409 271385, 07967 512660 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 22ND AUGUST: Rugby Farmers Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • MONDAY 1ST SEPTEMBER: NSA MARCHES REGION COMMITTEE MEETING: 7pm at the Lower House Farm, Cannon Frome, Ledbury, HR8 2TG. All NSA Marches Region members are welcome, not just committee members.
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER: Melton Mowbray Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER MAIN RAM SALE: MONDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or

MONDAY 8TH DECEMBER: NSA MARCHES REGION COMMITTEE MEETING: 7pm at the Lower House Farm, Cannon Frome, Ledbury, HR8 2TG. All NSA Marches Region members are welcome, not just committee members.



February 2014

WARWICKSHIRE FARMER WINS FIRST OF SIX SPECIALIST SHEEP FEEDERS GIVEN AWAY BY NSA: Warwickshire farmer Antony Spencer was ‘over the moon’ when he heard he was the first NSA member to win a 3in1 Advantage Feeder in our 2014 membership Description: campaign. NSA is giving away six of the feeders this year in a free prize draw for both new NSA members as well as existing members who encourage a friend or neighbour to join the association. Mr Spencer, who filled in a membership form at the Lamma machinery show in January, says: “It was my first time visiting Lamma and, being an out-and-out stock person I had soon worked out from the programme where to make for to get away from the tractors for a bit. I found myself at the Advantage Feeders stand and was quite surprised to see NSA there too. I had been meaning to re-join for quite some time and am very glad to be a member of the NSA again. In this ever uncertain agricultural world it’s good to know UK sheep farmers have a voice – plus I’d forgotten what good bath-time reading Sheep Farmer magazine is! And I was absolutely over the moon to hear I was the lucky winner of the feeder as a result of joining up. New members of NSA get automatically entered into the free prize draw, while existing members get one entry for every person they refer to NSA with no limit to the number of entries. The five remaining draws will be staggered through 2014 and people’s odds of winning increase the sooner they get their name in the hat, as all entries are eligible for each subsequent draw if they don’t win straight away. Full terms and conditions can be found at
GREAT START FOR NSA NEXT GENERATION AMBASSADOR GROUP: The first training session for the NSA Next Generation Ambassador Group (pictured) was held this week (Monday 24th to Wednesday 26th February) in Description: and was a huge success. Those present took advantage of the information on offer and the chance to meet likeminded people with a passion for sheep farming. Farming Connect’s Wyn Owen provided an inspirational workshop encouraging the ambassadors to be receptive to change and set themselves immediate and long-term targets for their business and the skills to make time to achieve those objectives. “It’s just a dream until you put a on deadline on it,” he said, also providing the skills to make time for doing important business management as well as immediate day-to-day tasks. A team from Eblex delivered the three days of training, with superb practical skills discussed on performance recording, grassland management, body condition scoring, minimising lambing losses and increasing efficiency. Click here to meet the 2014 Ambassadors.
ENGLISH COMMITTEE WELCOMES NEW REPS AND ELECTS OTHERS: The NSA English Committee met in London on Thursday (27th February) and welcomed Alan Derryman as a new NSA South West Region representative. NSA Description: Region also elected a new rep at its recent AGM, Greg Dalton, who will be joining the English Committee at the next meeting. The English Committee in turn elected its new representatives for the NSA Finance and General Purposes and UK Policy and Technical Committees – Matt Bagley and Bob Blanden were elected for F&GP while Kevin Harrison joins Dan Phipps as the two English reps on UKP&T. The meeting also saw lively discussions cover the topics of the impending sheep movements database and the series of meetings being held around the country (Don’t forget the four meetings this week at Ashford and Bakewell markets on Tuesday, and Junction 36 and Hexham on Wednesday), an update and immediate focus on CAP, the Stamp out Scab project that is approaching its conclusion, and Red Tractor Assurance.
NSA SCOTLAND WORKSHOP ORGANISED TO DISCUSS CAP: NSA Scottish Region has organised a CAP workshop on Monday 10th March for NSA members and non-members to give their views on issues around CAP in the sheep sector. There will be a focus on the options for splitting area payments between regions and on the possibility of the use of coupled payments. NSA Scotland Regional Development Officer George Milne says: “This is an important meeting and gives members the opportunity to be involved in discussions prior to NSA Scotland filling in the CAP consultation, which closes on March 17th. We now know Scotland has the opportunity to use up to 5% as a coupled payment in the sheep sector, which is considerably more than the original offer of 2%, so needs more careful consideration. Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead has had the go-ahead from Brussels and we’re just seeking clarification from Owen Paterson to see if he will allow it.” The CAP workshop, which includes guest speaker Douglas Bell, Senior Agricultural Policy Consultant within Farm Business Services at SRUC, will take place from 1pm in the Highland Suite of the MacRobert Pavilion at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh, EH28 8NB.
NSA PICKS UP THE CHALLENGE OF RAISING AWARENESS OF CLA IN SHEEP: Following recent discussions at NSA English Committee and NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee about the growing problem of CLA in the UK sheep flock, we welcomed today (Friday 28th February) Dr Mike Fontaine from the Moredun Institute to NSA Head Office to discuss with a small group of NSA members and vets the issues and potential solutions to overcome this damaging disease. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, reports: “It was widely agreed that more needs to be done to increase awareness of all sheep farmers to the disease as a first step to the industry working together to drive this disease out, an important part of which is to remove the stigma that surrounds having it in your flock. While the Australian vaccine Glanvac is quite widely used under special licence here in the UK, keeping CLA under control in many sire-producing breeding flocks, its use means that blood tests to determine infection are fairly meaningless (the vaccine confusing the test results). Additionally the immunity gained from vaccination is fairly short-lived with a need for an annual vaccination, something that very rarely happens with dangerous consequences. The answer seems to have been pending for some time but does appear to be getting closer – a new vaccine and a more accurate blood testing process that are not mutually exclusive. In the meantime NSA will continue to work to raise awareness of CLA and encourage transparency between breeders and buyers with the aim of reducing the risk of CLA and its associated costs to both breeders and commercial sheep farmers.”

FOUR NSA MEETINGS THIS WEEK! It’s a busy week this week with four NSA meeting planned:-

  • Tuesday evening: NSA Cymru/Wales AGM and liver fluke workshop, 2pm at Hafod-y-Hendre, Royal Welsh Showground. Click here for an agenda and more information.
  • Wednesday afternoon: NSA Electronic Database Meeting, 1pm at Cirencester Market. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • Wednesday evening: NSA South West AGM and Electronic Database Meeting, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by register with Sue Martyn on 01409 271385 or
  • Thursday evening: NSA Northern Region AGM and guest speakers, 7.30pm at Hexham Auction Mart. Click here an agenda and more information.

There are four more NSA Electronic Database Meetings the week after in Ashford, Bakewell, Kendall and Hexham – check out the diary at the bottom of this email. 

AMENDMENT TO EUROPEAN EID LAW TAKES ANOTHER STEP CLOSER TO REALITY: The option for farmers to tag sheep with their holding number on a single plastic tag (i.e. no individual or electronic identifier) until the day they leave the holding of birth has been passed by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee during the process of developing a new EU Animal Health Law. The law is a long way from being completed or implemented, but the adoption of this amendment (tabled by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith and supported by NSA and the Shetland Crofters) by a majority of 28 votes to 12 is an important hurdle cleared. George Milne, NSA Scotland Regional Development Officer, says: “This is clearly a step in the right direction and the scale of the majority vote shows that at last other countries are beginning to realise and experience the difficulties of EID regulations. Having tried to tell the European Commission on several occasions over the past few years that these regulations were unworkable on a practical basis, it would now seem that they have finally woken up to the situation.” Mr Smith echoes this: “It shows that there is considerable political will in the European Parliament to re-open the discussions on the sheep EID laws, and that the Commission have to deal with this and the problems that farmers are finding in implementing the rules.”
The NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee met with Pamela Thompson from Defra last Friday (7th February) to discuss the EU Animal Health Law, which will be the overarching principle that sits above all animal health regulations in Member States. She says the UK is lobbying hard to ensure the new law sets the framework but leaves the detail to Member States, and that all decisions are based on risk, evidence and science. NSA listed EID regulations (tagging before animals leave the holding of birth and read rates/cross compliance penalties) and splitting of carcases under TSE rules as two priorities for sheep farmers, and while it is clear the new law will not repeal the existing EID and TSE regulations it will provide an opportunity to revisit them and bring them into line with the EU Animal Health Law principle of all rules being proportionate to risk. Not surprisingly, the new law has potential pitfalls too, such as passing inspection costs back to farmers and UK forfeiting power to Europe, and so the forthcoming negotiations between the European Parliament, European Council of Ministers and European Commission are crucial. The law is not expected to be passed until 2015 at the earliest, after which there will be a three-year transition before full implementation. NSA will keep members up-to-date on progress.
CAP REFORM, THE MOORLAND LINE AND OPEN ACCESS DISCUSSED BY WELSH COMMONS FORUM: Monday (10th February) saw the Welsh Commons Forum meet at the Royal Welsh Showground to receive reports on recent meetings with William Powell and Antoinette Sandbach  (respectively Lib.Dem and Conservative spokesmen for Rural Affairs) where issues of CAP reform and the moorland line, along with the open access and recreation discussion paper, were discussed. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker reports: “The open access discussion process has been delayed and the latest expectation is that there may be a Welsh Government green paper in April. Discussion on this subject on Monday focused on liability relating to access, and where the responsibility for insurance cover lies (or should lie). Land management restrictions post Glastir agreements came up again and, while assurances have been given that the requirements only last as long as the agreements, with a simple Environmental Impact Assessment required before substantially changing management, communication received by farmers makes the whole process look far more complicated and uncertain. Finally a thorough discussion was held on the need to communicate all the very good things (public goods) that come from sheep farming in upland areas. We have a good story to tell and we need to be telling it more!”
ELECTRONIC COMMON LAND REGISTER FOR WALES IN 2017: In other news affected common land this week, Minister for Natural Resources and Food Alun Davies, has announced that the current paper based registration system for common land in Wales (established in the 1960s) will be replaced with electronic registers by 2017. He says this will deliver ‘significant benefits’ for common land management by creating consistency and 24-hour-a-day access, making it easier for local authorities to process registrations to change the register, easing Glastir administration, and improving response to a disease outbreak that affects animals on common land. Development of the common land electronic register will not start until April 2015, when the Welsh electronic sheep movement database will be up and running, and will take two years and £5m to complete. The electronic system will replace the current large paper legers and maps held by local authorities, making the records easily accessible online and more straight forward to update. Common land in Wales accounts for 8.5% of the total land area (175,000 hectares); 40% of it is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and 50% within the protected landscape of Wales.
WEIGHING STOCK AND CALIBRATING GUNS KEY CONCERNS AT SCOPS: The six-monthly SCOPS Steering Group meeting on Thursday (13th February) covered a wide range of topics linked to sustainable control of sheep parasites and made some important decisions about priorities for SCOPS this year and beyond. It was agreed that the basic messages about administering wormers and flukicides correctly could not be reiterated enough, particularly as the majority of reports of a product not working are link to incorrect administration rather than a drug resistance. NSA members are reminded that they always need to calibrate drench guns before use, including when the gun is brand new. Use a calibration pot or remove the plunger from a 10ml syringe, put your thumb over the end and squirt the dose into it, making sure you have got rid of any air bubbles first. Adjust the gun until the dose delivered is correct. Drenching guns should also be well maintained and replaced regularly. Clean with warm soapy water after use and check springs and tubes to make sure there are no kinks that will form air bubbles. Click here for more information.
Description: OFFERING EMERGENCY GRANTS TO FLOOD-HIT FARMERS: The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) says it wants to give emergency grants to flood-hit farmers and will accept applications as soon as farmers have the recovering from the immediate crisis of keeping themselves and livestock safe. RABI has fast-tracked the application process in readiness and is accepting enquiries via 03003 037373 and email The Prince of Wales has given £25,000 to RABI specifically for flood-hit farmers in Somerset and the charity is welcoming other (smaller!) donations from farmers wishing to support other in their time of need. RABI has set up a special fund with the Royal Bath and West of England Society to receive donations from businesses and individuals, which it will distribute with the help of a number of agencies to farming businesses to help their recovery. Click here to donate or find out more at; and find out more below about a (coincidental) NSA-backed fundraising campaign for RABI and its Scottish sister charity. In addition, as a result of many people offering donations of forage rather than cash, Sedgemoor Livestock Market is coordinating collection and distribution of deliveries. Contact Rebecca Horsington to arrange a delivery time on 01278 410278 or

SPONSOR OUR ‘BOOZE FREE FEB’ CHAMPIONS IN AID OF RABI: Four NSA office holders are taking part in a month-long ‘dryathlon’ in aid of RABI and RSABI this February. The booze ban has been organised by the Farmers Guardian to mark its 170th anniversary, which falls this month, and Farmers Guardian staff and other industry representatives are also taking up the challenge. NSA faces giving up their pints include NSA Chairman John Geldard (pictured top left), NSA South East Regional Chairman Andrew Barr (top right), NSA South East Regional Manager Bob Blanden (bottom left) and NSA Central Region Committee Member and Newton Rigg Head of Agriculture Matt Bagley (bottom right). You can support those taking part by donating online here or by texting “FGBF70” followed by the amount you wish to donate to 70070.

DATE OF NSA BREED SOCIETY FORUM ANNOUNCED: The date of the next NSA Breed Society Forum has been announced as Thursday 8th May at Hafod-y-Hendre, Royal Welsh Showground. NSA-Affiliated Breed Societies will be able to send two representatives each and will be sent the full itinerary in the near future.
TIGHT LAMB SUPPLIES AHEAD, BUT ON-FARM IMPROVEMENTS ALSO NEEDED TO DRIVE PROFITABILITY: There was a great deal of positivity from Paul Heyhoe, AHDB/Eblex Sheep and Beef Senior Analyst, at Wednesday’s Eblex Outlook Conference in London (12th February). He highlighted 2013’s strong export values and furthermore predicted that a lack of growth in the UK breeding flock in 2013, coupled with the average lambing rates expected in 2014, would lead to tight domestic sheep meat supplies for at least the first few months of this year. He said: “The Defra UK June 2013 census showed a 1% rise in lamb numbers, however this was driven by unexpected results from Wales that indicated lamb numbers were up 7% on the year. Industry opinion suggests these numbers are too high, so these forecasts continue to assume a lower figure for lamb numbers. While production forecasts for the first half of 2014 are higher than previous levels, they are still substantially below year-earlier levels, as the carryover of lamb from 2012 made production in early 2013 unusually high. A lower number of adult sheep culls are also currently expected, after what has mostly been a better season.”
This tight supply, along with uncertainty surrounding the economic climate in Europe, may prevent the UK from fulfilling high export potential in the near future, Mr Heyhow said, but sheep meat stocks are set to be tight globally, including in New Zealand, resulting in relatively low UK imports for at least this year. Although supplies may be pinched, there are global opportunities for the UK industry, Mr Heyhoe said. Whereas most EU flocks are dwindling, the UK flock is not. A continued fall in EU production is predicted, as China ups its imports. While New Zealand focuses on this new market, demand from Europe and the US continues – this, Mr Heyhoe points out, is a big opportunity for the UK. But the challenge for UK sheep farming is profitability, he warned, advocating increased output and streamlined costs as the key to on-farm success. Mr Heyhoe concluded that this is a pivotal point for the UK sheep industry, with a need to restore confidence within the sector and this year’s weather and prices proving crucial. Mr Heyhoe said: “We have got a product the world wants but we need to make it profitable and sustainable”.

PLEA TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR STOLEN PEDIGREE SHEEP: Lancashire farmer Dan Towers has asked NSA members to keep an eye out for 58 pedigree Beltex and cross-bred recipient ewes stolen on Friday night between 6.30pm and 7.30am from isolated lambing sheds at Scale House Farm, Wray. All the animals can be identified by red marks on the backs of their heads and scan marks on their huggin bone. Some of the recipients with implanted embryos have marks on their backs and notches out of the end of both ears and at the top of the right ear. Those ewes which were imported from Belgium have tags beginning with ‘BE’ and some of the pure ewes had a K on their back. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said “As with any potentially stolen sheep, members should keep an eye out for anything suspicious and contact the police if they have any suspicion. NSA continues to hear reports of sheep rustling and we urge farmers to stay vigilant, and ask others to do the same, in order to protect their flocks.”

LIVELY DISCUSSION WITH THE HAMPSHIRE SHEEP GROUP: Over 40 Hampshire Sheep Group members turned their backs on the effects of the weather (with some even travelling from the Isle of Wight) and attended a presentation and discussion with NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker at Stockbridge on Thursday evening (13th February). After an overview of the NSA’s work, the discussion was broad and included key market and sheep industry trends, policy issues such as CAP reform, the movements database and sheep identification, and then a discussion on the importance of moving the sheep industry more rapidly forward in terms of health and disease and productivity status, in order to protect our industry and maintain the diversity and culture that we have. Phil reports: “The discussion was lively, with most of the frustration being around a lack of clarity of movement recording rules with inconsistency of guidance coming from several quarters, RPA included. It was even suggested that the RPA hadn’t heard of the NSA – something we will address immediately!”
NEW ADAPTATION OF RED TRACTOR LOGO FOR CONSUMER CONFIDENCE: Assured Food Standards have created a new ‘Made with Red Tractor’ logo to appear on ready Description: and pies. The familiar Red Tractor logo can only be used on primary products, such a pack of lamb chops or a roasting joint, so the new logo allows the farm assurance logo to be used on products where the meat is only one element of the product. There are strict rules governing its use, such as 100% of the meat having to be British farm assured not just some of it, and guidance that processors should try and source Red Tractor Assured products for the rest of the meal too – i.e. potatoes for a shepherd’s pie not just lamb.

FREE UPLAND TRAINING EVENTS IN NORTHUMBERLAND: NSA members have been invited by Strutt and Parker to attend a series of free events they are funding with financial support from the Rural Development Programme for England. The events are targeted at farmers with a least half their land in SDA and start at 6.30pm with refreshments provided. There is no fee to attend but you must book a place by calling 01670 500871 or emailing

  • Newcastle House, Rothbury: Monday 17th February for CAP post-2015; Monday 24th February for tenancy issues; Monday 3rd March for business monitoring; and Monday 10th March for resources and energy.
  • Riverdale Hotel, Bellingham: Thursday 20th February for CAP post-2015; Wednesday 26th February for tenancy issues; Thursday 6th March for business monitoring; and Thursday 13th March for resources and energy.

YOUR VIEWS SOUGH ON MINERAL SUPPLEMENTATION OF EWES: We have received a request from Hayley Jackson, a student in her final year at the Royal Agricultural University, for sheep farmers in England and Wales to complete a questionnaire about mineral supplements and administration methods. Completing the questionnaire will help Hayley complete her research into the effects of mineral deficiencies and how timing/administration improve ewe production and welfare. Click here for the survey, which is anonymous and should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. If you have questions about the questionnaire please email Hayley on
ON-FARM APPRENTICESHIP WANTED: Agriculture student Rebecca Bradley (19) is looking for a level 2 apprenticeship in Northern England, which involves 40 hours per week working on farm plus one day at college for a 12-month period. Rebecca has already completed her level 2 diploma in agriculture and the first year of her level 3 at Newton Rigg College. She lives in Seaham, County Durham, but is willing to travel for a placement. Rebecca has experience lambing, is happy to work with all livestock and is very keen to learn. She has a full UK driving licence, experience driving tractors and can carrying out basic maintenance. She can provide references and can be contacted at or 07805 254404.

  • TUESDAY 18TH FEBRUARY: NSA CYMRU/WALES REGION AGM: 2pm at Hafod-y-Hendre, Royal Welsh Showground. The meeting will be followed by guest speakers Dr Neil Mackintosh, vet Kate Hovers and Margaret Dalton on ‘Experiences of dealing with liver fluke, including where drug resistance maybe a problem’. Click here for an agenda and minutes of the last meeting.
  • WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY: NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 1 OF 6: 1pm at Cirencester Auction Market, Cotswold Agricultural Centre, Driffield Road, Cirencester, GL7 5QA. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so please spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY: NSA SOUTH WEST REGION AGM AND NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 2 OF 6: 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre. The AGM will be followed by a presentation by SouthWestern, the company providing the new electronic movement database for Defra from 1st April 2014. This is your opportunity to hear how the database will work and ask questions about how it will affect you. Don’t miss what might be one of the only opportunities to hear SouthWestern speak in South West England. The meeting is open to non-members too, so spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register with Sue Martyn on 01409 271385 or
  • THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY: NSA NORTHERN REGION AGM: 7.30pm at the Tynedale Function Suite, Hexham Auction Mart, Hexham, Northumberland. To be followed by speakers on their trip to New Zealand, David Raine and Phil Stocker, plus a report by our two regional sponsored young farmers, Tom Carrick, High Crossgil, and James Raine, Randalholme, on their day spent at the Northern Farming Conference.
  • TUESDAY 4TH MARCH: NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 3 OF 6: 12 noon at Ashford Market, Monument Way, Orbital Park, Ashford, TN24 0HB. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so please spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • TUESDAY 4TH MARCH: NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 4 OF 6: 7.45pm at Bakewell Market, The Agricultural Business Centre, Bakewell, DE45 1AH. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so please spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • WEDNESDAY 5TH MARCH: NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 5 OF 6: 1pm at J36 Rural Auction Centre, Crooklands, Milnthorpe, Cumbria LA7 7FP. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so please spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • WEDNESDAY 5TH MARCH: NSA ELECTRONIC DATABASE MEETING 6 OF 6: 7.30pm at Hexham Auction Market, Tyne Green, Hexham, NE46 3SG. Free entry and open to both NSA members and non-members so please spread the word. Booking is not essential, but for catering reasons please register by calling 01684 892661 or emailing
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SCOT SHEEP: WEDNESDAY 4TH JUNE 2014: At the Berwickshire farm of Quixwood, Grantshouse, courtesy of the Macfarlane family. Details and sponsorship packages from Euan Emslie on 01430 441870 or
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SOUTH SHEEP: SATURDAY 28TH JUNE: Blackcap Farm, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, by kind permission of Tony Monnington and family. Details and sponsorship packages from Bob Blanden on 01666 860308 or
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SHEEP EVENT: WEDNESDAY 30TH JULY 2014:  The Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. Details and sponsorship packages from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER EARLY RAM SALE: MONDAY 4TH AUGUST: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA SOUTH WEST REGION RAM SALE: WEDNESDAY 20TH AUGUST: Exeter Livestock Centre. Contact Sue Martyn on 01409 271385, 07967 512660 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 22ND AUGUST: Rugby Farmers Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER: Melton Mowbray Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or

RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER MAIN RAM SALE: MONDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or

Jaunary 2014

DON’T MISS THE NSA EASTERN REGION WINTER FAIR – OR YOUR CHANCE TO ENTER THE YOUNG SHEPHERD OF THE YEAR COMPETITION: With only a couple of weeks left until the NSA Eastern Region Winter Fair on Friday 31st January at Melton Mowbray Market, Leicestershire, there has been a last minute flurry of activity with more trade stands booked that at the previous event and lots of excitement about an action-packed day. The event is FREE for NSA members – and if you bring along a friend or neighbour and they sign up on the day, they will get free entry too and you’ll both get entered into a free prize draw for an Advantage 3in1 Feeder. Entry for non-members isDescription:
£5 per person. Click here for more information about the free prize draw and here for information about what’s on offer at the NSA Eastern Region Winter Fair.
It is also not too late to enter the Young Shepherd of the Year competition at the Eastern Region Winter Fair. Competitors must be 26 years old or less and will complete five tasks to be in with a chance to share a prize fund of £500 and qualify for the national final in July. Click here to download an entry form.
ALSO ON FRIDAY 31ST JANUARY, it’s not too late to book tickets for the NSA Scottish Region Annual Dinner at The Roxburghe Hotel (Crowne Plaza), 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Click here a booking form, which must be returned by Monday. The dinner will be proceeded by the NSA Scottish Region AGM at 4pm, with a drinks reception at 7pm ahead of the dinner and guest speaker. We look forward to seeing lots of members at both the AGM and dinner.
OTHER REGIONAL ACTIVITY INCLUDES an NSA Central Region Committee Meeting on Wednesday 22nd January and an NSA Marches Region and Eblex Lambing Management Meeting evening on Tuesday 4th February – times and venues at the bottom of the page. The Marches lambing event will focus on the nutritional and health requirements of ewes in the critical pre-lambing and post-lambing periods, a market update and outlook, a summary of health and welfare issues at lambing, and a discussion on sheep scab, how to keep it out of your flock and treatment best practice. The event is open to NSA members and non-members so spread the word. Contact the Eblex events office on 01904 771211 or to book a free place.

WALES TO ADOPT THREE-REGION MODEL FOR FUTURE CAP PAYMENTS: Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food in Wales, made his much-anticipated CAP announcement on Tuesday (14th January) following a consultation period in the autumn that NSA Cymru/Wales Region responded to along with large numbers of other stakeholder groups and individuals. Mr Davies said Wales will move from historical payments to area payments over five years (a transition period of 2015-2019) and the area payments will be based on a three-region model of moorland, severely disadvantaged and less favoured/lowland. Indications are that moorland will get around £17/ha, SDA £166/ha and LFA/lowland £200/ha. Wales will also cap the maximum amount single farm businesses can receive and insist all farms meet the EU’s three greening requirements (permanent grassland, crop diversification and ecological focus areas) to get 30% of their direct payment. Given that farms with more than 70% grassland automatically qualify under greening, NSA biggest concern over Mr Davies’ announcement is the very low payment rate for moorland. We are very worried about the future for farms that are predominantly moorland and will ensure we continue to work hard to influence Pillar Two of the CAP (rural development) so money is available to farmers to top up their shrinking allocation from Pillar One (direct payments).
MEANTIME, THE CAP FIGHT CONTINUES IN NORTHERN IRELAND AND SCOTLAND. The consultation period in Northern Ireland draws to a close before the end of January and NSA NI Regional Development Officer Edward Adamson reports a lot of activity this week to ensure the voice of sheep farmers is heard in the negotiations. He says: “After the first CAP agreement in 2005 we feel the sheep farmer was discriminated against, but this time DARD’s suggested model would help rectify that. However, there are interested parties proposing an alternative two-region model which would reduce payments to farmers in the Severely Disadvantaged Areas, which includes some beef and dairy farmers as well as many sheep farmers. This week has seen several meetings to try and counter these latest proposals. It will be several weeks before we know the final outcome to be decided by DARD and our Minister of Agriculture – we wait in anticipation!”
The consultation in Scotland does not close until 17th March. George Milne, NSA Scottish Region’s Development Officer, says: “The consultation is lengthy and detailed with 56 questions requiring detailed thought in order to provide the best way forward for the sheep sector. We will be working on this over the next two months and an updated CAP presentation will be made to NSA members at the Scottish AGM on 31st January. I am also available to attend meetings in your area if required.” Contact George on 01334 472403 or
TOP LEVEL MEETING TO KEEP SHEEP IN THE POLITICAL SPOTLIGHT: On Tuesday (14th January) NSA Chairman John Geldard and NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker met with George Eustice (Minister for Farming, Food, and Marine Environment) and a team of top ranking Defra staff to discuss sheep farming. Phil reports: “We started by saying there is no doubt sheep farming is a vital part of UK farming, but there are a number of reasons why we feel it is being constrained from reaching its potential. In the uplands stocking rates are still being driven down on conservation grounds, and often well below rates that are essential to optimise biodiversity. In the lowlands the role of sheep in rotational farming and as soil improvers is not being recognised, and cross compliance penalties and an absence of EID and movements recording tolerance is seriously discouraging many mixed farms and large arable estates from retaining or setting up sheep enterprises. Furthermore there are undoubtedly production gains that could be made if we could encourage sheep farmers to adopt the best possible health and disease control management.” This was one of a schedule of routine meetings that the Minister has requested with the NSA with an intention to work in partnership to better optimise the contribution to the Government’s public agenda of this great farming sector.
WORK CONTINUES ON BAD WEATHER PLANNING: Regular readers of the NSA Weekly Email Update will have recently read our warning about the need for good winter feed planning and contingency against the threat of bad winter weather. This is as a result of the UK being warned by the EU against too freely issuing relaxations in HGV drivers’ hours during bad weather. Our advice on feed planning still stands, as the recent flooding and last year’s spring snow highlight the massive disruption bad weather has on farm deliveries, but NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker also reports on a meeting this week that Defra helpfully facilitated. He says: “The meeting looked at what can be done to explain our situation more in the EU and to consider what agricultural suppliers, transporters and farmers could do to reduce the need for relaxation. Information provided to the meeting suggested 27 of the 35 cases of recent EU relaxation were for the UK, but as an island our weather is undoubtedly more changeable and unpredictable than on mainland Europe and this needs to be understood. If we do experience bad weather that results in transport difficulties in this second half of the winter we should be warned that relaxations will be a ‘last resort’. So every effort should be made to watch weather forecasts and ensure reasonable stocks of delivered feed. It is also worth reminding farmers that you can clear and grit roads to enable access to farms – and red diesel can be used to carry out this work.”
WELSH SHEEP SCAB REPORT APPROVED FOR NEXT LEVEL – BUT WALES LOOKS TO FOLLOW SIMILAR FORMAT TO ENGLAND ON FUTURE ANIMAL HEALTH WORK: NSA Cymru/Wales is one of several stakeholder groups involved in the Welsh Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Group’s sheep scab sub-group, which has created a proposal for a long-term strategy to eradicate sheep scab in Wales. This work culminated on Tuesday (14th January) at an AHWSSG meeting when the group agreed the proposal would be put forward to Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food. If Mr Davies agrees the eradication plan can go out to consultation we will be one step closer to tackling sheep scab in Wales.
However, Tuesday’s AHWSSG meeting was the last one, as the Welsh Government has decided instead to create a similar body to the Animal Health and Welfare Board in England, with appointed (and paid) public officials instead of contributions from stakeholder groups such as NSA. Unlike the English Board’s four public officials, the new Welsh body will have six positions – five of these will be advertised in national and farming publications towards the end of January and the sixth will be filled by the existing AHWSSG Chairman. NSA Cymru/Wales is nervous about how the future of the decision-making process but will follow the changes over the coming months and keep members informed. We also encourage NSA members in Wales to consider applying for one of the public positions, as we would very much like to see active farmers taking up the new roles.

SHEEP RUSTLER SENT TO PRISON FOR MORE THAN THREE YEARS: A strong deterrent has been issued to all sheep rustlers operating in the UK, with Robert Martin Birnie of Longtown, Carlisle, given a three year and seven month prison sentence and ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to his victim for stealing 270 sheep from a farm in Cumbria.
KEEN SHEARER LOOKING FOR A GANG IN YORKSHIRE: We have been contacted by 17-year-old Alex Clapham who is looking for a shearing gang to join in West Yorkshire or somewhere near. He is a keen shearer and is looking for more work and experience this coming season. Alex can be contacted on or 079996 93195.
NOMINATIONS REQUESTED FOR BRITISH WOOL REPS: The British Wool Marketing Board is inviting nominations for board members in its English Southern, Welsh Northern and Scottish Southern regions. Board members are expected to work approximately 30 days a year attending board meetings over a period of two or three days each month, as well as other local and national BWMB business. Remuneration is around £8,800 annually plus expenses. Email nominations to
NOMINATIONS ALSO SOUGHT FOR AGRISEARCH SHEEP ADVISORY COMMITTEE IN NI: AgriSearch in Northern Ireland is looking for a sheep farmer with a passion for progress and problem-solving to join their Sheep Advisory Committee. Advisory committees usually meet three times a year to develop ideas for new research and review research proposals, and committee members are paid travelling expenses to attend meetings. Applications close on Friday 24th January. Contact Jason Rankin on 02887 789770 or visit
REGISTER NOW FOR OPEN FARM SUNDAY: NSA members intending to host an Open Farm Sunday event on 8th June 2014 are encouraged to register as soon as possible at Description: You can also use the website to find details of free information events being held between February and April to provide advice, tips and new ideas for host farms. Annabel Shackleton, Open Farm Sunday Manager, says: “Open Farm Sunday is fantastic opportunity for farmers to engage with the public, tell their story, and showcase all that is best about British farming and food. You don’t have to put on a big event. Events can be any size or format to suit your farm, ranging from a guided farm walk through to a full open day. One of the great things about Open Farm Sunday is the uniqueness of each event so it is up to you to decide on the size and type of event you run.” NSA’s communication team would also like to hear from an NSA member hosting an Open Farm Sunday event; drop us an email to
OVERSEAS TOURS PLANNED AS PART OF TEXEL CELEBRATIONS: As part of its 40th anniversary celebrations, the British Texel Sheep Society is planning two overseas tours for members – one to Switzerland and another to New Zealand. Closer to home will be a series of receptions, a large presence at the NSA Sheep Event on Wednesday 30th July and celebratory events at their four national sales, with anniversary medals presented to class winners. The ruby anniversary celebrations will culminate with an AGM and social weekend in Chester from 7th to 9th November 2014. Details from the society office on 02476 699629 or
SHEEPY NUMBER PLATE ON OFFER: NSA members have been offered first refusal on the personalised number plate C9 BAA. If you are interested in purchasing the number plate for £600 you have until Monday to contact John at Connollys Euronics Centre on or 0141 649 4758, after which the plate will be listed for general sale.


  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA EASTERN REGION WINTER FAIR: FRIDAY 31ST JANUARY: 10am-4pm at Melton Mowbray Market. Click here for event details; enquiries to Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • FRIDAY 31ST JANUARY: SCOTTISH REGION AGM AND DINNER: AGM at 4pm followed by drinks reception and dinner at 7pm at The Roxburghe Hotel (Crowne Plaza), 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Click here for a dinner tickets booking form.
  • TUESDAY 4TH FEBRUARY: NSA MARCHES REGION/EBLEX LAMBING MANAGEMENT MEETING: 6.30pm-9.30pm at the NSA Sheep Centre, Malvern, WR13 6PH. A joint meeting with Eblex focusing on the nutritional and health requirements of ewes in the critical pre-lambing and post-lambing periods. There will also be a market update and outlook, a summary of health and welfare issues at lambing, and a discussion on sheep scab, how to keep it out of your flock and treatment best practice. NSA members and non-members welcome; contact the Eblex events office on 01904 771211 or to book a free place.
  • TUESDAY 18TH FEBRUARY: NSA CYMRU/WALES REGION AGM: 2pm at Hafod-y-Hendre, Royal Welsh Showground.
  • WEDNESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY: NSA SOUTH WEST REGION AGM: 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre.
  • THURSDAY 20TH FEBRUARY: NSA NORTHERN REGION AGM: 7.30pm at the Tynedale Function Suite, Hexham Auction Mart, Hexham, Northumberland. To be followed by speakers on their trip to New Zealand, David Raine and Phil Stocker, plus a report by our two regional sponsored young farmers, Tom Carrick, High Crossgil, and James Raine, Randalholme, on their day spent at the Northern Farming Conference.
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SCOT SHEEP: WEDNESDAY 4TH JUNE 2014: At the Berwickshire farm of Quixwood, Grantshouse, courtesy of the Macfarlane family. Details and sponsorship packages from Euan Emslie on 01430 441870 or
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SOUTH SHEEP: SATURDAY 28TH JUNE: Blackcap Farm, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, by kind permission of Tony Monnington and family. Details and sponsorship packages from Bob Blanden on 01666 860308 or
  • SHEEP EVENT: NSA SHEEP EVENT: WEDNESDAY 30TH JULY 2014:  The Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. Details and sponsorship packages from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER EARLY RAM SALE: MONDAY 4TH AUGUST: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA SOUTH WEST REGION RAM SALE: WEDNESDAY 20TH AUGUST: Exeter Livestock Centre. Contact Sue Martyn on 01409 271385, 07967 512660 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 22ND AUGUST: Rugby Farmers Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • RAM SALE: NSA EASTERN REGION RAM SALE: FRIDAY 19TH SEPTEMBER: Melton Mowbray Market. Contact Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or

RAM SALE: NSA WALES & BORDER MAIN RAM SALE: MONDAY 22ND SEPTEMBER: Royal Welsh Showground. Contact Jane Smith on 01291 673939 or


NSA SUPPORTS THE NEXT GENERATION WITH NEW WEBSITE AND LAUNCH OF AMBASSADOR PROGRAMME: A joint event held by NSA and RASE on Tuesday (8th October) in Wiltshire saw NSA take the next step in our project to support young people in the sheep sector, by launching a NSA Next Generation website and opening applications for the 2014 Ambassador Programme. Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, reports: “Tuesday’s event was the perfect opportunity to unveil the next phase of NSA Next Generation, which now has its own branding and a dedicated website signposting young people to opportunities within the sheep sector. The website provides links to training, funding and scholarship opportunities, it lists colleges and universities around the UK offering agricultural courses, and offers advice on starting your own sheep flock. It also brings together all the existing NSA activity, including our very popular matchmaking service for students looking for on-farm placements at lambing time. The website will be added to over time and we welcome comments from people with suggestions for additional content – just email with your suggestions.
“NSA was also delighted to open the application process for the NSA Next Generation Ambassador Group 2014 today, which is the next stage of our project and something we are very excited about. By the end of this year we will have selected up to 12 young people with a real enthusiasm for the sheep sector and provide them a unique experience throughout 2014, offering technical and personal development, covering elements such as market selection, food chain development, sheep husbandry, brand development and adding value, optimising genetics, time management, business planning, presentation skills, conflict resolution and promotion of the sheep sector. With ambassadors selected from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the programme will provide the opportunity to meet likeminded people throughout the UK, as well as key people within the sheep sector. Application forms can be found on the new website and we urge you to have a look, either for yourself or someone else you know.”
Tuesday’s event in Wiltshire, which was kindly hosted by Tim White, a self-made sheep farmer on an organic farm at Sutton Mandeville, where he has grazing rights, attracted around 60 young people under the age of about 35 years, all with an interest in pursuing a future in the sheep industry. Tim provided an inspirational presentation and farm walk about his route into farming, while NSA South East Committee Member Marie Prebble talked about her own individual experience of starting out. Catherine Nakielny and Rob Hodgkins talked about their Nuffield Scholarship travels learning about innovative sheep breeding techniques, and Charlotte Johnstone of RASE delivered an informative video presentation by Sam Bullingham, who won the NSA Sheep South West Shepherd of the Future 2013 competition, describing his experiences as a first generation contract shepherd. The event saw much interaction, resulting in deep discussion and lively debate amongst the delegates. Charlotte from RASE says she has already received positive feedback from those who attended and is considering organising a follow on event. 
SIGN UP FOR THE NSA SHEEP CONTRACTORS EVENT: Are you are Sheep Contractor or carry out certain aspects of sheep husbandry for others? Are you thinking you might like to set up a contracting business in the future or just interested in finding out more? If so this event is not to be missed. Being held near Cirencester Market in Gloucestershire on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th November, the event will provide the opportunity for contractors to meet likeminded people and compare trades, while speakers and other guests will cover practical topics, including advice from the British Wool Marketing Board on shearing, a look at different control methods for sheep ectoparasites, and tips for running a contractor business (managing cash flows, accounts and billing systems). There will also be a sheep handling workshop to help contractors think about efficient and effective ways to move sheep through handling systems. Please register your interest with NSA Head Office on 01684 892661 or
NOMINATIONS REQUESTED FOR ANNUAL AWARD:  NSA Cymru/Wales Region are inviting nominations and applications for its annual Achievement Award, presented each year to recognise the contribution of someone under the age of 35 to the sheep industry. Anyone born, working or living in Wales is eligible for the award and applications must be received by Thursday 31st October 2013. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to the NSA Cymru/Wales Committee Meeting on 19th November in Neuadd Henllan on the Royal Welsh Showground to explain why they deserve the award and about their farming enterprise. Previous winners are sheep consultant Catherine Nakielny, Welsh shearing champion Gareth Daniels, NSA Cymru YFC Committee Rep Marc Jones, who also works for ADAS, and Lleyn breeder Dylan Jones.  Click here for an application form below, and for more information contact Helen Davies, NSA Cymru/Wales Regional Development Officer on, 01938 590535 or 07976 803066.
REMEMBER QUARANTINE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BOUGHT-IN SHEEP:  Novartis Animal Health has highlighted findings from their Farming Against Wormer Resistance (FAWR) campaign, to underline the importance of quarantine treatments for bought-in animals. Responses to a FAWR survey showed just under half of farmers did not separate incoming stock, 32% were not worming at quarantine, and of the 68% that did worm, well over half were using one active only. All these practices are likely to increase the risk of spreading resistant worms. In fact only 25% of survey respondees used the recommended products and, according to Lesley Stubbings, SCOPS representative and FAWR panel member, only 10% carried out an effective quarantine routine. Lesley says: “Sheep farms are at their most vulnerable when they are bringing in stock from markets or other farms. Quarantine is the only effective defence against a number of serious health threats, including resistant worms and sheep scab. Even expensive sheep from reputable sources can still carry problems – you can’t tell just by looking at them – so the only way to be sure is to implement a rigorous quarantine protocol using effective treatments. Quarantine should be regarded as an investment in your flock. Even if it is just ‘a few rams’ the proper procedure must be followed. And when buying in replacements, you’re not going to know the impact of buying in resistant worms in the short term, possibly not for years. So it can never be regarded as being expensive to spend a bit of money on these few animals – even though they are only small proportion of the flock – because you are protecting the rest.” Click here for more information about quarantine treatments, and visit for more detail.
HALAL ASSURANCE SCHEME TO BE DISCUSSED: A draft halal assurance scheme will be one of the things discussed at the first Eblex-organiseed halal forum on Thursday 24th October at Chesford Grange Hotel, Warwickshire. Also on the agenda will be a discussion on forthcoming legislation and a look at a new slaughter education film, laying out the different methods of religious slaughter. The event is open to all – please email or call 02476 692051 if you have an interest in attending.
GLASTIR REMINDERS FOR FARMERS IN WALES: The Welsh Government is urging Glastir applicants to respond promptly if they are contacted by a Welsh Government Divisional Office or Natural Resources Wales representative for additional information, as delayed responses may prevent a Glastir contract being in place by 1st January 2014. Other important dates include:-

  • 31st October for any remaining claims for slurry/manure storage grants under the Glastir Efficiency Grants schemes, and 31st December for water/energy and manure/slurry machinery.
  • 31st December to complete capital  works – this includes any fencing work, tree planting or construction under Glastir Entry 2013 contracts; capital works under Glastir Advanced are to be completed as scheduled in your contract. Of capital works cannot be undertaken in the agreed location or within the required timescales, you are advised to contact Welsh Government as soon as possible.

MAKE A DATE FOR THE MOREDUN ROAD SHOW: You will all have received a yellow sheet tucked inside your copy of Sheep Farmer with the dates of the annual Moredun Road Show. But to remind you that it kicks off on Monday 11th November at Ashford Livestock Market, Kent, with worm and liver fluke control as the topic. There are five other dates in England and Wales before the roadshow moves up to Scotland for another four dates. The final event slips back over the border into England on Thursday 21st November at Hexham. The Moredun meetings are very highly rated and we encourage you all to attend one evening; all meetings are at 7.30pm. Click here for a full list of events.
We are a mixed farm of dairy, beef, sheep and some arable, located in the beautiful Blackdown Hills on the Devon/Somerset border. Currently with about 1200 breeding ewes, which we are constantly seeking to expand, we are looking for someone who can take on the day to day work of our flock, with a strong work ethic, good stockmanship and a careful nature.
As well as flock work the role will also include being able to get involved with most other aspects of general farm work, and ideally any applicant will have good tractor driving skills for times such as silaging and hay making.   This is a very basic outline of what we are looking for, and we will always try to make the role suit a good candidate. We feel it is best suited to someone with great enthusiasm as we will work together to improve and expand our flock.
For further details please contact  Patrick 07782 191260 or email
NSA was proud to support and attend the AIMS (Association of Independent Meat Traders) conference last Saturday held at the Celtic Manor just outside Newport.  A fast a furious series of presentations on the positioning of meat in the marketplace, effective risk based controls, and new initiatives to improve meat quality made for a very interesting morning.  All our routes to market are equally important for the UK sheep industry and there is no doubt that our small and medium scale independent sector, represented by AIMS, are an essential and desirable part of the mix.
NSA was involved in a number of CAP related meetings in Wales this week as the pressure builds to ensure that both the 1st Pillar (SFP) and the 2nd Pillar (RDP programmes) continue to move in a direction that supports the farming industry in this next programme and beyond.  The response deadline to the WG consultation on direct support has been extended until 8th November and we are expecting the proposed new moorland line maps to be available over the next few days (this being a crucial part of working out the impact of the land category payments options).   In addition much work is being done in Wales on the Rural Development Programme and it is heartening to see farming and food production being recognized as the central driver with environment and social outcomes as integral. 
I hope all recipients of this e newsletter will join me in congratulating Jo Pugh and Ben Briggs and send them our very best wishes for their wedding day this coming Saturday (tomorrow!).  Jo will come back in just over 2 weeks time as Mrs Briggs so as you start to see a new name appear over the following weeks you’ll know that it’s not a new person – just a new name.  Jo has worked incredibly hard (even harder than normal) over this last week or so, making sure her backlog of work is cleared before she goes away.  I hope both Jo and Ben manage to clear their minds of work as soon as they can and enjoy a very well deserved break and celebration.

  • TUESDAY 15TH OCTOBER: NSA SOUTH EAST ANIMAL HEALTH MEETING (2 of 4): 7pm at Salisbury Market, covering Schmallenberg vaccination (with MSD Animal Health or Merial Animal Health) and Stamp out Scab presented by Vet Harriet Fuller.  Unfortunately nutritional supplements will be off the agenda as, due to an accident, Jonathan Guy is unable to be present. Refreshments available so please let Bob Blanden if you wish to attend – 01666 860308 or
  • WEDNESDAY 16TH OCTOBER: NSA SOUTH EAST ANIMAL HEALTH MEETING (3 of 4): 7pm at Thame Market, covering Schmallenberg vaccination (with MSD Animal Health or Merial Animal Health) and Stamp out Scab presented by Vet Ann Gibbs. Unfortunately nutritional supplements will be off the agenda as, due to an accident, Jonathan Guy is unable to be present. Refreshments available so please let Bob Blanden if you wish to attend – 01666 860308 or
  • FRIDAY 1ST – SUNDAY 3RD NOVEMBER: SHEEP BREEDERS ROUND TABLE: At Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, organised by Eblex, Signet Breeding Services, NSA, HCC and Biosciences KTN, will John McEwan of AgResearch New Zealand as keynote speaker and a theme for the three days of ‘transforming data into profit’. Details at
  • WEDNESDAY 13TH NOVEMBER: NSA SOUTH EAST AGM AND OPEN ANIMAL HEALTH MEETING: 7pm at Plumpton College. The AGM will be followed by two animal health presentations – one on nutritional supplements (with Jonathan Guy) and the other on Schmallenberg vaccination. Refreshments available so please let Bob Blanden if you wish to attend – 01666 860308 or
  • TUESDAY 26TH NOVEMBER: NSA CENTRAL REGION AGM: At the Bluebell at Tissington, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1NH.
  • FRIDAY 29TH and SATURDAY 30TH NOVEMBER: NSA SHEEP CONTRACTORS EVENT: A new event for sheep contractors near Cirencester. Please register your interest ASAP by calling NSA Head Office on 01684 892661 or
  • MONDAY 9TH DECEMBER: NSA MARCHES REGION COMMITTEE MEETING: 7.30pm at the Stables, Lower House Farm, Cannon Frome, Ledbury, HR8 2TG. All NSA Marches Region members are welcome, not just committee members.


  • NSA EASTERN REGION WINTER FAIR: Friday 31st January at Melton Mowbray Market. Details and sponsorship packages from Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • NSA SCOT SHEEP: Wednesday 4th June 2014, at the Berwickshire farm of Quixwood, Grantshouse, courtesy of the Macfarlane family. Details and sponsorship packages from Euan Emslie on 01430 441870 or
  • NSA SOUTH SHEEP: Saturday 28th June at Blackcap Farm, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex, by kind permission of Tony Monnington and family. Details and sponsorship packages from Bob Blanden on 01666 860308 or

NSA SHEEP EVENT: Wednesday 30th July 2014 at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire. Details and sponsorship packages from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or


A quick guide with tipps on getting ewe’s and ram’s ready for ‘TUPPING’ (Click Here)



The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has established a Breeds at Risk Register (BARR), based on a list of breeds determined by expert advice from the UK FAnGR committee.As at June 11, 917 individual cattle and 146 herds and flocks of pigs, poultry and sheep have been registered. The BARR may provide some protection for registered breeds at risk in the event of a disease outbreak, for example, exemption from culling, provided rigorous biosecurity measures are in place and that disease control measures are not compromised. The decision to exempt certain animals from culling will be based on the outcome of a veterinary risk assessment which will consider the situation on individual premises as well as other factors such as wider disease control measures and the impact on trade.Livestock and poultry keepers in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to register their rare breeds, free of charge. More information and the application form are available on


Be it at the opening ceremony, in the seminar tent, or conversations amongst the thousands of visitors who flooded through the gates, there was a great sense of optimism at NSA North Sheep, coupled with a lot of respect for the role of the family farm in the sheep sector. This was exemplified by the hosts, with all three generations of the Wilson family (J.M. Wilson and Sons; picture 1) showing their support for the event throughout the day. Our thanks goes to them, as well as the organising committee, willing volunteers, trade stands, demonstrators and visitors – what an amazing day. Results of the competitions included:-

  • Ripon Farm Supplies as best outdoor trade stand (picture 2); Logie Durno Sheep, from Aberdeenshire, as best indoor trade stand (3) and the Lleyn Sheep Society as best breed society stand (4). 
  • The Young Shepherd of the Year title went to Josh Ryder (5) of Central House Farm, Haverah Park, Harrogate. Josh works at CCM auction and on the 300-acre family home farm where they run 1,200 Dalesbred and Swaledale ewes and a small herd of sucklers.
  • Winning stockjudgers were Cecil Hutchinson in the Gents section, Margaret Iveson (6) in the ladies section, Eddie Heard in the under 26s and Henry Forsett in the under 19s.
  • Andrew Atkinson (7), a lamb buyer of Felliscliffe Harrogate, proved he knows as much about preparing lamb as purchasing it when he won the Ready, Steady, Cook competition.
  • Coming top in the first ever NSA North Sheep Shearing Competition was 30-year-old Adam Berry (8) of Kendal.

The seminar tent also proved to be a draw throughout the day. Phil Stocker and John Geldard, NSA Chief Executive and Chairman respectively, had an opportunity to update visitors on the topics NSA is currently working on, including CAP reform and countering arguments that eating less meat will save the planet (see more below). They also answered questions on the new electronic movement database for England and what was being done to engage with New Zealand and prevent them repeating their 2012 marketing strategy. Another popular seminar was Dr Fiona Lovatt tackling liver fluke, Schmallenberg and scab. As a practising vet who recently set up her own sheep consultancy business, Fiona said she’s seen the impact of fluke on many farms in recent months. Using basic farm costing information for an average lowland flock, she calculated that fluke (by reducing scanning percentages, killing a small number of ewes and forcing a few more to be culled) could easily cut a flock’s lamb rearing potential from 160% to 120%, slashing margins from just over £33/ewe to only 21p/ewe. She urged farmers to test for triclabendazole (TBZ) resistance (rather than assuming a treatment failure automatically meant the farm had resistance) and to also quarantine incoming stock. There were several quarantine options to stop fluke getting onto fluke-free farms and TBZ-resistant fluke getting on TBZ-susceptible farms, and so Fiona urged farmers to talk about quarantine options with their vet. 

  NEXT UP IS THE NSA YOUTHFUL SHEPHERD EVENT: Specifically aimed at young people working in the sector or looking to pursue a career in the sector, the first ever NSA Youthful Shepherd Event is tomorrow (Saturday 8th June). This will be a unique opportunity for new and potential new entrants to have access to industry leaders and influencers, gain information and advice, and have a say about what the industry can do to better support young people. The event starts at 2.30pm at Darley Stud Management Co Ltd, Rutland Yard, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 9RF. It is organised by NSA Eastern Region but open to young people from around the UK. The event will include:-

  • Advice and open discussion forums on store lamb production, pedigree sheep breeding, financing a start-up business, live and deadweight marketing, and breed types.
  • Demonstrations on Signet recording and ultrasound scanning, show and sale presentation, tagging and electronic readers, and sheepdogs.
  • NSA Eastern Region Young Shepherd of the Year Competition, which is a qualifier for the national and European finals. Pre-entry required.
  • Fun competitions including electric fencing, sheep counting and eat-a-pie-shear-a-sheep-drink-a-pint!

The event will conclude at 6pm with a BBQ, to which all NSA Eastern Region members are invited for a social evening. This replaces the NSA Eastern Region farm walk.

AND THEN NSA SHEEP SOUTH WEST: The penultimate NSA summer sheep event –

NSA Sheep South West – is being held this Tuesday (11th June) from 10am at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ, by kind permission of Michael and David Snell (pictured here with their families). Tuesday will be an action-packed day with plenty going on, including farm tours, carcase and fleece competitions, stockjudging challenges, a sheepdog sale and Young Shepherd (and Student Shepherd) of the Future competitions. For the first time a seminar programme has also been introduced. Find out more at
NSA INVOLVED IN MEDIA ACTIVITY AROUND ‘MEAT AS A LUXURY PRODUCT’: This Tuesday (4th June) say the House of Commons Select Committee on international development release a report on global food security, which hit the mainstream press in the papers, radio and TV.  This subject relates to the highest level of policy work the NSA is involved in, as it is likely to underpin many policies for future food production and land use. The report’s headline essentially said that the growing global population should eat less meat, but when you dug a little deeper it was saying clearly that increasing grain-fed meat was likely to be unsustainable whereas grass-fed meat would be an essential part of sustainable meat production and consumption. The media debate quickly (and unhelpfully) evolved into a meat versus non-meat argument, although this allowed Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, to be  quoted on the front page of the Tuesday’s Daily Mail and be involved in a live debate on Radio 5 Live, making the case that sheep production was one of the most natural and sustainable ways of converting our largely grass-based land area into nutritious and tasty food for the population – not only does it make use of grass but in doing so creates the sort of countryside that the public love. Phil says: “When you consider this debate and also the re-wilding proposals discussed in last week’s NSA Weekly Email Update, it is crucial NSA continues to get reasonable and practical facts across to a public, many of whom are enthusiastic about what we are doing but always need reassurance.”
NSA ENGLISH COMMITTEE GETS UPDATE ON CAP REFORM: In addition to NSA’s regular work on CAP reform, the English Committee also invited Gail Soutar, NFU Senior CAP and International Affairs Adviser, to provide an update at their meeting last week (Wednesday 29th May). One of the most pressing issues to come out of the discussion with Gail was a reminder that anyone interested in Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) only had until 1st September 2013 to apply, with the final ELS agreements to be offered on 1st December 2013. HLS closes at the end of July but Gail suggested Natural England already had to be aware of your interest and so no new applications could now be submitted. ELS and HLS schemes will then permanently close and be replaced with a new scheme from 1st January 2016, which is expected to be a middle tier between ELS and HLS. There is no firm information available on what will happen to existing environmental stewardship agreements that end in 2014 and 2015, but it is though unlikely that very few new/extended agreements will be offered.
Meanwhile IN WALES, the Glastir deadlines are:-

  • 31st July to be included in the next selection process for Glastir Efficiency Grants or Glastir Advanced.
  • 30th August for Glastir Commons applications (application forms will be issued next month, only to Grazing Associations who have already submitted an expression of interest form).
  • 30th September for Glastir agreements starting on 1st January 2014.

Also, from now until 4th July Glastir drop-in surgeries are being ran at Farming Connect divisional offices, with on-farm events also available until 5th July. Details at
NEW DUNBIA LLANYBYDDER PREMISES OPEN: NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker was one of many guests present today (Friday 7th June) to see Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones open Dunbia’s new premises at Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire. HCC (Meat Promotion Wales) has welcomed the £12m investment and 600 employed positions, saying it ‘shows faith’ in Welsh farmers and the quality of stock they produce. Gyn Howells, HCC Chief Executive, says: “Dunbia has demonstrated an eagerness to develop their domestic and export business and, working alongside HCC, has secured several business contracts in countries across the globe including Canada, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Portugal and Italy. HCC works closely with Dunbia to market PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef on the UK and world stage, generating business for the Welsh economy. “The investment at Llanybydder includes £2.71m from the Welsh Government”.
IN-FIELD PROMOTION CAMPAIGN FOR RED TRACTOR: July will see Red Tractor Assurance launch a new Trust the Tractor campaign, which will see a great deal of promotional activity, including Trust the Tractor advertising banners appearing in farmers’ fields alongside around the country. If you are a farm assurance member and have a field in a visible spot near a major transport route that you think should be considered as a site for a 15ft by 4ft banner please email
BELGIAN SUPERMARKET CHOSES UK LAMB OVER SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE: The decision by one of Belgium’s largest supermarket chains to switch away from chilled New Zealand and Australian to UK product could see an additional 1,100 tonnes of UK lamb exported each year (we exported a total of 95,000 tonnes in 2012). Belgium is an important market for the UK, as Belgian lamb consumption is on the up, with lamb being the only meat species in 2012 to see an increase. Eblex/HCC believe an increasing number of cuts being offered in Belgium could further bolster this growth.
GRASS AND SILAGE FIGURES AVAILABLE IN WALES: You can follow the quality, growth and financial value of new and old leys on three Farming Connect beef and sheep demonstration farms in the ‘Grazing for Profit’ area of Also check out the ‘Mileage in Silage’ area for analysis of grass samples from demonstration farms to determine sugar levels and sulphur requirements of second cut silage.
TAKE A FIRM GRIP ON RAGWORT: The common ragwort growing season has begun, with young plants forming low rosettes in fields and pastures. Landowners and occupiers have a statutory responsibility to prevent and control the spread of ragwort under the Weeds Act 1959, and it is also a cross compliance requirement. Control options include spot-spraying with a selective herbicide or hand-pulling – but remember ragwort remains toxic after the plant is dried, so proper disposal following clearance is necessary to protect livestock.
NUFFIELD SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE IS 31ST JULY: Anyone considering applying for a 2014 Nuffield Scholarship Award has until 31st July to decide on their topic and complete an application. The Nuffield Scholarship Programme offers an incredible opportunity for people wishing to travel overseas for eight weeks to study a specific farming topic. The sheep sector (via some NSA members) has benefitted many times from discoveries made by previous scholars, and NSA encourages anyone under the age of 45 to consider applying. Applicants must be three year or more post tertiary education and been engaged in farming, rural land-based industries, food industries and agriculturally associated industries for at least two years, and intend to remain in these industries. Around 20 awards are available and applications are via an online process at
GERMAN STUDENT LOOKING FOR TWO-MONTH WORK PLACEMENT: NSA has been contacted by 19-year-old Amelie Kreuzer, who is looking for a placement on a UK farm during July and August. Amelie is a fluent English speaker and has experience working on German farms, including her parents’ pig unit. She has a keen interest in sheep and is eager to learn more through a practical placement in this country (with accommodation provided). She has a full driving licence. Amelie is not looking for wages but would be willing to accept a financial reflection of her commitment to the work placement at its conclusion. Email Amelie at

  • NEW EVENT: NSA YOUTHFUL SHEPHERDS’ EVENT: Saturday 8th June at Darley Stud Management Co Ltd, Rutland Yard, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 9RF. Organised by NSA Eastern Region but open to young people from around the UK with an interest in the sheep sector, with a BBQ and social event to follow in the evening for sheep farmers of all ages. Click here for more information and an application form.
  • NSA EASTERN REGION EVENT: The Youthful Shepherds’ Event on Saturday 8th June replaces the NSA Eastern Region’s annual farm walk and so all Eastern Regional members are invited to the 8th June event and the BBQ afterwards. If anyone wishes to help, either before or on the day, please contact NSA Eastern Regional Manager Jonathan Barber on 01953 607860 or
  • NSA SHEEP SOUTH WEST: Tuesday 11th June at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ. More information here.
  • NSA SOUTH EAST FARM WALK: Thursday 13th June, hosted by NSA SE Regional Chairman Andrew Barr, 2pm at Place Farm, Firle, Lewes, East Sussex BN8 6LP. Please let Bob Blanden know you plan to attend – call 07860 689391 or email
  • NSA SHEEP NORTHERN IRELAND: Monday 1st July at Ballymena Market, Woodside Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, BT42 4HX. Email Edward Adamson for more information by clicking here.
  • SHEEP BREEDERS ROUND TABLE: Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd November at Eastwood Hall, Nottingham. Organised by Eblex, Signet Breeding Services, NSA, HCC and Biosciences KTN, will John McEwan of AgResearch New Zealand as keynote speaker and a theme for the three days of ‘transforming data into profit’. To register an interest in attending email or call 024 7647 8828.
  • Details of next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here.

Stamp Out Scab Roadshow: To give the English-wide Stamp Out Scab campaign the best possible chance of success it is vital that everyone involved in the sheep sector is involved in the project, not just farmers. So please spread the word to vets and SQPs that a series of meetings is being held in June and July (click here for a full list). [Meetings for farmers will follow this summer].

Schmallenberg – Update

Schmallenberg (SBV) latest

From reports being received at NSA HQ it would appear that fewer lambing flocks are now experiencing SBV compared to those lambing before Christmas and early into the New Year. This might be expected on two fronts – as the tupping season progressed midge activity should have reduced, and probably more of the early lambing flocks were synchronized compared to those lambing now.

We now have some additional information from a recent European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) meeting:-

SBV has a very high level of ‘vector competence’ compared to other viruses and it is this that is accounting for the fast and wide spread of the virus across the country.

EU Members States, including the UK, are still saying that on an industry level SBV will have a low impact (although everyone recognises that for those farmers affected the suggestion that it is low impact can be offensive), but the impact on synchronized flocks can be far higher.

There is strong evidence that there is very high protective immunity in individual sheep that were affected in the previous year, and there is fairly high prevalence of antibodies (87-98%) across flocks that have been exposed.

There is talk of the virus being present and infective in semen but this is not proven. AHVLA are to do some research into this, and scientists are very skeptical that in natural mating or AI this spread of infection would happen.

Approval of the application for authorisation of a SBV vaccine is still underway and Ministers, Defra, AHVLA, and VMD have all been made aware of the importance of this vaccine to the livestock industry.

To finish with some good news – there has been exhaustive research completed that has shown there is no risk to human health of the current Schmallenberg virus.

NSA SBV survey goes online

You should have all received an email letting you know the industry-led Lambing Survey is now online and will be available until the end of May for farmers to fill in once they have finished lambing. The questions are designed to help get an impression of the lambing season as a whole, but specifically the impact of Schmallenberg (SBV). NSA called for such a survey back in December, when it became clear AHVLA would not be collecting any detailed information about SBV on individual farms. This has resulting in the Lambing Survey, which is a joint initiative between NSA, AHVLA, Eblex, HCC, NBA, NFU and QMS.

The survey can be found at and should take about 10 minutes to complete if you have to hand information on the number of ewes and losses between then and lambing. The survey should be completed once you have finished lambing, and should be completed twice or more if you lamb ewes in two or more batches. If you know any NSA members without internet access please tell them they can contact the NSA to complete the survey over the phone instead – weekdays (9am-5.30pm) on 01684 892661, preferably with their NSA membership number to hand.

Example 1

The ewe was working hard to lamb but progress was slow. On first inspection the legs were jointed giving the impression of front legs. BUT there was a tail where the head was expected and in actual fact this lamb was presented backwards. Lambing progressed very slowly and it became apparent that the front legs were fused bent at the knee joint. Very luckily and with great care she was lambed normally.

If this lamb had been presented normally our vet said that a caesarian would have been needed. From the hip down to the foot each joint was back to front. The front legs could only be moved and straightened by breaking the knee joint.

Example 2

This particular ewe was 8 days overdue and had been looking uncomfortable but not showing any obvious signs of lambing. On investigation the cervix was not open. The following day she started to push and show signs of lambing but progress was very slow. There was a jumble of lambs legs in the birth canal. It proved too difficult to lamb this ewe as it was obvious the lambs were deformed and the vet was called. She eventually managed to draw out two stillborn lambs which had been entangled. These lambs had been dead for some time (2 – 3 weeks). Although this ewe had been scanned carrying twins the vet then felt another lamb inside. This lamb was huge and very bloated and could not be lambed naturally therefore a caesarian was conducted. Although the lamb was dead it would appear that the placenta was still feeding the lamb which caused the oedema. This was a very difficult caesarian. The appearance of this lamb was that of a bloated rugby football with deformed leg appendages and very large head with undershot jaw.

Example 3

Ewes not developing udder as would be expected and giving birth to very small and/or stillborn lambs. These weak lambs require lots of attention to get them going but once they do they seem to be quite robust.

Example 4

Lambs appearing normal at birth which, in spite of attention, have then ‘faded’ and died within a few hours.

Example 4

Newborn lambs from a normal deleivery being very slow to suckle and requiring time and patience to get them drinking. In some cases it has been more efficient to take colostrum off the ewe and feed it to the lamb.

Example 5

Ewes giving birth to a mix of normal and abnormal, live and dead lambs.

SBV Update by Sue Farquhar

SBV Update: 4th February 2013

Having recently attended an NFU livestock meeting for sheep farmers in Hereford market, where we had an interesting talk on SBV, by a large veterinary practice. The one overwhelming anecdote is that is that once an area is affected the level of impact is very random i.e. Joe Bloggs may have 50% losses in his lambs and Fred just 1/4 mile away and lambing at the same time is unaffected. Many other shepherds are reporting that they have had live lambs that have been smaller than usual , these lambs start of ok but then 3-4 days later may go off their feet and fade away and will certainly require TLC if they are to survive. These weakly lambs have been tested positive for SBV. Some farmers have had deformed lambs, that have been tested positive but on testing the mothers they have shown no anti bodies, which the vets are finding this a little puzzling.

In the South West the news according to local vets is that the incidence of affected lambs is reducing as lambing proceeds from the high of up to 50% affected in early December.

Just remember if in doubt, seek your vets advice.

SBV Update: 26th January 2013

This will be a short note to keep breeders and flock owners up to date on the practical side with the Schmallenberg virus (SBV). There are many stories, rumour and half truths circulating and they seem to be gathering momentum. I have unfortunately been affected with SBV in my flock, so I would like to share a few snippets that might be of help to others. You can read the theory on the internet at , but from my experience the virus can manifest itself in many different ways. The lambs with fused joints [as in the photo] nearly always come breach, these are boxed shape with the leg joint fused and often the neck is fused back towards the spine. Great care is needed when assisting these ewes to lamb in order to avoid tearing the womb with the fused feet. If in doubt seek veterinary help. Some lambs come with very spindly legs and a rugger ball belly, some are neurologically miswired , they can suck but are unable to stand, others are born weak, some with a curved spine.

In addition to the problems with SBV the weather has played its part leading some ewes to produce weak lambs this season probably due to the lack of nutrition after such an appallingly wet summer and autumn that has leached all the goodness from the grass.

Even for seasoned Shropshire breeders this lambing is one of the most difficult ever. If you have any queries on SBV please e-mail Sue Farquhar on or phone, you are not alone this lambing season.


Article posted Friday 1st February 2013 by the NSA

Some positive Schmallenberg reports are emerging – and survey will be available soon.

Our sympathy is with those early lambing flocks that have been hit very hard by Schmallenberg (SBV) and we know how nervous many members are about ewes that are yet to lamb. It was therefore nice to receive one very positive report from NSA member Dan Phipps this week. Dan suffered large losses from SBV last year but has just finished lambing 435 ewes on the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border without seeing a single lamb with SBV-like symptoms. He marked individual ewes that produced affected lambs last year and all of these had healthy, strong lambs. However, he did experience a higher barren rate than in previous years, with 120 ewes carrying raddle marks but scanning empty being moved into the later lambing flock. These will be scanned next week, and regardless if they are in lamb or not (fingers crossed they are) Dan would like to know if their infertility is linked to SBV.

Questions such as this, and the huge disparity across the country of some flocks suffering losses and others not, underline yet again how vital it is that we collect information on a large-scale to improve our understanding. The 2012/13 lambing season survey will be available very soon and we cannot overstate the importance of everyone filling this in. It has come about due to some hard work by NSA, along with AHVLA, EBLEX, NFU and NBA, and will hopefully capture the impact that the virus had had/is having on sheep farms.

It has been designed to be completed online once you have finished lambing each batch of ewes – i.e. if you lamb some ewes early and some later complete the survey twice, but if you lamb everything together do it just once. As long as you have basic information to hand (such as scanning rate, number of losses etc) then it will not take long to fill in. We will alert you as soon as the survey is available, and NSA Head Office will happily complete the survey over the phone with any NSA member who does not have the ability to do it online.

Disease surveillance in England and Wales to be overhauled.

The emergence of Schmallenberg reiterates how important disease surveillance is, and will be a key consideration as NSA completes the consultation paper that has been issued by AHVLA about surveillance on a greatly reduced budget. NSA representatives have also been attending AHVLA-ran workshops in the last fortnight to get a better understanding of what surveillance might look like in the future when the chance of all existing AHVLA centres remaining open is very slim. AHVLA is considering ways for 75% of all farmers to have a drop-off point within a one-hour drive, from which carcases will be taken to centralised post-mortem centres – but it is also open to other suggestions and NSA will gladly communicate with any member who has an interest in this area. Please email, but bearing in mind the note at the top of this Update explaining the NSA server will be out-of-action this weekend.

This lambing season has seen cases of the Schmallenberg Virus affecting Shopshire Sheep flocks.

The Society thought that it might be of help to other flock members of theses situations that have presented themselves. Below are records of individual’s encounters and in some cases what had to be done to deliver the lambs, and their findings.

Please be aware that this virus is affecting sheep and cattle, all breeds and is not just specific to the Shopshire Sheep Breed and the SSBA have published this information for the possible benefit of experience from other breeders.

Hopefully this will give people more information on the subject as we all seem to be learning as we go and hopefully to understand that we are not alone should it happen to you.

Should you wish to know more information on the Virus then have a look on the net and to talk to your own vet. Remember that should you ever be in difficulty with your sheep’s health and well-being then please raise your concerns with your vet as is normal practice.

In summary from the findings below ..this is all the theory, but remember that this is a new virus and we are all still learning.

The virus seems to manifest it’s self in different ways …fused joints , nearly always breach …some with very spindly legs and a rugger ball belly….some are neurologically miss wired and result in lambs that will suck but not stand….others are born weak or one is ok and the other twin is deformed.

Schmallenberg Update

Article posted Wednesday 30th January 2013 on RBST Website

Livestock breeders are urged to be vigilant

With lambing already underway for some early lambing flocks, the impact of the Schmallenberg virus appears to be greater than originally predicted, with some commercial flock owners reporting losses as high as 60% in some cases.

According to figures published by Defra, a total of 1211 holdings had been affected by mid January.

The virus can have a devastating impact on unborn lambs. The AHVLA website states that..”malformations observed to date include bent limbs and fixed joints twisted neck or spine, a domed appearance to the skull, short lower jaw and brain deformities…the foetal deformities vary depending on when infection occurred during pregnancy. In adult cows the acute infection resulted in diarrhoea, fever, a reduction in milk yield, with a full and rapid recovery over several days”.

In some cases ewes may give birth to one deformed lamb and one normal lamb.

Schmallenberg Virus is not a notifiable disease but breeders are advised to contact their veterinary surgeon if they encounter cases of ruminant neonates or foetuses which are stillborn.

A Europe-wide risk assessment has concluded that Schmallenberg virus is very unlikely to cause illness in people.

Livestock keepers are reminded of the importance of maintaining strict bio-security.

Pregnant women should not have contact with sheep and goats at lambing/kidding time due to risks of exposure to disease causing organisms.

This particular ewe was 8 days overdue and had been looking uncomfortable but not showing any obvious signs of lambing. On investigation (Tues evening) the cervix was not open however yesterday (Wed) she started to push and show signs of lambing but progress was very slow. During a further internal examination the cervix was gently manipulated to help dilate it which caused the waters to break releasing an extraordinary amount of birth fluid. Once the ewe had passed all this fluid a jumble of lambs legs were in the birth canal. It proved too difficult to lamb this ewe as it was obvious the lambs were deformed and the vet was called (yet again). She eventually managed to draw out two stillborn lambs which had been entangled. These lambs had been dead for some time (2 – 3 weeks). Although this ewe had been scanned carrying twins the vet then felt another lamb inside. This lamb was huge and very bloated and there was no way it could be lambed naturally therefore a caesarean had to be conducted. This was a very difficult caesarean as although the lamb was stillborn it would appear that the placenta was still feeding the lamb which caused the oedema. It weighed 6 Kg. The appearance of this lamb was that of a bloated rugby football with deformed leg appendages and very large head with undershot jaw.

If this ewe had been left she would have shed her afterbirth and succumbed to toxaemia and died.

Please be very aware when delivering Schmallenberg affected ewes that you check there are no more lambs inside. Don’t rely on scanning, this ewe had been scanned carrying twins and in fact had triplets. Of our other affected ewes, one was scanned with twins yet delivered triplets..

Sharing our experiences certainly help me keep a calm head in the early hours of this morning. I kept thinking back what you had all found which helped us to lamb a ewe.

The ewe lambed herself and produced a nice healthy lamb. She went down to have the second lamb and I noticed a nose but nothing else. The lamb was alive but had both legs back. Found the legs and brought them forward so everything looked ok and normal.  Gave a pull and the lamb started to come out then got stuck behind the shoulders. Went to investigate but couldn’t find anything wrong, lots of room, back legs not tucked under, everything seemed fine but couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get it out. My husband tried, but had no joy so we decided to call the vet. Whilst waiting for the vet to arrive the ewe gave a big push and he saw the lamb move slightly so he gave another pull and it came out. Unfortunately the lamb was dead but its belly was so distended and the hind legs very thin. The vet has taken it away to test for schmallenburg.

Thank goodness for the ‘stories’ as I thought back to the previous message with the rugby ball.

Dear SSBA Members

This is an important update produced by the Charollais Sheep Society concerning the
reported incidence of Schmallenberg Virus in flocks that have lambed from 1st December to
date. In some flocks up to 50% of lambs born have been infected. Carroll Barber has kindly
allowed the use of this information by the SSBA. Her report follows.

We are sorry to report that many (Charollais) flocks are reporting cases of deformed lambs being born which are most likely to be as the result of Schmallenberg infection. Breeders have contacted us from the South West, Midlands, Home Counties and South Wales. We are very sorry for those of you who are affected and can only hope that the level of problems drop back as we proceed with lambing. We thought it might be helpful to set out a few facts on the disease.

– This virus belongs to a group of viruses that are spread by insect vector, principally midges and
– Schmallenberg Virus (SBV) is not a notifiable disease.
– When ewes are bitten by infected midges they show virtually no signs of illness.
– The effect of the infection is seen in deformed lambs, born at full term. Classic signs of SBV are extended limbs which are fused, deformed heads and lambs that show few signs of normal
behaviour ‘stupid lambs’.
– Often a ewe can give birth to twins; one deformed and the 2nd normal.
– Not all ewes in a flock will be give birth to deformed lambs, or all ewes on a farm. Infection is
generally quite sporadic.
– Ewes and lambs cannot pass the disease on to other sheep. You require the midge as the host for transmission of the virus.
– The growing foetus is vulnerable to the infection for only a short period of time, thought to be
around 30 – 45 days into pregnancy.
– Once ewes have been infected they will have a high level of immunity for subsequent years.
– A vaccine is nearly ready for market – but we need to apply pressure to make sure this is available for later lambing flocks and for next year.
– Care should be taken while lambing deformed lambs, as with fused limbs it is possible to severely damage ewes.

We would suggest that anyone who suspects that they may have the infection on their farm to
contact their veterinary surgeon. We know that they cannot do anything to alleviate the problems, but we do need to get the disease fully recorded. This is so the vaccine is pushed to market as soon as possible; which might help later lambing flocks in 2013. Veterinary surgeons should then contact their local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if they suspect infection with the virus and arrange to have the dead lambs tested to confirm.

It would also be helpful if you could let the office (SSBA) know if you have had a problem. It will
give us a picture of the spread of the disease and put us in a better position to push hard for the arrival of the vaccine. We need to be able to advise farming groups and bodies just how devastating this disease is.

We are sorry to bring you bad news, but hopefully many healthy, strong lambs will be born.
Remember you are certainly not alone in this horrid situation.

Many thanks

Jonathan & Carroll Barber, Charollais Sheep Society

The following is extracted from the Farmers Guardian

Schmallenberg virus circulating in Britain again
24 July 2012 | By Alistair Driver

SCHMALLENBERG Virus (SBV) has survived the winter and is already circulating among livestock again in Britain, with potentially serious consequences for parts of the country later this year.
Defra has announced the virus was identified on seven late-lambing farms between mid-April and May – two in the Channel Islands and one each in Dorset, West Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire and Kent.

According to Defra Deputy Chief veterinary Officer Alick Simmons, the ewes carrying these lambs must have become infected in January or early February. This suggests that the disease probably over-wintered in midges. We probably have more infection transmitting out of the infected areas moving westwards and northwards was we speak, “he told Farmers Guardian on Tuesday.

Mr Simmons announced that Defra is set to embark on a major nationwide SBV surveillance programme and urged farmers to be vigilant for signs of disease.He said the re-emergence of the virus was ‘no surprise’, given the speed and efficiency with which it has already been shown to spread in midges in mainland Europe.But he said it was impossible to estimate ‘how far and how fast’ the infection would spread in Britain this year.

Animals that have already been infected, including a high proportion in southern and eastern England last year, will have built up immunity. The virus is therefore expected to travel, via midges, ‘like a moving front’ westwards and northwards from the infected areas, Mr Simmons said. As the virus causes most of its damage in pregnant animals – leading to stillborn and deformed lambs and calves that characterise SBV – infection during the summer months is relatively harmless. The real danger time is the autumn breeding period.

One could argue that the quicker infection moves across the country and infects areas before ewes and cows go to the ram or bull, the better it will be because they will become immune before they get pregnant. It arrived in August or September last year so there was no time for sheep to gain immunity before they get pregnant, but there is time this year, Mr Simmons said.

However, the areas where the disease strikes in the autumn breeding season could endure a similar experience to the most infected southern and eastern counties in the early month of this year.

He stressed, however, that only small proportion of infected pregnant animals go on to have deformed and stillborn offspring. He added that Defra was unable to give farmers any advice about reducing the risk because of the gaps in the knowledge about its spread and impact.
Looking for signs of SBV Defra is urging farmers, particularly along the edge of the risk area, to look out for, and report to their vets, signs of SBV in adult cattle, such as milk drop, fever and diarrhoea.

AHVLA will also shortly be launching a web-based survey to assess the prevalence of the virus in the national sheep flock. It will concentrate on counties where there were no confirmed cases in 2011/2012 or that are on the edge of the infected area, such as Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, Herefords, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The survey will use samples taken as part of the sheep and goat survey for Brucella melitensis. The aim is to test sufficient samples to provide 95 per cent confidence that less than 6 per cent of the flocks in these regions were exposed to the virus.

SBV numbers

Schmallenberg has been found on 275 farms in England, 219 in sheep, 53 in cattle and three in both, although very few new cases have been identified over the summer.

It has been found in 27 counties/authorities, mainly in southern and eastern England but as far north as East Riding and as far west as Cornwall.

There have been 5,663 cases in nine member states so far, with France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and UK the worst affected. It has also been found in much smaller numbers in Luxembourg, Italy, Spain and Denmark.

NSA Members Update – 22nd June 2012

AHVLA conducts survey to measure impact of Schmallenberg virus on sheep farms

The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency is undertaking a survey to measure the impact Schmallenberg (SBV) had on sheep farms during the 2011/12 lambing season. As this is a new disease, the main aim is to assess possible losses to farmers and to better understand how the disease has affected animal health and welfare in Great Britain.

AHVLA is asking all sheep farmers, including those who did not have Schmallenberg in their flock/s, to answer a short online questionnaire. There are 30 questions, which should take less than 30 minutes to complete. Links to English and Welsh versions of the questionnaire can be found below:

SBV survey (AHVLA) – English version

SBV survey (AHVLA) – Welsh version

A summary of the survey results will be published on the AHVLA website, but no individual farms will be identifiable from these results. The closing date for answering the online questionnaire is 15 July 2012. Any questions about the survey should be sent to

More information about Schmallenberg can be found on the Schmallenberg virus pages of the AHVLA website.



The Shropshire Sheep Breeders’ Association is affiliated to the National Sheep Association

NSA engages with AHWBE and Welsh Government on RDP.
Two separate meetings this week gave the opportunity for NSA to keep the focus on Pillar Two of the CAP and the Rural Development Progamme (RDP) in both England and Wales. As reported in previous newsletters, NSA believes tightening of Pillar One budgets (Single Farm Payments) in the current CAP negotiations, and a desire by Defra to modulate funds from Pillar One to Pillar Two, means new ways must be created for farmers to access RDP money. One way we could like to see this happen is through the creation of a scheme recognising on-farm contributions to animal health and welfare, rewarding farmers in the same way as agri-environment schemes do.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “We are proposing that a proportion of CAP money is targeted towards encouraging good animal health management, involvement in monitoring and accreditation schemes, and implementation of biosecurity and quarantine measures, and that the money is offered to farmers to enable them to do the right things with ensuing benefits for resource use and carbon footprints. With virtually no CAP money being spent on addressing society’s current and future challenges, including resource-efficient food production in a way that helps address climate change, it seems a reasonable ask.”

On Tuesday (5th March) NSA Chairman John Geldard and Chief Executive Phil Stocker met with the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England (AHWBE) and presented NSA’s thoughts on CAP reform and RDP measures to incentivise animal health and disease control. The Board, which has an advisory responsibility for animal health issues in England, showed interest in the principles and engaged in an interesting discussion – but previous meetings in Wales and Northern Ireland have been more positive and more focused on creative solutions that potential hurdles.

On Thursday (7th March) NSA Senior Communications Officer Joanne Pugh attended a workshop at Llandrindod Wells, which the Welsh Government  organised as part of its consultation on Pillar Two spending in Wales. The workshop allowed NSA to feed into current thinking in Wales and also opened doors for further discussions in the future. The Welsh Government made it very clear that a priority for RDP is mitigating the pain many Welsh farmers will experience from reduced Single Farm Payment cheques, which is very positive and suggests some funding will be ring-fenced for solely for access by farmers.

Red Tractor conference shows unique position of the sheep sector.
Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) held a conference for all its Boards, advisory committee members and partner organisations at Stoneleigh on Thursday (7th March). This was an opportunity for all the different sectors of fresh produce, cereals, dairy, pigs, poultry, and of course beef and sheep, to come together reflect on what RTA had achieved, compare how standards in the different sectors differed, and debate future strategies.

Sheep farmers are amongst the lowest percentages assured with less than 50% of farmers and approximately 65% of lambs marketed being assured. NSA’s view is that priorities and opportunities are very different for each sector and for sheep RTA has to concentrate on being a base-level scheme to allow for increased uptake, rather than a more elite scheme for fewer farmers. The RTA scheme allows farmers to make a voluntary declaration of legal and good agricultural practice (GAP) compliance providing a valuable industry assurance as well as a qualification of British produce. With the horsemeat scandal still high on the agenda it looks as though there will be much future discussion over the use of RTA in multi-ingredient foods.

NSA English Committee embraces modern technology!
It was a first for the NSA on Wednesday (6th March) when Nick Davies, English Committee Member and NSA Marches Region Chairman, joined a NSA meeting via Skype. The rest of the NSA English Committee was in the Farmers Club, London, but could see and chat to Nick on a large screen, despite him being in Northern Ireland. Nick had not wanted to miss the meeting as New Zealand lamb was an agenda item and he had recently been in New Zealand for work reasons and wanted to share his experiences. A report of this trip is also included in the next edition of Sheep Farmer, which will be with members very soon.

AHVLA publishes report on Ramsgate.
This week saw AHVLA finally release their report on the sheep welfare incident at Ramsgate last September. The purpose of the report is claimed to be to prevent similar incidents happening in the future and therefore focusses on failures and intended improvements in procedures, and contains useful information on the required procedures and responsibilities. AHVLA has identified issues with the journey logging and transporter procedures and is making changes to requirements, and will be reminding official veterinarians of their legal responsibilities in export approvals.

Kent Trading Standards is currently investigating the incident with a view to a prosecution and RSPCA are still planning a judicial review against the export trade. However, the timelines provided by AHVLA clearly spell out that the RSPCA objected to AHVLA’s plans to transport the sheep to contingency premises for unloading – and the NSA believes it was this decision that led to two sheep drowning and over 40 being euthanised.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “The NSA is keen to see better enforcement of transport regulations and improvement in procedures so that good welfare can be assured in this legal trade. We are completely opposed to interference with AHVLA staff who are responsible for making decisions in these cases, and it doesn’t add up when you consider the efforts that the RSPCA put into rescuing injured animals generally that they were so keen to kill these sheep on site”. The report can be read at

Research to continue to help understand ‘black loss’.
A two-year study by the Highlands & Islands Sheep Health Association, in conjunction with Quality Meat Scotland, ScotEID, SRUC and SAOS, has confirmed the existence of an average of 18.8% annual ‘black loss’ (the unexplained disappearance of sheep) on four participating hill farms. The study saw 5,063 lambs electronically tagged as close as practically possible to birth and their identity recorded and uploaded to the ScotEID sheep database. Tags were read periodically over the summer through to the following winter and it was found lambs that had disappeared without trace over the period – black loss sheep – were mostly lost in the first six weeks from birth.

The next step is therefore to identify a practical and cost effective technology to track lambs, and discussions have been held with Chinese researchers who use sensors and global positioning to identify ‘active’ – i.e. tags on animals that are moving. Any unusual movement or lack of movement recorded by sensors would be interpreted as a sign of illness or death, and black loss, and the hope is to develop a commercially-available system that will help sheep farmers intervene before this occurs. The work is expected to take another two years.

NSA wishes Two Sisters Food Group well for the future.
The acquisition of Vion’s UK poultry and red meat business by Two Sisters Food Group was announced on Monday (4th March). NSA is very pleased a resolution has been reached, wished Two Sisters every success and looks forward to working with them in the future.

ScotHot puts Scotch Lamb on center stage: This week saw ScotHot, a three-day event for the best young chefs in London, take place in Glasgow – and four of the eight finalists chose Scotch Lamb as the main ingredient to impress the judges with their cooking skills. During ScotHot, QMS also joined forces with the Federation of Chefs Scotland to do five 40-minute Scotch Lamb butchery demonstrations showing how innovative butchery can increase the culinary repertoire and make the most of the versatility of Scotch Lamb. Here George Milne, NSA Scotland Development Officer, is pictured with some of the competitors.

One new entrant and one student looking for help from NSA members.
NSA has been contacted by 20-year-old Conor McCrossan, who is looking for farmers in central Scotland who have foster lambs they may ‘sell cheap or donate’ to help him establish a small flock as a way into sheep farming. He has a shed set up and colostrum and milk replacer at the ready! Email Conor at

Also Tomas Richards, who is studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Aberystwyth University, is looking for a work placement with a focus on breedint – either on a large sheep farm or an industry company. He is looking for a placement from January to September 2014 anywhere in the UK, but will require accommodation if travelling any distance from his home in north Herefordshire. Tomas has some experience working with sheep and can be contacted at or 07800 832768.


NSA Welsh Sheep: Tuesday 21st May at Beili Ficer Farm, Llansawel, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 7JT. More information here.
NSA Highland Sheep: Thursday 30th May at Dingwall Mart, Dingwall, Ross-shire, IV15 9TP. More information here.
NSA North Sheep: Wednesday 5th June at Crimple Head Farm, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1QT. More information here.
NSA Sheep South West: Tuesday 11th June at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ. More information here.
NSA Sheep Northern Ireland: Monday 1st July at Ballymena Market, Woodside Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, BT42 4HX. Email Edward Adamson for more information by clicking here.
Sheep Breeders Round Table: Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd November at Eastwood Hall, Nottingham. More information available later in the year.
Details of next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here




1st March 2013 – NSA Members’ Update

Fluke and CAP reform dominate NSA UK Policy and Technical meeting.

Tuesday this week (26th February) saw the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee, which meets four times a year to discuss key policy areas, gather in London. There was an extensive agenda but the two items drawing passionate comment from our English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish representatives were liver fluke and Defra’s attitude to CAP reform. There was real strength of feeling about the damage caused by liver fluke and the lack of understanding about the different products available – and specifically that triclabendazole products are the only ones that kill immature fluke but care needs to be take not to cause resistance to the drug. As always, NSA recommends members visit, but we are also working in a number of other areas to ensure the need for new tools is fully appreciated by the wider industry.

Frustrations around CAP reform was also voiced and specifically that Defra and Owen Paterson are still calling for smaller budgets and increased modulation despite opposition from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and every single farming stakeholder group. Ideas were discussed to keep up NSA pressure in this area.

Horsemeat dominates NFU conference.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and NSA Chairman John Geldard both attended the NFU conference on Wednesday and Thursday (27th and 28th February) and noted the number of commitments to build sustainable transparent and trusting supply chain relationships, as a result of the horsemeat scandal. The silver-lining in the black cloud of the horsemeat situation is surely the opportunities to come out of it, and the important thing will be taking advantage of promises from retailers and trying to make sure it is not just a short-term scare that disappears quickly with everyone falling back into the same old mode.

On CAP, Phil reports: “Owen Paterson reiterated his committed to reduced CAP budgets and modulation and was seemingly blind to the real situation. He does not seem to grasp that virtually no livestock farms would be viable without Pillar One (Single Farm Payment) and Pillar Two (RDP and agri-environment schemes) and how he thinks they can get that viability from the market is baffling. In some ways his drive and determination is valuable to us, but in others not helpful at all. At least there is more talk of LFA farmers being better recognised, with increasing acknowledgement of the special public goods they provide and the fact there needs to be better ways of rewarding them.”

NSA Scotland’s George Milne challenges Secretary of State for Scotland.

Last week saw NSA Scotland Regional Development Officer George Milne spent the day with Michael Moore MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, visiting a family-ran upland farm in Perthshire. Mr Moore heard about the challenge facing the sheep sector (including distribution of levy money throughout the UK) from NSA Scotland, NFUS and QMS. George also specifically raised the issue of having to split older carcases and gave Mr Moore a copy of the NSA report “The complementary role of sheep in Less Favoured Areas”.

Wool takes over London.

A wonderful sight will be hitting later this month with the Campaign for Wool set to transform Somerset House in central London into ‘Wool House’ to show all the different ways wool can be used for home furnishings, fashion and top-notch design projects. NSA is supporting the project by sourcing live sheep for visitors to see alongside the wool exhibits, and hopes the showcase will turn increase awareness of the sheep and wool sectors. If you happen to be visiting London on 13th-24th March (sheep present 14th-16th) please come and see us – admission is completely free of charge between 10am and 6pm.

VOLUNTEER NEEDED: Given we are taking sheep into the centre of London, the exhibition at Wool House on 14th-16th March will require people familiar with sheep to be present the entire time – not only to watch the sheep but also answer all the questions visitors will have about sheep farming. We particularly need a volunteer for Saturday 16th March and will pay all travel costs and related expenses for them to get to London for the day (10am-6pm). If you would like to help out, or know someone who would, please email ASAP.

Future plans for Mutton Renaissance.

Also during the week of ‘Wool House’, a Mutton Renaissance day is being held on Monday 18th March at the Innholders Hall, 30 College Street, London, EC4R 2RH. The event will be looking at ways forward for the Mutton Renaissance and will include a review and discussion of the research programme carried out into the operation of the mutton supply line by England Marketing. There will also be an excellent lunch under the direction of Herbert Berger, a member of the Academy of Culinary Arts. Pre-booking is essential – call 01684 899255 or email

Emergency authorisation granted for bracken control.

Confirmation came on Wednesday (27th February) that Asulam products will be permitted for use this summer, under emergency authorisation permits. Authorisation will have to be sought each year and in 2013 can be issued from 20th May, for spraying from 1st July to 16th September. Anyone wishing to seek authorisation should contact their local asulam distributor; more information can be found at


15th February 2013 – NSA Members’ Update

Big promotion of English meat this weekend – and massive boost to Scottish lamb on the way.

Look out for promotion of British meat in your newspaper this weekend, as both Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) and NFU have paid for adverts to appear across the national press. This is in direct response to the horsemeat scandal and the adverts are designed to reassure consumers that products carrying the Red Tractor logo are traceable and trustworthy. The RTA adverts, which carry the Red Tractor, Quality Standard English Beef and Quality Standard English Lamb logo, states: “Now more than ever, it’s important to know the meat you’re buying comes from a trusted source. All fresh beef, lamb, pork or bacon that carries the Red Tractor or Quality Standard labels meets high production standards and is fully traceable back to independently inspected farms in the UK. It’s the easiest way to be sure of the provenance of the meat you’re buying.”

And in Scotland, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead’s promise of £250,000 to promote Scotch Lamb has been confirmed with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) now having funding for addition lamb promotion. This is in direct response to pressure from the sheep sector (including a one-to-one meeting with NSA Scotland and a cross-industry meeting chaired by NSA Scotland) for Mr Lochhead to support lamb producers struggling with low farmgate prices. A further boost has been provided by Mr Lochhead with the promise of another £750,000 in the future, to promote Scotch Lamb, Scotch Beef and Scotch Pork.

Take action on liver fluke NOW to minimise losses.

The number of thin ewes about has prompted SCOPS to urge farmers to take immediate action. Peter Baber, sheep farmer and SCOPS chairman, says: “While there are a number of reasons why ewes may be thin, a liver fluke burden is still a major risk factor. The challenge from high levels of liver fluke on pasture continued throughout the first two months of 2013 and many farmers seem unaware that if sheep are put back on high risk pastures they will need to be re-treated with a flukicide five to six weeks later to avoid losses. This means treatments are required more frequently than farmers are used to and SCOPS suspects that there is also confusion because some products used are persistent against worms, but not against liver fluke.”

Advice from SCOPS:-

Check ewe body condition and identify thin ewes NOW. Look for symptoms such as bottle jaw.

Segregate thin ewes and increase feed levels according to a forage analysis. Even though treatment may have removed the parasites, some ewes will have badly damaged livers and will need additional inputs to get them through lambing.

Follow up any sheep going direct to an abattoir. Ask for feedback and if livers are rejected, find out why.

Investigate losses and other possible causes of thin ewes – ask your vet to carry out post mortem examinations on deaths and discuss actions to minimise losses in the run up to lambing.

Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up to date; Black Disease is a major risk where livers have been damaged by fluke.

SCOPS also says farmers need to start planning ahead now to minimise the impact of liver fluke next season:-

Reduce the amount of pasture contamination this spring by using a treatment that kills any adult liver fluke that have survived in the sheep. Consult your vet or adviser to make sure you choose the right product.

Implement management controls where possible. These include identifying the high risk areas on the farm and putting measures in place that will avoid them. Practical steps include fencing off wet areas and attending to leaking troughs, pipes and drainage.

Plan to test that your flukicide is working. On high risk farms where triclabendazole (TCBZ) has been heavily relied on it is vital to check that it is still working effectively. While there is some resistance to this treatment it remains an important weapon against immature fluke and SCOPS is concerned that many people have mistaken re-infection this winter with treatment failure.

More information can be found at

NSA Northern Region welcomes a new Chairman and recognises a stalwart of the industry.

The NSA Northern Region AGM on Wednesday evening (13th February) saw Geoff Lawn complete his two years as regional Chairman and hand over the reins to Adam Watson of Brampton, Northumberland. Mr Watson is a keen supporter of sheep genetics and the next generation of producers; he appeared in Farmers Guardian last week, talking about his role as NSA North Sheep 2013 Chairman – read the article here.

Also at the AGM, the T.I. Allinson Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the sheep industry in the North of England went to auctioneer Stuart Bell. His nomination from the North of England Mule Sheep Association said: “Held in high regard as an auctioneer, valuer, advisor, judge and stockman, Stuart has proven his trade by working his way through the industry, gaining the respect of his clients, colleagues, friends and associations and show a dedication few could conceive.” Full the full citation here.

Positive visit to UK by French supermarket.

A group of 10 delegates from supermarket chain Intermarche (the largest supermarket chain in Europe with 1,800 stores) and processor SVA Jean Roze have spent three days visiting processors, producers and butchers, discussing UK lamb production and new cutting techniques. France remains the largest export market for UK lamb (taking around 60% of our exports) and it is hoped the trip, organised by Eblex, with strengthen this market further.

Sheep producers urged to take up performance recording.

There were firm words from Stuart Annand of Quality Meat Scotland this week when he urged more farmers to take up performance recording. He said: “The opportunity for increasing returns lies inside the farm gate of every flock, regardless of farm type or breed. Whether your motivation is for better replacement ewe lambs or simply heavier store/prime lambs, there is an EBV which, when correctly applied, will hasten your progress towards profitable, sustainable lamb production.” Find out more at

Two university students looking for on-farm placements – can you help?

Craig Massie is at Harper Adams University and looking for a paid work placement on a large-scale sheep and arable farm (preferably lowland) for a minimum of 12 months between July 2013 and September 2014. Craig says: “I’m from a 280ha working farm and have experience of a 900 Texel-cross flock, arable, pig production and some beef. I feel experience of sheep production and arable on a larger scale than what I have on the family farm would be very beneficial.” Craig is happy to consider placements anywhere in the UK and can be contacted at or 07713 132528.

Tomas Richards is studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Aberystwyth University and is looking for a work placement (preferably paid) on a large sheep farm with a focus on breeding and genetics. He is looking for a placement from January to September 2014 anywhere in the UK, but will require accommodation if travelling any distance from his home in north Herefordshire. Tomas has some experience working with sheep and can be contacted at or 07800 832768.

Request for farmers in NSA Northern region to help with university dissertation.

Northumbria University student Leanne Defty is looking for help with a project on organic versus non-organic farming. She needs both conventional and organic farmers to fill in her 10-minutes questionnaire at to help her investigate why prompts farmers to choose one method of farming other another. Anyone wishing to contact Leanne directly can do so at


8th February 2013 – NSA Members’ Update

NSA Cymru/Wales meets with Welsh Deputy Minister

A small delegation from NSA Cymru/Wales met yesterday with Alun Davies, Wales’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and European Programmes. Well over an hour was spent discussing current issues around the sheep industry in Wales and future CAP reform options. The Minister started by demonstrating a clear understanding that food production and sheep farming is part of the fabric of Wales and the Welsh economy. The sheep sector contributes 20% of the gross agricultural output of Wales, and its value goes far beyond its financial worth. Ensuring its future success is a key focus of policy, research, knowledge transfer, and market development activities.

Two priority areas of discussion for NSA included 1) recognition of the many public goods that come from sheep, particularly in LFA type regions, given the ongoing tensions between stocking levels and ‘habitat management schemes’, and even the removal of stock from some upland and common grazing areas; and 2) NSA proposals for an Animal Health Scheme as part of the RDP.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “We were grateful for the time given to us by the Minister. While it was a good opportunity to catch up on a wide range of issues the purpose of the meeting was to discuss changing policy drivers and the need to increase efficient and resource friendly production while protecting our environment – but recognising that sheep farming has been right at the centre of the formation of Wales’s landscape and ecology and should be in the future. The Minister was very accepting of our views and agreed that the type of scheme we were proposing had the potential to help take livestock farmers in the direction it needed to go.”

Legacy of liver fluke is evident in thin ewes.

NSA and other organisations and individuals involved in SCOPS met on Wednesday (6th February) and liver fluke was once again high on the agenda. Understanding of the lack of persistency of flukicides are raised again as an issue, with some producers not appreciating that flukicides only kill fluke in the animal at the time it is treated and do not protect it from picking any more up as soon as it returns to graze fluke-infected pasture. Information can be found on the SCOPS website by clicking here, but we urge you to talk to your vet if you have any specific questions or concerns about your flock.

The legacy of the unprecedented fluke challenge is evident in fields and lambing sheds all around the country, with ewes approaching lambing time in less than ideal body condition. With this in mind SRUC (Scotland’s Rural University College, previously SAC) issued advice this week from Dr John Vipond. His tips included:-

Split ewes into separate groups according to their condition score (taking into consideration, if your scan, whether they are carrying one lamb or multiples).

Make it as easy as possible for sheep to feed – don’t let old feed lie around and remember thin ewes, first time lambers and shy feeders should be given extra space.

Check the dry matter of feed and encourage intakes of poor silages by adding 0.5kg per tonne of sugar beet pulp pellets, or putting molasses on top. High protein additives like distillers dark grains can help low protein hay or straw, but any changes to the diets should be made gradually and not upset the rumen.

Remember the over-fat ewes too and give them only the amount of silage they can clear up in a few hours, or replace silage with straw at weekends.

Dr Vipond reminds farmers of the importance of the last six weeks of pregnancy: “It is when around 75% of lamb birth weight is deposited. The demand for nutrients, along with the production of colostrum and the growth of the lamb’s birth coat, puts a great strain on the ewes’ protein reserves. Supplementary protein is important for all ewes but especially thin ones. It must be digestible undegradable protein (DUP) to be effective. Consider feeding an extra 100g of soya bean meal per lamb carried per day for the last three weeks of pregnancy. It also provides energy, so concentrate levels can be reduced accordingly.”

Also on the fluke theme, there was also a real blow for milk producers (sheep and cattle) this week with the announcement of an EU ban on administering a flukicide to animals producing milk for the food chain, even during their dry period. Our understanding is that treatment is still permitted in specific scenarios (and that any product currently held in stock can still be used on milk animals) so it is important that anyone affected contacts their vet to discuss options.

Request for NSA members to give their views on sheep identification – and prizes on offer!

NSA member Diana Willoughby is doing a PhD at Exeter University studying the effect of legislation on the UK sheep and goat industry, specifically regarding electronic ear tags and individual identification. She would very much appreciate fellow members completing her survey at and is offering an incentive in the form of £50 prizes for randomly selected farmers who fill it in. Please direct any questions to Diana on 07432673140 or She says: “Please help! Your views are important and the results will be used to inform the National Sheep Association and farming unions who are still negotiating with Defra to reduce the impact of the legislation on owners.”

News from the levy boards – research of the Halal market, celebrity endorsement of Scotch lamb and positive news about red meat consumption.

Eblex is starting new research in March into the Halal meat market, as a result of the Office of National Statistics 2011 Census highlighting a 1.2m growth in the Muslim population in the decade since 2001, making it the second largest religious group in England and Wales, representing 2.7m people (4.8% of the population). Eblex will look at issues including how and where Muslim consumers shop for meat, which species and cuts they buy most frequently and what influences the decision of where to shop.

Scottish TV weather presenter Cat Cubie has been promoting Scotch lamb and sympathising with farmers about the challenges they have been facing as a result of the exceptionally wet conditions. As well as spending time in Aberfeldy, Perthshire, this week with Scottish sheep farmer Martin Kennedy, the TV and radio celebrity will soon be meeting some of Scotland’s top butchers and chefs to hear more about how to prepare a range of simple, delicious Scotch Lamb dishes.

Making a nice change from all the negative stories about eating red meat, a paper funded by Eblex and the British Pig Executive (Bpex) is due to appear in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin saying red meat plays a vital role in human nutrition throughout our lives. A team of experts studied data from 103 previous scientific papers and concluded that including red meat as a staple of your diet, whatever your age, can help cut the gap between recommended intakes of essential minerals and the current lower rates for many people, while helping to boost the immune system and stimulate cognitive function. Find out more here.

Spot the deliberate mistake?!

Many of you will have noticed the mistake in last Weekly Update, in that the Farmers Club is of course based in London and not Ludlow. The fault lies in the writer of that particular paragraph visiting South Shropshire far more often than London! Apologies for any confusion.


1sth February 2013 – NSA Members’ Update

‘Glimmer of light’ for lamb price.

NSA is watching market prices carefully and recognising that they are not where they should be in order to even cover costs. This week has shown a glimmer of light with prices having risen very slightly, and this is particularly encouraging when you consider numbers sold have been slightly higher too. The situation is particularly bad for lighter hill type lambs and there is little respite from the poor prices and few easy options for the farmers. The wet weather and snow, along with limited abattoir slot availability, has contributed to a backlog of lambs on farm and I guess the forecast for weather and market alike is unsettled and turbulent, although brighter times will surely come.

NSA and NFU meet with potential providers of the England Sheep Movements Database.

Collaborative working makes sense in so many ways and it was good to be part of a joint NSA/NFU meeting on Monday (28th January) where a group representing both organisations met with all the interested bidders for the England sheep movements database tender. In all, four companies had the opportunity to explain their approach to the tender and to ask and receive questions from industry with the hope that their tenders will reflect sheep farmers’ interests and needs, including ensuring no additional costs for reporting statutory information. Bids have to be submitted by 6th March with Defra’s decision following on from then. Both NSA and NFU have made it clear that we will work constructively with the future provider to ensure the database is as straightforward and practical as possible whilst giving the industry maximum protection and ensuring safe governance of information held.

NSA continue to fight on CAP reform.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker and Chairman John Geldard took the opportunity of a meeting with Owen Paterson’s Senior Adviser in Nobel House on Tuesday (29th January). This made a good opportunity to get our views across regarding his lobbying position on CAP reform and to emphasise the importance of both First and Second Pillar payments to the precarious viability of many sheep farms. We also had the opportunity to impress on him how this last season has highlighted our vulnerability in terms of food security and that, for agriculture to optimise its contribution to economic growth, the Government must play its part in reducing red tape and investing in maintaining infrastructure such as drainage ditches and rivers.

We also explained our proposals for the potential Animal Health Scheme under RDP (Pillar Two) and reinforced our view that this scheme has the potential to shift CAP drivers closer to our political and social needs – resource efficient and climate friendly food production while maintaining and enhancing our environment.

This week also saw Wales open a consultation period on the future of the RDP. While NSA will be responding to that consultation we have also tabled our proposal of the Animal Health scheme to the Welsh Government, and have engaged with the majority of stakeholders who sit on the Welsh Government’s Animal Health and Welfare Steering Group. Work will continue in this area, hopefully gaining widespread acceptance of the Animal Health Scheme as it is a scheme would see money in farmers’ pockets (rather than the alternative proposal of groups accessing RDP funding to deliver training programmes and schemes for farmers instead).

NSA Vice Presidents come together to discuss top sheep sector issues.

The NSA has a number of Vice Presidents, who have traditionally been previous Chairmen of NSA but also include individuals who have been nominated and approved at AGMs. They therefore have deep knowledge and long involvement in the association and it was a great occasion on Wednesday (30th January) to have many of them meet together at the Farmers Club in Ludlow, led by NSA President the Duke of Montrose.

As you would expect with the depth of knowledge within the room, there were some very detailed discussions around some of the more difficult issues we need to address on behalf of the sheep industry. The meeting started with a review of NSA activities over the last year and went on to identify work that was needed to address barriers to the sector. This included:-

TSEs, scrapie and SRM controls, particularly when no risk has ever been identified and we are seeing cattle controls being relaxed

Sheep scab, acknowledging that this has become a bigger issue for the industry and we need to encourage best practice as widely as possible well, as put pressure on those who should be enforcing existing controls

Issues around differing policy and regulation due to national devolution, including the share of red meat levies

The impending new EU Animal Health law.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “This was a valuable get together that will result in pushing forward in these areas – even if we have to accept that progress will never be as fast as we might like.”

Deadline extended to fill in British Sheep Breed Survey.

For anyone who did not fill in the 2012 British Sheep Breed Survey, the deadline has been extended to 28th February. This survey will provide vital information for the industry so we do urge you to fill it in. If you’ve lost the paperwork, visit the Signet website by clicking here. Poppy Frater, EBLEX livestock scientist says: “We’re very grateful to the 12,000 producers who have completed the survey so far. However, we’re keen that as many flocks as possible are represented, so we have decided to extend the deadline to the end of February. Ouessant ewes and Beltex-Soay crosses have been among the surprises so far, so the results are guaranteed to make interesting reading!”

New tools on offer from Eblex – data on competitor countries and carbon footprint calculator.

Eblex has extended its website with reports from the major nations that produce, consume and trade sheep and beef products. The reports provide information on livestock populations, slaughtering and production, trade in products and live animals, prices and outlooks, for countries such as the USA, New Zealand, Australia and France. These reports replace the biannual International Meat Market Review and will be updated each time new information becomes available. Click here to find them.

Also click here to find Eblex’s new Sheep Carbon Footprint Tool, created in partnership with the E-CO2 Project, and designed to help lamb producers find the where the most efficient gains can be made in cutting the environmental impact of their own sheep enterprise. Users can input information on fertiliser use, feed per lamb and daily liveweight gain to see their current carbon footprint and then manipulate the values to see, for instance, how their footprint would be affected if they managed to get a greater daily liveweight gain or reduced fertiliser use. The online carbon calculator tool is free to use, but a log-in identity does need to be created by each user the first time they access it.

Money-making opportunity for sheep farmers with fields near Cheltenham Festival.

We have been contacted by a company who would like to investigate promotional opportunities with sheep farmers who have fields next to roads that visitors use when travelling to and from Cheltenham Festival. If you farm in this area, or know anyone who does, please contact Clemmie on, 02077 362494 or 07729 042218.

NSA regions are all set for this summer’s sheep events.

There will be five NSA Sheep Events this summer and all five organising committees are working hard to put on fantastic events in their area. This week the NSA North Sheep committee announced the appointment of Heather Stoney as Assistant Organiser, to compliment the work of Julie Sedgewick by assisting with pre-show logistics and the organisation of many of the show classes. These will include stockjudging, lamb selection, NSA North Sheep Young Shepherd of the Year, Ready Steady Cook, a new sheep shearing competition, demonstrations of rural crafts and a traditional farmers market and craft stalls. The dates of the five events are:-

NSA Welsh Sheep. Tuesday 21st May at Beili Ficer Farm, Llansawel, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA19 7JT. More information here.

NSA Highland Sheep. Thursday 30th May at Dingwall Mart, Dingwall, Ross-shire, IV15 9TP. More information here.

NSA North Sheep. Wednesday 5th June at Crimple Head Farm, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1QT. More information here.

NSA Sheep South West. Tuesday 11th June at Moortown Barton, Knowstone, South Molton, Devon, EX36 4RZ. More information here.

NSA Sheep Northern Ireland. Monday 1st July at Ballymena Market, Woodside Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, BT42 4HX. Email Edward Adamson for more information by clicking here.

As we look forward to the summer’s events, don’t forget all the pictures from NSA Central Region’s Winter Fair last week can be found by clicking here.

25th January 2013 – NSA Members’ Update

NSA Central Region Winter Fair celebrates young people in the sheep industry.

The NSA Central Region Winter Fair, held at Bakewell Agricultural Centre yesterday (24th January), proved to be a big success despite the wintery weather conditions. Three separate competitions for young people added to the positive atmosphere of the day and full congratulations must go to the NSA Central Region and the event organisers for putting such a great event on. It was a particularly good day for Ellen Helliwell, who proved her shepherding abilities by taking the Overall and Under 21 titles in the Young Shepherd Competition. For full results click here, and find more on the event’s seminars later in this Weekly Update email.

Significant step forward in removing EID from cross compliance.

MEPs voted this week to remove sheep EID from cross compliance.  Although there is still some way to go before this might be implemented it is a significant step forward and is evidence that the work of NSA and other farming bodies has an impact and that policy makers do listen to reason.The Agriculture Committee in Brussels backed a proposal from a German MEP to remove EID from cross compliance rules when voting on amendments to the CAP reform package on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  The European Commission will now have to reconsider their tough stance before final negotiations take place in March.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said: “We should not underestimate the work that has gone on to get us to this position – work to provide evidence of the level of practical accuracy of EID technology and work to convince key influencers that cross compliance penalties based on EID failures is unfair and risks damaging the success of the sheep industry. This is a very welcome step forward but we need to keep up our work and we will not get to  the finish line until EID is not associated with cross compliance penalties.”

George Milne, Development Officer for NSA Scotland, said: “There were a number of very successful outcomes for the sheep sector as a result of the votes that took place in Brussels, but one which is of major interest to sheep farmers is with regard to EID of sheep. MEPs must be congratulated for taking this decision, as although it still has to be approved by the full parliament, it is a significant step forward. If this is fully approved it will bring a huge relief to farmers across the country who become extremely concerned about trying to achieve an unrealistic target of 100% accuracy in recording sheep movements.”

Thoughts for those affected by the threat of closure at Welsh Country Foods.

With the future of the Welsh Country Foods plant on Anglesey hanging in the balance, and the future of several hundred jobs at threat, the NSA is concerned that the sheep industry and the businesses that surround it are so locally vulnerable to decisions made nationally. The reasons behind Asda’s decision to move their supply away from Welsh Country Foods are for them, but the wider impacts that come from this decision are getting clearer by the day and our thoughts go to the people and families whose livelihoods are now at risk. We are where we are with abattoirs and slaughtering capacity (and levy collection too), and there would be few who had not questioned the ‘unintended consequences’ of our slaughtering becoming so centralised and rationalised. While in an ideal world the entire supply chain would use triple bottom line accounting of the effects of their decisions, the reality is somewhat lacking.

NSA Scotland meets Richard Lochhead to discuss action on lamb prices.

Reporting on a meeting between NSA Scotland and Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead on Wednesday (23rd January), which discussed a better deal for the sheep industry by repatriating levy funds and increasing lamb consumption in Scotland, George Milne says: “We had a very constructive and proactive meeting to look at the options for both short term and long term prices and the market potential. For the immediate situation we welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s offer to look at a funding package to explore a number of initiatives to help the current desperately low prices. One option here would be to have a credit assurance scheme to underpin export markets. This would significantly help the sales of lamb into other EU countries, such as Spain and Portugal, and may well lead to new markets for Scotch Lamb elsewhere in Europe.”

Commenting on the longer term Jimmy Sinclair, NSA Scotland Chairman, says: “We will be holding a joint meeting with NFUS and QMS next week to set up a three-year plan for the sheep sector in order to try and avoid these low prices which farmers have had to experience over the last few months. The aim of this would be to see Scotch Lamb recognised worldwide in the same way as Scotch Beef, Scotch Salmon and Scotch Whisky.”

Huge appetite for seminars at NSA Central Region Winter Fair.

The four seminars at the NSA event yesterday (24th January) attracted incredible interest, with standing room only a several points through the day. Phil Stocker reports on the two seminars he was involved in:-

The CAP reform seminar has three speakers:-

David Mottershead, Defra’s lead negotiator on Pillar One (Single Farm Payments) in the EU updated delegates on progress in CAP negotiations, saying there was still a lot has to be decided, including the budget, and so it was not accepted that the earliest implementation could be January 2015 (not the originally plan for January 2014). The detail continues to include greening, capping of payments and the definition of active farmers, all of which are hugely influential for the UK.

Peter Garbutt spoke about the position and concerns over some of the proposals and emphasised the most important issue was protecting the current level of Pillar One payments and avoiding further modulation of funds to Pillar Two (RDP).

Phil Stocker outlined NSA proposals for a potential Animal Health Scheme as part of Pillar Twp, making the case that neither Pillar One or Pillar Two currently incentivize what we need to see – i.e. quality, efficient and resource-friendly (climate friendly) production.

Discussion focused around the need for incentives for young people and the case that the problem was not attracting young people into agriculture but making sure there are steps on the ladder exist for them. The case was also strongly made that keeping money within the farming community led to greater economic activity, which had wider benefits. This brought up the definition of an ‘active farmer’ and if it was right that substantial amounts of CAP monies went to shareholders of national companies not associated with primary farming, or to landowners that were not involved in productive agriculture.

The ‘Landscapes, leisure, and livestock – have we got the balance right?’seminar focuses on whether we could move to a better balance of farming activity and stocking levels alongside providing the wide basket of public goods that are expected by society. Although there is still work to do, particularly in ensuring better regional consistency of approaches, it seems to tide is turning with our conservation bodies and agencies agreeing farming and farmers are a central part of the attraction of these areas, and also central to the successful future management.  Will we ever get the balance right? Probably not for everyone all of the time, but public needs and wants can change remarkably quickly and the farming community has always demonstrated resilience and innovation whatever is asked of them. The mood of delegates seemed to agree that the balance of environment and farming was completely interdependent and intertwined – and that the economic benefits of greater environmental recognition would continue to be important in the future. There does seems to be a far better acceptance that sheep farming has been a central part of the ecology of upland areas and that stocking level reductions and removal have gone too far in many cases, but it is also clear there are always opportunities to do more to protect environments and improve water and wildlife habitats. The areas of contention were more in the areas of tenancy agreements, moves towards shorter term agreements and issues of who receives the agri-environment scheme payments. For a while the seminar went in the direction of wildlife management and protected status of species, in particular badgers and their unrecognised effect on ground nesting birds – but that is another subject entirely ….

Ensure clean stock to avoid additional cost at slaughter.

Eblex has issued a reminder to present only clean, dry stock for slaughter or risk paying penalties to processors, who have to meet strict Food Standard Agency rules and will put in place additional controls if necessary (such as clipping animals pre-slaughter or operating on a reduced kill line speed). Eblex recommends switching stock to a drier ration and providing adequate straw prior to slaughter. Visible signs of dirt can also be removed by clipping as a final consideration. Earlier in the process, sheep can be dagged before being introduced to finishing diets.

Sheep farmer and NSA member takes the reins at Newton Rigg College.

This week saw official publication of Matt Bagley’s appointment as the new Head of Agriculture at Newton Rigg College. He will oversee land-based courses in agriculture, countryside management, gamekeeping, forestry, horticulture and engineering, having previously been Programme Leader for the Agriculture and Sheep Unit at Reaseheath College. Matt sits on the NSA Central Region and the NSA English Committee and will continue to be active in this region for the time being, despite Newton Rigg’s location in Cumbria.

Commenting on his new role, Matt said: “With the pressures of providing food for the world’s growing population, the challenges for tomorrow’s farmers cannot be underestimated. Working with young people to provide first class education across the land-based sector is not only a privilege but vital to the success of Britain’s agricultural industry and efficient food production.” Newton Rigg has recently initiated a £3m investment in the campus and the college farms, including a new dairy unit and re-introduction of a dairy herd, and new sheep housing for Low Beckside Farm 1,100 breeding ewes. Newton Rigg is also the National Centre for Uplands.

NSA EVENTS DIARY (all 2013 NSA events, including next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here)

NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Plough, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Panel to include speakers from NSA, BWMB and Dunbia; open to members and non-members; refreshments available. Details from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or

NSA NI Lambing Meeting: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Valley Hotel, Fivemiletown. Open to members and non-members.

NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.

NSA Cymru/Wales AGM: Monday 18th February, 2pm at Hafod Y Hendre on the Royal Welsh Showground, followed by Prof. E. Wynne Jones (OBE, FRAgS) speaking about ‘How will CAP Reform affect sheep farming in the future? What kind of shepherd will there be in 20 years’ time?’ Open to members and non-members. Click here for an agenda.

NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 20th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre.

NSA Scotland AGM and Dinner: Saturday 2nd March at Dunblane Hydro, Stirling – 4pm for the AGM, 7pm for the Dinner. Tickets (£30+VAT) available from Caroline Orr on 07966 590251 or

21st December 2012 – NSA Members Update

A look at the lamb market in the festive season, from Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive.

Finished lamb prices are in the doldrums with a backlog now building up and affecting store values too. Deadweight prices currently being offered should be close to 3.40p-3.45p/kg dw for good spec lambs and anything less than that should be questioned. Upland wether lambs are being reported at giveaway prices, cull ewes just as bad, and anything members can do to hold these without going out of spec or dramatically increasing costs must make sense.

So given a hungry world and reported food inflation, where is it all going wrong? Well two things are clearly behind the current price malaise; the weather having resulted in the seasonal high tide of lamb sales being later than usual and farmers being forced to sell because of a lack of keep, combined with many underfinished lambs being taken on and finished with a bit of hard feed; and then this combining with NZ lamb hitting our shores. Disappointingly we have had many reports of supermarket offerings being heavily biased towards imported lamb with UK lamb seeing little shelf space, and even reports of supermarket staff who are telling questioning customers that ‘UK lamb is out of season’.It is all very well moaning, but what can we do?

According to official data, lamb sales have been up over the last quarter so the key has to be to encourage consumers to choose UK lamb and for supermarkets to sell it in preference. We can help do this at a NSA level but all members (and their wives or husbands) can help too by asking their local supermarkets where the UK lamb is, and why do we need so much imported lamb when UK lamb is plentiful at this time of year, and it comes with lower food miles and all the social, landscape, and environmental benefits that we know it delivers? If the major retailers are serious about building a sustainable supply of UK lamb based on sustainable farming then prices need to be above costs of production, and £3.45 doesn’t cut it for the vast majority.

I know it’s not easy, but anything that can be done at a farm level to market lambs in a more regimented way and more evenly through the year will help the supply chain and probably help the bottom line too.

Finally, for the post-Christmas market keep focused on hitting the weight and grade specifications through planned feeding and frequent handling – out of spec lambs don’t usually pay and they also disrupt the wider market.

Data suggests auction marts are not as ‘stressful’ as sometimes claimed.

An event at Bristol University on Monday (17th December) presented data on the stress caused by transport to different aged sheep, and while the final figures will not be published until next spring, they appear to indicate that sheep are incredibly robust when it comes to transportation and time in auction marts. Discussion by various stakeholders at the event concluded that addition rules and regulations are not needed, but rather enforcement of current laws surrounding transport (as NSA argued at the time of the Ramsgate incident).

Support for NSA suggestion of collection Schmallenberg data.

We have received a great deal of positive feedback from last week’s Weekly Update, in which we suggested that the industry should overcome the inability of AHVLA to collect information on Schmallenberg and do it ourselves. We are continuing to work on this and will know more in the New Year. In the meantime, we have received interesting information from XLVets and SAC.

XLVets says activity between 49 vet practices has allowed them to test bulk milk samples from up and down the UK and confirm SBV is ‘widespread across most parts of the UK’. Charles Lambert of XLVets says: “The provisional results confirm the virus is widespread across most parts of the UK. Scotland remains largely clear and most of England and Wales have returned strongly positive samples, but with a more variable pattern in the far north of England. This patchy pattern in Northern England probably reflected local weather and the numbers of midges blown in by particular winds.” XLVets says farmers should consider that deformities might be present, causing lambing and calving difficulties, and discuss with their vet what practical measures can be taken in advance.

Brian Hosie of SAC says “Our vet labs in Scotland have received many blood samples from cattle and sheep for testing for Schmallenberg virus antibody in the past few months. Many of those from England and Wales are seropositive for SBV antibody. All of the positive sera from animals in Scotland are from animals imported from England, Wales and the Netherlands. It might be worth considering the merit of pre-testing animals imported from the continent. We also have examined aborted and stillborn foetuses for evidence of SBV with the assistance of colleagues in Moredun. So far all have been negative for SBV. “This just goes to show that SBV is not the only thing to cause deformities, so please consider testing where appropriate.

Warning of scam by fraudsters targeting Single Farm Payments

Please be aware that fraudsters are operating at this time of year, in the knowledge that many farmers have received large deposits into their accounts for Single Farm Payments. The fraudsters tend to pretend to be the fraud department from you bank, so be on guard. RPA and banks have issued the following advice:

– Remember your bank will never request your full online password information.

– Banks would not request a token response used to log on to your online account.

– Your bank will not ask you to make a payment over the phone by using your online account.

– Be aware that if your bank does request you to call back, you need to ensure that you can hear a dial tone first or use a mobile to phone the bank directly (as the phone line may be held open by the fraudster).

– If you have any concerns, contact your bank.

Farmers in England have until 31st December to return annual return (later deadlines for Wales, Scotland and NI).

All producers should have now received their 2012 Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory forms, which carries a legal obligation to be completed and returned by 31st December (England), 7th January (Northern Ireland) or 31st January (Wales and Scotland). Defra has asked NSA to remind members that not sending in a completed annual inventory form does increase the risk that a keeper will be selected for a cross compliance inspection.

Advice for lambing in wet weather.

Rhidian Jones, SAC Sheep and Beef Specialist, has prepared a list of ideas to consider when faced with wet weather at lambing time:-

– Sell store cattle two to three months earlier to free up pens.

– Put mini mounds of woodchips in sheltered areas of fields to get lambs out of lying water.

– Use empty silage clamps for ewes and lambs or, if they have no roof, moving yearling cattle or dry cows here so indoor pens can be used for ewes and lambs. Or it may be possible to use plastic sheets or tarpaulins to fashion temporary roofs.

– Winter shear ewes to allow indoor stocking rates to be increased and make more room for ewes with lambs at foot.

– Use plastic lamb macs – and secure a supply now, in case they sell out later.

– Sell ewes with lambs at foot as a way to reduce grazing pressure in poor conditions (the sense of this will depend of the trade next year).

– Feed ewes with a good source of DUP in late pregnancy to ensure they have plenty of high quality colostrum and lambs are strong and on their feet and sucking quickly. Having a full belly and being on their feet is the best insulation a lamb can have!

Short-notice plea for sheep in Dorset for BBC filming on 30th December.

BBC Inside Out is doing report on the author Thomas Hardy and wants to film some sheep in Dorset on 30th December, along with a farmer or shepherd willing to talk about how farming has changed in recent decades. If you are available please contact Charlotte Westgate directly – 07720 671215.

Two new appointments ahead of the New Year.

Two people with new jobs for 2013 are John Macfarlane, director of the Alnorthumbria Veterinary Group and now Chairman of XLVets, and Liz Bowles, a farmer from Cullompton in Devon and now President of the Shropshire Sheep Breeders’ Association.

Did you miss our list of requests/offers for work placements last week?! Second chance to offer your help or receive some:-

– Many NSA members have added their details to our ‘Lambing List’, which has been sent out to NSA student members and others, meaning members should soon get vet students and other volunteers ringing up looking for work experience at lambing time. The universities and colleges will give the list to students after the Christmas holidays, so more enquiries should follow then too. If any members know of someone looking for work at lambing time, please ask them to email and request the ‘Lambing List’.

– We have also had a request to find work placements for six French students in Wales for three weeks in February. They will come individually or in pairs (depending on the farmer’s preference), mostly come from agricultural backgrounds and all have an active interest in sheep farming. They are aged 16-18 and require no payment, just accommodation and food. Anyone in Wales or the Borders should email if they are able to offer a placement.

– A 20-year-old Swedish girl – Julia Pettersson – is looking to come to the UK in March/April and stay for the summer or ‘as long as someone wants me for’! She has some experience and two working dogs. She says: “I would like to come to a place with heart and a will to pass on knowledge. I’m eager to learn and not afraid to work hard. I have a lot to give and would be so grateful for an opportunity. I only require accommodation and food.” Contact Julia at

– NSA has a number of overseas members and one such couple – John and Eadie Steele – are inviting someone from the UK to join them in Canada for a March-November placement, with the change of longer-term employment for the right candidate. All the details are at

NSA EVENTS DIARY (all 2013 NSA events, including next year’s ram sales can be found by clicking here)

NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow 1: Tuesday 22nd January, 7.30pm at the Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis. Panel to include speakers from NSA, BWMB and Dunbia; open to members and non-members; refreshments available. Details from Helen Davies on 01938 590535, 07976 803066 or

NSA Central Region Winter Fair: Thursday 24th January 2013 at Bakewell Auction Mart (by kind permission of Derbyshire Dales District Council). For enquiries speak to Bob and Anne Payne of the Central Region on 01142 883241 or 07803 744437, or Helen Davies, Event Organiser, on 01938 590535 or 07976 803066. Booking forms for trade stands and breed societies can be found here.

NSA Cymru/Wales Roadshow 2: Tuesday 29th January, 7.30pm at the Plough, Rhosmaen, Llandeilo. Other details as above.

NSA Northern Region AGM: Wednesday 13th February, 7.30pm at the Hired Lad, Penrith Auction Mart.

NSA Cymru/Wales AGM: Monday 18th February, 2pm at Hafod Y Hendre on the Royal Welsh Showground, followed by Prof. E. Wynne Jones (OBE, FRAgS) speaking about ‘How will CAP Reform affect sheep farming in the future? What kind of shepherd will there be in 20 years’ time?’ Open to members and non-members. Click here for an agenda.

NSA South West AGM: Wednesday 20th February, 7.30pm at Exeter Livestock Centre – please note this is the 20th February; the 27th February was a date circulated in error.

30th November 2012 – NSA Members’ Update

Complete you annual inventory to reduce risk of cross compliance inspection.

All producers will shortly be receiving their 2012 Sheep and Goat Annual Inventory forms, which carries a legal obligation to be completed and returned by 31st December (England), 7th January (Northern Ireland) or 31st January (Wales and Scotland). Defra has asked NSA to remind members that not sending in a completed annual inventory form does increase the risk that a keeper will be selected for a cross compliance inspection.

Independent research suggests problems with EID are more likely to be caused by the reader than the eartag.

Responding to claims by farmers that EID technology does not work, the Approved Livestock Identification Manufacturers’ Association (ALIDMA), which includes the majority of UK eartag manufacturers, commissioned research into the readability of EID tags in working situations. Results from the study, which was conducted independently by Adas, were presented at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair on Monday (26th November).

A total of 11,352 tags were read in the study – 805 brand new tags (of which 100% read successfully), 7,633 tags in lambs in two abattoirs (of which 99.5% read) and 2,913 in lambs and shearlings on four farm (of which 98.5% read). The successful read-rates were not always a first-time read, but investigation of non-read tags often showed the tag was not faulty, drawing attention to the importance of accurate installation, set-up and maintenance of reading equipment. This might be something complicated like the use of electro-magnets on kill-lines interfering with readers at abattoirs, or something very simple like a farmer not changing the batteries in his handheld reader.

ALIDMA said it hopes the research will reassure farmers the tags they buy are reliable, but that the industry needs to act to reduce the small number of tags that do break. The research is also vital for NSA and other stakeholder groups working with Defra to argue that tolerance is needed on EID, particularly as the high read rates in the research were the result of several re-reads, something that is not possible in a working situation. ALIDMA’s recommendations can be read here, and a full report will be featured in the Jan/Feb Sheep Farmer magazine.

Catherine Nakielny recognised for her contribution to the Welsh sheep sector.

Also at the Welsh Winter Fair, sheep farmer and industry consultant Catherine Nakielny was presented with the NSA Cymru/Wales Award, with Chairman David Pittendreigh praising her achievements as a farming representative, farmer and Nuffield Scholar.

As well as her role as an independent sheep consultant, and her work increasing production levels on the family farm at Talley, Carmarthenshire, Catherine sits on the NSA Welsh Committee, represents Wales on the NSA UK Policy and Technical Committee, is County Chairman of Carmarthenshire FUW and Chair of the FUW’s Animal Health and Welfare Committee. She is also a Wales representative for the Moredun Research Institute and a Farming Connect Rural Leadership Programme participant.

Her recent Nuffield Scholarship – called ‘Maximising returns through reducing methane emissions: an opportunity for the sheep sector‘ – saw her travel in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia looking at the need to promote the efficiency of production and environmental benefits of sheep production when addressing the issue of methane emissions. Read more about Catherine and her scholarship here.

Other awards presented at the Welsh Winter Fair included the first farmers to pass a course on liver fluke with Dunbia, Novartis Animal Health and Lantra. The day-long courses assess participants to see how much their knowledge has increased, which Dunbia says will help farmers improve efficiency on-farm and also help Dunbia receive a more consistent product. More courses are being developed, including for grassland management.

Thanet Council removes opposition to live exports from Ramsgate.

Having suspended live exports from Ramsgate in September and then ‘temporarily’ reinstating trade until the outcome of a judicial review, Thanet Council has now removed all opposition and asked operators of the ship ‘Joline’ to drop its legal proceedings. It is not yet clear if the High Court hearing, sought by Joline’s owners and transporters using the crossing to challenge the council’s decision to impose the ban, will go ahead on 11th December.

Local media coverage and activity against the trade is still active, particularly since recent bad weather has forced Joline to return to port twice in the last 10 days. It has been suggested that protesters have created a great deal of pressure for Joline to sail in high winds, as the activity of protesters means the police have to be present each time the ship loads, making organising and re-organising shipments very difficult. Farmers involved in the live export of lambs at the current time report that 45kg ram lambs were making Euro120 ( £96) per head in Holland last week and high demand for store lambs was pushing prices around £20 higher than in the UK.

Society has choices to make on land use and wildlife management, says Richard Benyon MP.

Addressing an audience at Reading University last night (29th November), Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, spoke about food, farming and the countryside, saying society had choices to make regarding both land use and how we manage our wildlife. Mr Benyon, who is the MP for Newbury and also a farmer, stressed that most of our landscapes and wildlife are related to farmland and farming activity, and that we have gone too far to think a natural balance in wildlife populations was possible. Addressing the question of ‘What do we want our countryside to look like in 2030?’, Mr Benyon’s response was clearly a vision of a more industrious countryside, with human activity contributing more to the economy and with good environmental outcomes expected. While this might chime with recent NSA work there is still a clear ambition from Ministers to reduce support to agriculture and ‘release UK farmers from restraining EU policies’. Interesting thoughts indeed and, while many may agree with the general sentiments, how we get there is a challenge lacking answers.

Remember flukicides are not persistent and at-risk sheep may show clinical signs just 4-5 weeks after treatment.

NSA is receiving reports of many farmers seriously struggling with fluke, which is no surprise given the wet weather, but is causing high losses on some farms. The advice from SCOPS is, if you do not already have a fluke control plan, urgently contact your vet or prescriber to discuss one, as the traditional treatment times are just not applicable this year.

Flukicides kill fluke at the time of application, but are not ‘persistent’, so the minute animals graze fluke-infested pasture again they get re-infected. And fluke numbers are currently so high sheep may show clinical disease 4-5 weeks after treatment. In the autumn acute disease caused by immature fluke is most likely, meaning triclabendazole (TBZ) is the treatment of choice, unless it is not effective on your farm. Resistance to some flukicides does occur but reinfection is more common. Another reason for drenches apparently not working is underestimating the weight of the animals, especially adult ewes.

SCOPS says using a flukicide may not be enough in very badly affected areas, so move animals to dry ground if possible, or even house them. Also be aware that while rumen fluke has been diagnosed on some farms, liver fluke is still the main threat – and that if you treat rumen fluke with oxyclozanide only adult liver fluke will be killed, leaving animals at risk from acute liver fluke. Click here for the SCOPS website.

Successful lambing will rely on keeping an eye on ewe condition scores and forage quality – and modifying diets if necessary.

Variable ewe condition scores and low quality/low intake forages means action is needed now for successful spring lambing, says Dr Colin Morgan of SAC Consulting. He warns that while supplementing poor quality silage may be necessary, there is a risk of over-feeding starchy cereals or causing metabolic upsets with sudden dietary changes.

“The stressful weather combined with an increase in sheep diseases caused by parasites has meant a difficult year for ewes, so their condition scores may be lower than usual, “he says, reminding producers that ewes should lamb in March at condition score 2.5-3, or 2-2.5 if lambing at grass. “For thin ewes, feeding should start earlier at nine weeks pre-lambing. Supplementary feeding levels by lambing will need to be higher at around 0.75kg compound/cereal per day split into two feeds. Do not leave it too late, score your ewes now and make planned changes to rations.”

Sales of ‘cuts not carcases’ has reduced drop in export sales.

The volume of lamb exported in the first nine months of this year has dropped by 6% – but the increase in bone-in and boneless cuts (from 22% to 26%) has counter-acted a 11% drop in carcase exports.

Paul Heyhoe of EBLEX/AHDB says: “While the overall volume of sheep meat exports in the first nine months of the year has fallen, largely driven by the drop in production, it has disguised some of the trends in the UK’s export performance. One of the key developments continues to be the ‘cuts not carcase’ approach. In contrast the positive figures for exports of bone-in and boneless cuts speak for themselves, which is very encouraging.”

Much talk about farm statistics – but treat figures carefully.

Confirmation by the UK Statistics Authority means the 2011-12 farm statistics are now being released, with media coverage of some aspects of the figures – for example, the BBC reported on the 23,000 female farmers now active in the UK, an increase of 6,000 compared to the number of men dropping by 5,000. But statistics must be handled with care – for example, the Welsh Government announced today (30th November) that the average farm business income for Welsh cattle and sheep farms was £34,600 (LFA) and £35,300 (lowland). This marks as increase of 16% on 2010-11 but makes no reference to rising input costs and, therefore, overall profit. Click here for more statistics.

NSA members invited to apply for a £1,000 Moredun Scholarship.

NSA members (who are all automatically associate members of the Moredun Foundation) have until 31st December to submit an application for three awards of up to £1,000 each from Moredun, offered in support of projects that may involve travel, work experience, science or the arts. More information at


NSA South West Open Meeting: Monday 3rd December at the Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum, Crediton, EX17 6DF.

A meeting with three speakers, open to members and non-members and followed by a supper. NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker will speak, as well as Brian Dallyn from the British Wool Marketing Board and also Bill Harper of Harpers Home Mix on the challenges facing the ewe flock during tupping and as the

Maedi Visna Accreditation Scheme

We would urge all new flocks to join the Maedi Visna Accreditation Scheme. If you have recently purchased stock then you should contact the Sheep & Goat Health Scheme, PO Box 5557, Inverness IV2 4YT, Telephone 01463 226995 for full details of the scheme.

SAC vets are urging sheep farmers who sell breeding sheep to join the Maedi Visna (MV) Accreditation Scheme, as the disease becomes more common in non-accredited flocks.

SAC Veterinary Investigation Officer Catriona Ritchie said: “Some farmers may think because MV is not widely recognised, that it is not worth joining the scheme but the incidence of MV is increasing.”

So our message to sheep farmers is that you can buy from an MV-accredited flock confident in the knowledge you’re not buying in the disease. In the unlikely event that there is a breakdown, early testing provides the best opportunity for eradication. By joining the scheme, your flock will benefit from regular testing.”

MV can cause severe economic losses in infected sheep flocks through deaths from pneumonia and wasting and its knock-on effects such as poorer fertility, reduced milk production resulting in increased lamb losses and lower weight gains in lambs. There are also losses from the premature culling of adult sheep because of mastitis, occasionally arthritis and paralysis.

If your flock is not part of the scheme then you may like to consider joining.

Contact Sheep & Goat Health Scheme, tel : 01463 226995.

If you want to check which flocks are in the scheme then consult their website
Survey Finds MV Infection Levels Doubled in 15 years – Sheep Disease Concerns.

Scottish Agricultural College News Release Number: 12N97 Date: 10th July, 2012.

The number of flocks infected with Maedi Visna (MV) virus has doubled in a 15 year period, increasing from 1.4% to 2.8%, a survey undertaken by SAC and Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency has found. The survey is the first to look at the level of MV infection in the GB flock since 1995.

Funded by EBLEX and HCC (Meat Promotion Wales) the survey also found that the number of infected sheep has increased four-fold, while the level of infection within infected flocks has increased from 13% to 24%. In addition to the evidence showing an increase in MV, the number of flocks suffering significant economic effects due to high levels of infection has also risen in recent years. However the number of cases diagnosed is currently low, compared with other common sheep diseases.

There is no cure for MV and no vaccine to prevent or control it. Infection spreads through close contact, so intensively-managed flocks tend to have more infected sheep. By the time that signs of infection are seen, usually years after the virus has been introduced, it has reached such a high level it is very difficult to control.

Visible signs of MV are not usually seen until about half of the adult flock is infected. The key signs are loss of body condition, poorer fertility, mastitis, increased twin lamb disease, smaller and weaker lambs born, leading to increased mortality. A lower volume of and poorer quality colostrum and milk can lead  to reduced lamb growth rates. Fortunately MV is not a disease that affects humans.

In heavily infected flocks an increased number of deaths in adult sheep are usually reported, often due to a secondary Pasteurella pneumonia. For example in a 500 cross-bred ewe flock, investigated by SAC, the adult mortality rate was 6% in 2010 and 8% in 2011. In just the first four months of 2012 it has reached 5%. In this flock, in a short period of six months, sixteen ewes had developed severe arthritis or hind limb paralysis, caused by MV, and had to be culled. The losses due to this increased mortality, compared to a typical flock with 3% mortality, were calculated as £10,210.

Another large, heavily-infected flock had a ewe mortality rate of 8% and was having to cull a further 70-100 ewes each year, due to mastitis resulting from MV. The flock had been experiencing a high level of mastitis for some time but it was not discovered until a few years later that MV was the underlying problem.

According to SAC vet, Catriona Ritchie

Sheep farmers in GB are fortunate the level of MV infection in the national flock is still at a relatively low level compared to countries like Spain, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, with significant numbers of infected flocks. Undoubtedly the existence over the last three decades of the MV accreditation scheme  has helped keep the infection levels in Britain’s flock at  a relatively low level, especially as many pedigree, terminal sire flocks are accredited free of infection. However flock owners should not be complacent. As this survey shows, levels of MV are rising.”

The advice to flock owners is to purchase uninfected sheep and use the MV accreditation scheme, to try and keep infection out of flocks. Producers should be aware of the signs of MV and if they are concerned that it may be present in their flock, should discuss this with their vet. The vet can take samples and, if the disease is confirmed, can advise on how best to manage the situation. In some cases culling and restocking may be the best option.

5th October 2012 – NSA Members’ Update

Availability of SBV vaccine lies in the hands of the VMD.

MSD Animal Health has pulled out all the stops to try to offer a vaccine as soon as possible, providing a dossier of information to the Veterinary Medicine Directorate (VMD) at the end of August. Applying for a provisional license rather than full marketing authorisation at this stage could allow the vaccine to gain approval in 60 days.

Ideally sheep would need to be injected with two 1ml-doses, four weeks apart before being protected, but MSD have also been trialling single dose vaccination and even vaccination of pregnant sheep, all with the aim of trying to offer some protection this season. NSA will keep you informed of developments, as we are on a knife edge as to the availability of a vaccine to help this season.

The live exports debate goes on

We are still awaiting the results of the Defra/AHVLA enquiry into the unfortunate happenings at Ramsgate port on 12th September – but since then all ports involved in live export for slaughter have suspended shippings until the findings become clear.

What has emerged is that there are serious questions over the decision to unload the sheep at the Ramsgate port where facilities are clearly inadequate. Surely it would have been possible for them to go to another local facility, manned by people used to handling sheep. There are also questions over the process of pre-loading veterinary inspection, if more than 40 sheep were actually lame by time of arrival then how were they approved pre-loading? There must be opportunities for everyone to learn from this process and ensure that this legal and valuable trade is done with the highest level of animal welfare and responsibility possible.

More than just a wooly idea.

The Campaign for Wool Council met on Monday (1st October) to discuss recent activities and those planned for the remainder of the year and into 2013. With wool week just a week away (it kicks off on 15th October) there are an impressive range of activities scheduled to promote the use of wool in clothing, interior design and the built environment.

For most this may appear a world away from what is happening with wool on the farm, but there is no doubt that it is raising interest, awareness and demand. This is mainly at the top-end of the market, but evidence suggests effects are trickling down and helping the wool price overall. More information on the Campaign and the huge range of international activities at

Exciting new NSA Sheep Area at Balmoral Show 2013

The NSA Northern Ireland Region is delighted to announce it is taking space at Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s 2013 Balmoral Show, providing a dedicated Sheep Area similar to those at the Royal Highland and Royal Welsh. This has been made possible by a new venue for the show in 2013, allowing enough room for a Sheep Area to be created adjacent to the sheep pens and judging rings. Dates for 2013 are 15th-17th May.

Edward Adamson, NSA NI Regional Manager says: “We plan to have a marquee split into exhibition and hospitality space for sheep breed societies and clubs, as well as a number of commercial companies relating to the sheep industry. Space is limited so I would ask that all those interested to contact me for prices and sizes as soon as possible, and definitely before Friday 14th December.” Contact Edward on or 07711 071290.

Impressive Farmers Weekly Awards recognise sheep farming excellence.

Phil Stocker and John Geldard represented NSA at the Farmers Weekly awards on Thursday (4th October), where Lord Sebastian Coe made for an excellent choice of compere for a highly successful evening.

The Sheep Farmer of the Year title was won by Neil Perkins of Dinas Island Farm, Pembrokeshire. The NSA offers him many congratulations, but also recognises the huge achievement of Duncan Nelless of Morpeth, Northumberland, and Charley and Andrea Walker of Buns, Scotland, for reaching the final of such a major competition.

The judge’s commendation for the winner read: “If there is one farmer safeguarding his future and subsequent generations in farming then it is Neil Perkins. In 2006 he set himself a six-year strategy to create an ultimate low-cost system, and today has nearly achieved his goal.”

Action required against liver fluke this autumn.

Eblex says producers need to take action against liver fluke this autumn, as the unusual weather patterns mean the risk of infection is particularly high, even on farms with no history of fluke problems.

Its advice includes:-

– Consider screening stock for the presence of fluke eggs in the dung or via blood testing. Abattoir feedback on rejected livers is also an important source of information.

– In the autumn, where there is a risk of acute liver fluke disease, triclabendazole (TCBZ) is the drug of choice, unless it has been established that there are resistant liver fluke on the farm. In this case get advice on suitable alternatives.

– Be aware of the possibility of re-infection if animals are put back on high risk grazing areas. Use management tactics such as moving stock to low risk fields, fencing off identified risk areas or housing stock. If animals remain in these areas, monitoring for infection is essential.

– Quarantine treatments for in-coming sheep are also likely to be needed due to the high risk of fluke infection this year.

– Make sure you dose correctly, do not over or under-dose. Be prepared to split groups if there is significant variation in the weight of animals in the group.

– Don’t rely on chemical treatment alone – management tactics are an essential part of liver fluke control.

– Seek veterinary advice on product selection and timing, preferably as part of a regular testing and treatment protocol set down in the herd health plan.

For an Eblex Better Returns Programme guide to fluke, supported by SCOPS, click here. For the latest NADIS forecast, click here.



The following is extracted from the NSA Members Update – 31 August 2012

NSA Breed Society Forum 21 Aug 2012

Check out the interesting and informative presentations from the Breed Forum last week on the Breeders Section of the Website.

Last weeks ‘Thought for the day’

My thought for the day in last week’s e news prompted a response from one member who cautioned me for being cavalier when I spoke of flocks of sheep being ‘super organisms’ suggesting that they should be treated as such in relation to disease management and identification. The member made the point, quite correctly, that we sell and buy sheep and are frequently mixing groups. It’s a complex subject to discuss in a paragraph or two and I would suggest we are both right – flocks of sheep become ‘super organisms’ – but when we mix them the organism changes and takes time to adapt and stabilise. This is where knowledge of what is being brought onto the farm, quarantine, quarantine treatments, and standstill periods come into play. At this time of year these are principles that can often prevent costs and losses later on.

Keep reporting sheep worrying

Members are encouraged to keep reporting cases of sheep worrying and attacks by dogs to NSA – and to encourage neighbours or contacts who may not be NSA members to report too. We are building an interesting picture and it is important to keep gathering information. To report cases please phone NSA on 01684 892661

Red Meat Training Programme and Sheep Lameness

In Wales, HCC, a member of Animal Health and Welfare Strategy Steering Group, is looking to help farmers tackle lameness in their flocks, and in the weeks running up to slaughter, reduce carcass damage and generally improve lamb presentation for the abattoir, ie preventing liver fluke, bruising and abscesses.

They will be present with a stand and information, during September, at Markets around Wales offering one to one advice. There will also be a selection of follow up training courses during September.

2012 NSA Events & Meetings:


NSA Northern Ireland Region – Get advice from the experts on abortion prevention and tupping preparation. National Sheep Association Northern Ireland invite you to:

‘Preventing Abortion, Preparing for Tupping.‘ Speakers include vets and college sheep specialists.

Tuesday, September 11, 8pm The Community Centre, Loughguile,

For details please contact Edward Adamson tel: 07711 071290.

NSA Marches Region AGMFriday 14th September 2012 at the Ludlow Food Centre 7.00 for 7.30 start – to be followed by a meeting titled ‘Local and Global Sheep Market’. This will take the form of a practical demonstration on adding value to the lamb carcase, to be followed by a second presentation reviewing the current global demands for sheep meat. For further details contact: Angela Weston, Regional Secretary email: Tel: 01454 260220

NSA Eastern Region 27th Annual Sale of Rams – Melton Mowbray Market – Friday 21st September 2012

Entries close on Wednesday 22nd August

Tel: 01953 607860 Email:

NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale 2012 – Monday 24th September

The Main Ram Sale will be held on at the Royal Welsh Showground.

NSA Eastern Region AGM

10th October 2012 commencing at 6pm

NSA South East Region AGM

15th November 2012

NSA Northern Ireland Region AGM

15th November 2012 (provisional)

Sheep Health and Welfare Conference – Wednesday 21st November

Delivering innovation with practical application for the farm

At Worcester Warriors, Sixways Stadium, Worcester.

To book your place email:

The following is extracted from the NSA News Update 3 Aug 2012

When purchasing rams for your flock take note of EBLEX advice:-

Invest in rams which are fit for purpose this season

EBLEX advise not to just focus on size, but look for successful matings and longevity ie at least 3 – 4 seasons so as to maximise the financial returns. Too many rams are culled prematurely due to infertility and feet problems or die after only two years of service.

Further information about producing fit for purpose rams can be found in Fit for Purpose Rams: A Blueprint for Breeders, available to download from

Lamb crop this year set to be highest since 2008 – tweets EBLEX

Forecasts from EBLEX and ADHB show a 2.5% growth in UK breeding flocks as at Dec 2011 and set to further rise steadily over the next 2 years. Along with higher carcass weights lamb production both for the home market and export are expected to be up on the last 4 years.

In line with NSA and Farmers Weekly Stamp Out Lameness Campaign, HCC is focusing resources on raising awareness and highlighting solutions through their Sheep Lameness project that aims to reduce the incidence of lameness in sheep flocks. This project will include delivery of a number of events as follows:-

4 market events:

6 August – NSA Early Ram sale, Builth Wells, LD2 3SY
20 August – Welshpool market, SY21 8SR
31 August – Llandovery market,SA20 OAW
6 September – Ruthin market ,LL15 1PB

6 practical / farm events:

16 August – James Price Ty Cooke farm, Mamhilad, Pont y Pool,  NP4 8QZ
28 August – Glynllifon College,Llandwrog, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL54 5DY
29 August – Llysfasi College,Ruthin, Denbighshire, LL15 2LB
17 September – Richard Tudor, Glanystwyth, New Cross, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 4AP
14 September – Coleg Sir Gar, Gelli Aur Campus, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, SA32 8NJ

Members in Wales requiring further information should contact Dewi Hughes, HCC’s Project Executive on 01970 625 050 or via email


NSA Members Update – 27th July 2012

SCOPS Technical Manual update

A new, 4th edition of the SCOPS technical manual is available on the SCOPS website. Although the manual is targeted towards vets and advisers it is also farmer friendly and available to all. Correct use of anthelmintics is vital if their effectiveness is to be maintained so do take the time to take a look.

Chinese Lanterns

NSA has joined forces with a number of other organisations to support an RSPCA campaign aiming to prohibit the use of Chinese lanterns. Although spectacular, there have been many cases where farm animals and wildlife have been injured and even killed through the debris caused by lanterns, even where lanterns are made from natural (non wire) materials. RSPCA are running a petition and aiming to get 20,000 signatures before delivering this to Government.  You can support this campaign by using the following link and adding your weight to this campaign

NSA Annual General Meeting

Your organisation’s AGM takes place on the 22nd August at 10am at the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, followed by Lunch and a Farm Tour of Duchy Home Farm, by kind permission of Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury. This will be an interesting day and to help us with organisation we would ask that you book in advance, and as soon as you can, if you are able to come. Take a look at NSA website for further details or e mail your attendance to

Farmers Happiest of all!

Phil Stocker takes a look at the ‘news of the week’

This week saw the publishing of the results of the Government’s ‘Well-being survey’ (which strangely I don’t remember taking part in). Reading the reports of the survey suggest that if you are working in agriculture in Scotland or Northern Ireland then you are the happiest people in the land, and even nationally those working the land are ‘happier’. Now, I know I talk to more farmers than non-farmers, but my recollections of conversations over these last few wet months mean I have no intention at all of having a conversation with a city dwelling office worker – life is tough enough!

Seriously though, we all know that the findings do have substance, and while sheep farming is hard work, in some of the toughest conditions, and sometimes even dirty, the satisfaction, camaraderie, chance to live and work in beautiful surroundings mean that farming is a great place to be.

2012 NSA Events & meetings:

NSA Wales & Border Early Ram Sale 2012 – Monday 6th August

At the Royal Welsh Showground.


NSA Breed Society Forum – Tuesday 21st August
At the RAC, Cirencester.
Invitation and agendas have been sent to all affiliated breed societies.

NSA AGM – Wednesday 22nd August, 10am
At the RAC, Cirencester. To be followed by Lunch and a Farm Tour of Duchy Home Farm, by kind permission of Duchy Home Farm, Tetbury. Further details on the website and in your Sheep Farmer magazine.

NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale 2012 The Main Ram Sale will be held on Monday 24th September at the Royal Welsh Showground.

Sheep Health and Welfare Conference – Wednesday 21st November

Delivering innovation with practical application for the farm

At Worcester Warriors, Sixways Stadium, Worcester. To book your place please email:

NSA Members Update – 15th June 2012

Dip Disposal Licenses

If any member have experienced problems with the licensing procedure please let the NSA office know –

Zero tolerance on EID

We want to hear from members who have had/are having SFP penalties applied due to EID non compliances, in particular if penalties have been applied for minor non compliance – please let the NSA office know –

NSA Members Update – May 2012

Changes to Bluetongue Directive

You will recall from a previous update that the Commission has indicated that they wish to amend the BT Directive to make the use of vaccine easier in order to provide member states with more flexibility in dealing with the threat of infection. These changes to the Directive were recently adopted by the European Council in December 2011.

ï‚· Before livestock holders within the EU can take advantage of these changes they need to be adopted by the European Parliament (EP) which is currently scheduled to take place at a Plenary session in February, this then has to be signed by the Chair of the Council and President of the EP which will take place at a further plenary session in March.

ï‚· The proposal is likely to be finally approved around April time and Member States then have 6 months to transpose the changes into national legislation.

ï‚· Until these changes have been officially agreed livestock holders in BT free areas will not be able to use vaccine for BT.

ï‚· We will be looking at what this is likely to mean and involve us doing in terms of changes to the legislation in the coming months and we will keep you updated on future policy options.

ï‚· Council Directive 2000/75/EC of 20 November 2000 lays down specific provisions for the control and eradication of bluetongue including specific rules on the use of bluetongue vaccine.

ï‚· In recent years, as a result of new technology, “inactivated vaccines” against bluetongue have become available which do not pose a risk of circulation of vaccine derived virus amongst vectors and unvaccinated livestock. The extensive use of such vaccines during the vaccination campaign in recent years has led to a significant improvement in the disease situation. It is now widely accepted that vaccination with inactivated vaccines is the best way to control and prevent the spread of bluetongue.

ï‚· In order to ensure better control against the spread of bluetongue virus and to reduce the burden on the agricultural sector posed by this disease, the Commission are amending the current rules on vaccination laid down in the Directive in order to take account of the recent technological developments in inactivated vaccine production. This will allow livestock holders to use vaccine within a free area and to vaccinate pre-emptively should they choose to do so.

ï‚· In the meantime it continues to remain important for all livestock farmers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and report any suspicion of a notifiable disease to their nearest AHVLA regional office.

Current Bluetongue Disease Situation in Europe and surrounding region

ï‚· Spain has now reported three outbreaks of BTV-1 in sentinel cattle. No clinical signs were observed.

ï‚· Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands presented evidence for the lack of virus circulation over the last two years (3 years for the Netherlands), which therefore fulfils conditions for disease free status to be granted. Similarly for Czech Republic and Slovakia.

ï‚· Germany continue to carry out surveillance, and have had no signs of disease in recent years and is considering options for going free within the near future. Commission had requested full data of German surveillance before consideration for freedom is made.

ï‚· Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are looking to jointly request the free status of bluetongue in early 2012.

 In Cyprus, the outbreaks of BTV have been serotyped as BTV-4 – origin unknown, but given proximity to Turkey that would be a likely source.

ï‚· In Greece nine outbreaks of BTV16 were confirmed in 2011. All cases occurred near Turkey. Four cases (three sentinels) in Rhodes, two cases (2
sentinels) in Chios and three in Samos. In all cases very mild clinical signs (when present). In most cases no clinical signs (sentinel bovines or serological findings in small ruminants).

ï‚· BTV-1 and BTV-4 continue to be reported from North Africa.

NSA Members Update – April 2012

Schmallenburg Update
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 239 UK farms reporting SBV: 25 in cattle and 214 in sheep farms in GB. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at:
Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:

NSA Members Update – March 2012

The Real Value of English Red Meat
A thriving English red meat industry makes a net contribution of £1.67 billion to the economy making it central to economic recovery and future stability, a new study has found. The study Real Value of English Red Meat revealed the English economy would lose £906 million in contributions to employment alone if the red meat sector became unsustainable.

It is the first analysis of its kind to look at the net contribution of the industry, painting the most realistic possible picture of the value the sector brings to the economy.

The report was produced by Matrix Evidence, which provides analysis for policy and management through operational research, economic appraisals and public policy evaluations, and commissioned by EBLEX and BPEX, the English beef and sheep and pig meat divisions of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Other findings include that of the 96,000 people currently directly employed by the industry, 91,000 of which are in rural areas, just over 20 per cent (20,256) would face unemployment if the English red meat sector was to cease. The demand created by farming in allied industries currently helps support an additional 772,998 jobs.

The full report is available in the publications section of the EBLEX website

Tips for livestock farmers at risk of drought.
With the chance of the drought in Southern England spreading, Eblex is urging farmers to take action. Its advice includes:-

– Monitor sward heights every two weeks to understand if demand is outstripping supply so decisions can be made early. Do not let sward heights go below 3cm, as animal performance will be low and grass recovery time will be significantly increased.

– Consider using electric fences to manage grazing and avoid allowing animals to range over a number of fields, giving the sward chance to recover and preventing over-grazing.

– Rotational grazing can help give grass the rest it needs. Using buffer feeding to reduce the speed of the rotation will ensure that the grass has the best opportunity to re-grow.

– Maximise first cut silage area by controlling grazing in the spring (don’t be too generous and waste early season grass).

– Consider planting a catch crop (such as kale, rape or turnips) prior to any proposed reseed to extend grazing later in the season.

– Conserve water supplies by harvesting rainwater from buildings where possible.

– Consider alternative forage crops (such as summer brassicas, chicory or red clover), while being mindful that while they may be more productive in drier periods, they need moisture during the establishment and growth phase

Schmallenburg Update
Schmallenberg virus (SBV) infection has been identified on 235 farms in GB. Twenty five of the positive cases have been diagnosed in cattle, 210 in sheep, and none to date in other species such as goats, camelids or deer. Currently, SBV infection has only been identified in areas predicted to be at risk of midge incursion from Northern Europe during summer / autumn 2011. The possibility that domestic (local) midges may have transmitted SBV within the affected areas cannot be ruled out according to AHVLA. Figures correct as of 30 March 2012

NSA would urge all producers where a suspicious case arises, to take advantage of the FREE and CONFIDENTIAL reporting service offered by AHVLA. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at:

Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:

NSA Members Update – February 2012

Welsh EID Database Announcement
Welsh Govt announced yesterday that they are not going to partner with Defra in the tender process that is due to go out later this month to develop a movement database.  Welsh Assembly will consider one of two options, to either develop their own bespoke database, or use an adapted version of the Scot EID system. There is not a timescale in place in Wales for any implementation yet. There is an assurance that Welsh Govt are committed to ensuring compatibility between whatever they use with Scot EID and the England system.

Therefore Defra is about to commence the tender process for a movements database for England only.  NSA, ideally placed as a UK organisation, will continue to work across all devolved areas, to ensure the industry has systems in place which are entirely compatible for all producers across GB. There are still opportunities to influence what the DEFRA tender asks for, so NSA’s policy team will be developing a strategic plan to present to Government.

NSA meeting with Jim Paice MP

NSA CEO and NSA Chairman, Phil Stocker and John Geldard, met with the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice last week (29th Feb). NSA raised serious concerns over the state of play with a range of measures relating to disease control, including the need to ensure current movement recording beyond the farm gate is being properly conducted centrally; the urgency of alternatives to the 6-day standstill that result in practical and effective measures; and of course the Ministers recent announcement of zero tolerance. All these issues continue to frustrate the sheep sector and NSA will keep up its work, aiming for a balance of lightening the regulatory burden while delivering effective security and risk control for the sector.

Upland Farm Incomes

It is reported that average farm business income in the LFAs increased by 49% between 2006/07 and 2010/11, but remains at a relatively low level – without the Single Payment Scheme and agri-environment payments on average grazing livestock farms would have made a loss in each of the last 5 years. 37% of grazing livestock farms in LFAs undertook a diversified activity and 26% indicated that all of their household income was provided by the farm. There was widespread feeling that there are fewer opportunities for wider income generation for upland farms than for farms elsewhere.

Reference RU Source – Rural information Centre

Schmallenburg Update
NSA would urge all producers to continue to remain vigilant, and where a suspicious case arises, take advantage of the FREE and CONFIDENTIAL reporting service offered by AHVLA. Information on the current disease situation in Great Britain is published on the AHVLA website at:

Please contact your local AHVLA Laboratory (England and Wales) or SAC Disease Surveillance Centre (Scotland) if you need further guidance:

NSA Briefing on the discovery of Schmallenberg virus in England. January 2012


Schmallenberg virus has been confirmed by Defra AHVLA to have been found on 4 farms in England, in the counties of East Sussex, Suffolk, and Norfolk. At this stage most farmers should do no more than be aware and extra vigilant – it is most likely that the infection was transmitted by insects during the late summer/autumn of last year and the risk of further infection being transmitted from these farms is low. There are currently no implications to trade and no “firewall movement barriers” being put in place in the UK, although Russia has put in place export bans on live ruminants and ruminant products from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, where Schmallenberg virus has been present for some time.

Guidance for sheep producers

Official veterinary advice is two-fold at the moment; Farmers are strongly encouraged to support the gathering of information and report any suspicions of Schmallenberg to their veterinary practice (see below for clinical symptoms), and secondly any imports of live animals from EU regions affected by Schmallenberg virus should be undertaken in strict consultation with veterinary advice and guidance.

The clinical symptoms in sheep include late abortion and birth defects/malformed foetuses and the NSA would encourage any sheep keepers that experience such occurrences to speak to their vets and consider post mortem testing. Producers in Scotland should also contact SAC Veterinary Services, and those in Wales and Northern Ireland their Government veterinary departments.

Schmallenberg virus also affects cattle with symptoms including fever, milk yield reduction, and diarrhoea. Defra have indicated that they will cover the costs of testing for Schmallenberg virus although post mortem costs will be at the farmers cost. There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Schmallenberg virus, vaccine manufacturers and laboratories are currently considering whether it would be possible and effective to develop a vaccine but estimates are that such a vaccine would be at least 2 years away. It is expected that animals that have been infected with Schmallenberg virus will develop immunity and production is likely not to suffer in subsequent years – however if experienced it could affect individual flocks seriously.


It may seem that there is little that farmers can do to protect their flocks, and in terms of vaccine protection this is true.  However there are things that farmers can and should do and these include:

– Support the gathering of information and reporting by speaking with their vet regarding any abnormalities in fertility, abortion, or lamb malformations

– Take veterinary advice before importing any animals from areas affected by Schmallenberg virus (details can be found on the defra web link below). The NSA would discourage any imports of live animals from these regions.

– Remember that the virus can be transmitted during periods when insect activity is evident, – but that clinical signs may not be seen until later in the season. Consequently always assess the risks of bringing stock onto your farm.

– Always practice the highest possible levels of general biosecurity and quarantine/separation whenever bringing new animals on site.

– Manage your stock to promote general health and vitality. This can be helped by good nutrition including optimum mineral and trace element levels, and through managing internal and external parasites. Given that there is no vaccine available do all you can to increase the ability of your flock to cope with disease challenges.

For more information please follow this link to the defra web site (note the alternative spelling – both versions are being used).

The NSA will continue to keep you informed of any developments via our web site, our regular e newsletter, and the Sheep Farmer magazine. If you do not receive the e newsletter and would like to please email with your membership number, to be added to the list of recipients.


Changes To EID Regulations – November 2010

“Provided by the National Sheep Association”

With the EID regulations now having been in place within the UK for almost a year many sheep farmers are still only just coming to terms with the requirements. By now all flock owners should have either used the new electronic system or be ordering their electronic tags for the 2011 crop of lambs.

Depending on which part of the country you are in and whether you are tagging breeding or sheep that are intended for slaughter under 12 months of age, these will be slaughter tags (EID or non) or full double tagged EID. Having gone over the issues of tagging there is then the problem of knowing just what to record in your records whenever sheep are moved or identified.

Even though the ink is barely dry on the new rules, there will be from the start of 2011 some further movement recording requirements to take on board. The NSA is urging its members to be fully aware of the existing recording rules and to acquaint themselves with the new ones that will come into existence in the New Year. These changes apply to movement documents and are to be introduced from January 1st 2011. They will affect ALL sheep farmers and are in ADDITION to the records you are currently required to keep in your holding register.

There are three major parts of the recording requirements which you need to be aware of :-

1. Holding Register
From December 31st 2009 you should have been recording the individual identification number for full EID (two tags) animals born after January 1st 2010 when they are:

  • First identified (up to nine months of age if they stay on the holding of birth)
  • If the animal dies
  • Or if the animal moves to a different holding number

Slaughter animals (tagged with a single tag EID or non EID) are still required to be recorded on a batch basis (flock numbers) only.
Animals that were born before December 31st 2009 do not have to be recorded individually in the holding register during 2011.

2. Movement Document
From January 1st 2011 the legislation regarding what has to be recorded on the movement document changes. From that date ALL sheep tagged with full EID (two tags) must be recorded individually on the movement licence. However, if the sheep are destined to be either moved within a business (under the control of the keeper depending upon which part of the UK you are in) or moved through a Central Point Recording Centre (CPRC) then batch recording is still permitted.

The CPRC will provide the individual numbers needed for the Holding Register. Please talk to the operator of your CPRC before you move sheep onto that facility from the start of next year (2011) to ensure that you are aware of the service that is being offered if those are sheep that are double tagged with EID.

Slaughter animals and historic animals can still be moved on a batch basis and should be recorded as so.

3. Historic Animals
As things stand at the moment, from January 1st 2012, legislation will change once again and this time it will affect your historic flock. These are the animals born before the start of 2010 and they will not necessarily have EID or double tags (although Shropshire Sheep will be at least double tagged to comply with SSBA rules). The legislation that is proposed to come into force at the start of 2012 will require the individual recording of these animals if they are destined for further sale, but if not if they are moving to slaughter or within a business.

So remember that we now all need to double tag our sheep when we keep them for breeding purposes or sell them as such. The left ear should be a yellow EID tag and the other ear can be any colour other than yellow or red and need not be an EID. So order your tags for the coming months and hopefully this year things are much easier obtaining them from the manufacturers now that they are used to them – but remember to maintain the SSBA tagging identification requirements detailed in your SSBA Flock Book. – That being and individual number for each sheep, your Affix letter code and the year of birth.

Happy Lambing.

Taken in part from the NSA Sheep Farmer journal.

NSA Supports NFU Position on Badger Control in fight against Bovine TB:
NSA has made a brief response to the Defra consultation on a range of measures to try and eradicate BovineTB. The proposals include action to control the disease in badgers in England. Although not directly a sheep issue of any consequence, it was felt appropriate that NSA support NFU in their efforts to change policy on Bovine TB to allow a badger control programme to be introduced as many NSA members will have cattle and will have been affected by this terrible disease. The NSA response reflects this. Anyone wishing to see the NSA response or the NFU response which we have supported should contact the office in Malvern.

Fixed Costs make up the Majority:
Did you know that fixed overheads such as labour, machinery and power account for around 2/3rds of the cost of production on sheep farms. The percentage is very similar whether the flock is in the top third for overall cost of production or the bottom third. However the difference in monetary terms is around £12 per ewe (fixed cost for top third is £67/ ewe and for bottom third £79/ewe).

In today’s world of relatively high prices for sheep, it is vital that sight is not lost of the ever increasing costs associated with their production. Variable costs tend to stay in the mind especially as the corn bill or drench invoice is paid, but it is far too easy not to focus on fixed costs. It is clear that there is potential on every farm to reduce them but before that can happen they need to be identified. Several NSA regions have run costing meetings during the last year and more are planned for this winter, the response has always been very good and they are definitely thought provoking for those who attend. All levy boards throughout the UK also have very good information (mostly web based) on both variable and fixed costs and tips on how to reduce them. The challenge with reducing costs is, as many sheep farmers have found out, to only do it in ways which do not result in a loss of flock performance that equates to more than the money saved by reducing costs.

Tell us what you think about Levies:
Levy increases just below or above 20% have either been brought in or are under consultation in all parts of GB. Scotland has already gone through the consultation process with industry and does not appear to have encountered too many objections; Wales and England are out to consultation at the moment on increases (the first since 2001).

Levy bodies are an easy target for criticism and no doubt there are times when individuals will think that they have not spent the money well. However it seems to NSA that they generally do a good job for the industry and are continuing to move forward with good initiatives and ideas. NSA wishes to be positive in its response about these proposed higher levies as long as it is clear how the money is being spent. NSA is encouraged to be positive by the fact that there is good commitment from the levy boards to use the extra funds to support the critically important export market and to develop the ever increasing Halal sector on which the sheep industry depends. NSA would also wish to see the knowledge transfer projects that are undertaken enhanced and greater technical detail introduced alongside more basic information.

Should NSA be supportive if there is a well made case with firm plans in place, or should we not – your comments are welcome.

RAC Report Covers Many Aspects of Sheep Industry:
The annual Royal Agricultural College and Rumenco 100 Club Annual Fellowship in Beef and Sheep has been written this year by Eblex Sector Director Nick Allen. This excellent document covers many aspects of the current sheep industry and is thoroughly recommended no matter which part of the UK you come from. Please refer to the Eblex website for more information.

From 04 Jun 2010
Veterinary associations have welcomed the European Commission announcement that Britain’s bluetongue status will be reclassified as a Lower Risk Zone (LRZ) for bluetongue virus (BTV8) and are asking members to get the message out to clients as soon as possible.

Britain is currently part of the BTV8 Protection Zone, which covers much of Europe, and will become a LRZ on Saturday 12th June 2010. The LRZ is a new classification which requires stricter vaccination conditions to be placed on bluetongue-susceptible animals being imported. These stringent conditions are:
       vaccination plus a 60-day wait; or
       vaccination plus a test 14 days after onset of immunity; or
       booster vaccination within the time stated on each vaccine’s data sheet.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and its specialist divisions the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), the Goat Veterinary Society (GVS) and the Sheep Veterinary Society (SVS) are urging veterinary surgeons to inform clients who import susceptible animals of the changes to import rules, which will take effect on 12th June.
As part of the JAB (Joint campaign Against Bluetongue) campaign group, the veterinary profession is also urging farmers to continue to vaccinate their livestock due to the small but ongoing risks of re-infection from wind-borne spread of the disease, and the risk of importing infected foetuses. 
The profession believes that a small but significant number of pregnant animals could be carrying a BTV-infected foetus but still test negative in the post-import blood test. The newborn animal could infect the local midge population and restart the circulation of the disease. Once the disease is in the midge population it can spread huge distances in short periods of time.
Commenting, Nicky Paull, Past-President of the BVA and member of Defra’s Bluetongue Core Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone is fantastic news for Britain and another step in the direction of disease-free status. It is something that the veterinary profession has fought for and we are delighted that the new arrangements mean that vaccination can continue in Britain.
“With imports to Britain increasing at a high rate, we know that the biggest threat to the country was importation of the disease. That is why the additional vaccination measures for imports are vital in protecting British livestock. “Veterinary surgeons need to inform clients who import susceptible species of the changes to the imports rules as soon as possible and direct them to further information on the Defra website or at the local Animal Health Office.”
Gareth Hateley, Chair of the BCVA Notifiable and Exotic Diseases Working Group, said: “The move to a Lower Risk Zone must not be seen as an excuse to relax vaccination measures. Although it does greatly reduce the likelihood of importing the disease, that threat still remains from the small, but significant, risk of an infected foetus being imported.”The threat of wind-borne re-incursion also exists and once the disease is in the midge population it can spread very quickly.”
Nick Clayton, Hon Secretary of the GVS, said: “Vaccination remains the key to protecting British livestock.  Vaccination now will protect your livestock, but if you wait until disease is present, you will be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. In an emergency vaccine production may not keep pace with demand if BTV is confirmed in the UK. “Vets need to encourage farmers to maintain a high level of immunity in the livestock under their care.  If a ‘breakdown’ occurs, awkward questions are certain to be asked.”
Paul Roger, Bluetongue Stakeholder Representative for the SVS, said: “This is a very important step for Britain and we must pay tribute to the hard work of the Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, and his team in Defra. “The veterinary profession wholeheartedly welcomes the move to a Lower Risk Zone and the additional protection it affords Great Britain.”
Minister for State for Food and Agriculture, Jim Paice MP commented: ‘This is a great result that speaks volumes for the work done by farmers and vets, who’ve worked with the Government to achieve this Lower Risk Zone status for bluetongue. It will help protect our livestock producers but they must remain vigilant and anyone importing stock must make sure that they meet the new requirements for importation.’
Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens said: ‘The news from SCoFCAH that Great Britain has achieved Lower Risk Zone status is testament to the excellent cooperation between industry and government demonstrated from the earliest days of 2007’s bluetongue outbreak. We have remained in a bluetongue Protection Zone since the first case was confirmed and the efforts of responsible livestock owners and vets in vaccinating stock and the surveillance work by Animal Health, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, and the Institute for Animal Health has allowed us to successfully apply for this revised status. ‘But we cannot become complacent, and I’d encourage farmers and vets to continue to vaccinate their livestock and remain vigilant for disease while additional targeted surveillance continues in the higher risk areas.’



(click on images for larger versions)
blue tongue
Shropshire breeder and vet, Anne Tordoff, has kindly written this article to help members understand the disease.

Blue Tongue is caused by a virus of which there are 24 different strains. It is primarily spread by insect vectors particularly a species of midge but there can also be limited transmission by infected semen or blood products.

The disease was previously thought to be a problem of warmer countries and had never spread further than approximately 40 degrees north – Southern France, Spain & Portugal. However that all changed in the summer of 2006.

The midges tend to breed in damp or wet soil enriched by fresh or composted dung or organic matter. They feed on the blood of large vertebrate animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, goats & deer. They tend to be most active around dawn & dusk or on dull days and in the shade. Populations fall dramatically as the weather gets colder through the winter though it is not unknown for some to emerge on a mild winter’s day. The average life span of the midge is around 10 days.

blue tobgue close upTransmission of Disease
On biting an infected animal, blood containing virus is taken in to the midge’s gut. It then takes 7 to 10 days for the virus to pass through the body & the virus to become fully established in the salivary glands of the midge. The midge is then said to have become “competent”.
One bite of a competent midge can transmit infection to a susceptible animal and large numbers of midges may feed on a single animal during the course of a night, possibly 10,000 bites / hour in cattle.

The ability of the midge to become competent and transmit the virus depends on the ambient temperature. The virus can’t develop in the midge below about 14 degrees C. Peak development and the shortest time for competency to develop is around 30 degrees C.

Midges can fly only about 1km per day but can be carried on a favourable wind up to 100km. The wind speed, temperature and humidity also play a part. It is possible for the virus to over-winter in an animal. A cow bitten at the beginning of winter could possibly still be carrying virus capable of being taken up by a midge, into March or April. If the temperature in the spring is just high enough to allow the virus to establish in the midge then “bingo” – the disease is back. This is thought to be how the virus re-emerged in Europe this year.

blue tongue: head of infected sheepClinical Signs
These vary with the strain of the virus and the species of animal. The worst disease tends to be seen in sheep. The incubation period from the bite of an infected midge to the first clinical signs is 3 to 8 days.

Acute cases produce the following symptoms: fever lasting a week or so; reddening of the mucosa (inner lining) of the mouth & nose; salivation, runny eyes and nasal discharge; the lips & tongue may become swollen & the swelling may extend over the head, ears and under the jaw “bottle jaw”. There may also be tiny haemorrhages over the mucosa of the mouth, nose & conjunctiva, necrotic lesions on the gums, cheeks and tongue after 5 to 8 days which gradually heal under a membrane of serum & pus. Breathing may be laboured breathing & the animal may pass bloody diarrhoea. There may also be inflammation just above the horn of the hoof, lameness & a hunched back, rapid weight loss, weakness & twisted neck. Up to 78% of infected animals may die.

In chronic cases the signs are muscle damage causing long term lameness; wool break leaving patches of bare skin; swollen feet, sometimes just 1 foot affected & seen long after the original infection.

blue tongue: close up of hoofControl Strategies
The disease is most likely to be introduced to the UK by the wind spreading infected midges from northern France, or the importation of an infected animal or midges travelling with these animals. There are various measures currently in place to counteract these.

The Met office is working closely with Defra to plot the weather conditions each day around the nearest infected areas to us and so predict when a risk of windborne midges arriving here may occur.

No imported animals are allowed to enter this country from the infected areas however other imported animals are allowed to transit the restriction zones on their way here. These animals must be treated with an approved insecticide before passing through the zones. On arrival here they are immediately restricted and subjected to a clinical inspection by a Veterinary Officer, followed by blood sampling. The restrictions are not removed until clear test results are received.

Should BT be confirmed in any animal then the affected farm will be immediately restricted until at least the source is determined. If it is a recently imported animal and the chances are that midges may not yet have become infected then it is possible that this animal may be slaughtered. If the animal has not been imported so has likely been infected by a midge here.

A 100km radius protection zone will be set up and a surveillance zone a further 50 km out from that. Licensed movements will be allowed within these zones but probably not between restricted areas & free areas. Midge monitoring using light traps will be started to determine if competent insects are present.

Advice will be given for farmers to try to minimise contact with the vector such as housing from dusk to dawn (not very effective unless use tiny mesh screens or covers over doorways impregnated with insecticide). Insecticides may be used. Midge habitats may be altered by mending leaking taps/pipes, draining wet areas, clearing up muck heaps etc and by the use of larvicides on breeding habitats.

Vaccination may be considered especially if the disease becomes endemic, however there are problems associated with this. No BT vaccine currently has a marketing authorisation in the UK, however unapproved ones could be used if the CVO directed, in an emergency. The best vaccine to use is one containing the specific serotype involved, failing this a closely related strain vaccine may give some protection against disease.

My latest information is that a BTV – 8 vaccine was not yet available although nearing completion however it may not be ready until the end of this year or next year.

blue tongue: head and tongueTreatment
Being a viral disease there is no specific treatment. It is only possible to treat the symptoms and support the animal as it tries to recover itself. The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs along with antibiotics may be of some use but sometimes the only way is euthanasia to relieve suffering.

BT is spreading dramatically in Europe and it was with great regret that we heard that a member of our breed society on the Continent had had it confirmed in his sheep. I’m sure we all offer him all our support and best wishes and hope that the disease will be as limited as possible.

I feel it is only a matter of time before we have a case emerging in this country, most likely in the south of England. We were lucky last year that the cases that were recorded in the North of France, just across the Channel, occurred at a time when the wind conditions were unfavourable to the movement of midges over here. We may not be so lucky this year!

I hope this article will help your understanding of the disease and the pictures enable you to be vigilant for its possible emergence over here. Should you suspect the disease in your or anyone else’s animals then you should report it to your local Animal Health Office.