Young shepherds and shepherdesses from the North East are being encouraged to put their skills to the test in a high profile competition being held at one of the most significant events in the Northern sheep farming calender.
The Young Shepherd of the Year competition, sponsored by Ashkam Bryan and Newton Rigg colleges, will form an integral part of NSA North Sheep 2015 at Millstone Moor Farm, near Cockermouth, on June 3.
Aimed at encouraging the next generation of farmers, the event will see competitors judged on five tasks: completing an EBLEX lamb selection; shearing two sheep; ATV handling; providing examples of foot care techniques, handling, vaccinating and dosing; and answering questions on flock management and health issues.
The competition is open to those within the NSA Northern region - including Northumberland, County Durham and Cumbria - which holds a British Wool Marketing Board Blue Seal Certificate for shearing.
The closing date for entries is May 11, after which a shortlist of competitors will be drawn up.
Cash prizes will be offered for the top ten shepherds, with the overall winner receiving £300 and the Ali Johnson Perpetual Trophy, as well as going on to represent the region at the NSA Sheep 2016 finals at Malvern in July 2016. The Young Shepherd competition is aimed at young people who will be aged 26 years or under at that time.
Matt Bagley, head of agriculture at Newton Rigg College, said: “This is a multi-skilled competition - a test of skills, knowledge and aspirations which covers the main features of handling sheep.
“There is a written test in the form of a questionnaire, where entrants have to answer questions on current industry-related issues.
“There are a number of practical tests on administration procedures to sheep, such as worming and dosing and the shearing competition.
“The ATV competency element is a very important part of this competition. ATVs are fantastic machines and essential for the modern shepherd, but there are so many accidents that we feel it is an essential skill to consider.
“We will be testing health and safety aspects and all-round handling competency and speed awareness, as well as awareness of the bike itself.”
At Newton Rigg, there are currently around 270 agricultural students on apprenticeships of full-time courses.
Mr Bagley added that there was a considerable level of talent among the younger generation.
“The competition side between the young people is increasing in popularity, which I find very heartening, as it gives these young people, who are of course our farmers of the future, an opportunity to showcase their skills,” he said.
“For the competitors, competitions inspire them as they can see just how good their knowledge and skills are.”
NSA North Sheep 2015 is expected to attract more than 7,000 visitors and 230 trade stands from across the UK.
The event, which is seen as a forum the whole industry, features competitions, farm tours, a busy seminar programme, a trade show and farmers’ market.
Organiser Julie Sedgewick said: “We are delighted this year’s NSA North Sheep 2015 will be held in the heart of one of the UK’s most important sheep producing regions.
“We remain acutely aware that the biggest long-term challenge which continues to face the industry is encouraging young people to become involved.
“The competition is designed to help equip tomorrow’s sheep farmers with the skills they need and give recognition to the skills they have acquired.”
Competition rules and an entry form can be downloaded at www.northsheep.org.uk . For further information, contact Heather Stoney-Grayshon at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07599 823105.