NSA North Sheep returns to Cumbria for the first time in 10 years

Event will focus on the challenges and opportunities presented by the sector, featuring seminars, competitions and more

Young Shepherd of the Year 2013, Josh Ryder
Young Shepherd of the Year 2013, Josh Ryder

The well-known NSA Northern Region’s biennial NSA North Sheep event is set to take place in Cumbria next month.

The showcase, which has enjoyed growing popularity within the sheep sector, will be staged on June 3 at Millstone Moor Farm in Cockermouth, home to Neil and Sally Marston, who are noted for the quality of their Bluefaced Leicesters and North of England Mule sheep.

This year, the event will be focused on the current challenges and opportunities presented by the industry, with visitors from all over the UK expected to turn out.

A record breaking 215 trade stands will be featured and 46 breed societies represented.

A large number of entries have also been submitted from one of the event’s highlights, the Young Shepherd of the Year Competition, which is being supported by Newton Rigg and Askham Bryan colleges.

Event organiser Julie Sedgewick said: “Bringing NSA North Sheep back to Cumbria after 10 years is a great choice for the National Sheep Association as it’s one of the country’s most renowned sheep producing areas.”

Among the trade stand highlights will be Agrimin, which will be launching a new product, Agrimin 24.7 Smartrace lamb, and Nettex, which will be launching its Sheep Conditioning Drench.

Rumenco, meanwhile, will be using the event to launch its new product, Clean Sweep, while BEDMAX will be focused on a bespoke bedding for sheep.

Award-winning semen from two Bluefaced Leicester Tups, donated by Mr Marston and his fellow breeders, will also be auctioned for the first time in aid of the Stay Strong Stu campaign.

The first two doses are set to come from F1 Oakhouse, owned by syndicate of Mr Marston, Martyn Archer of Carry Hose, and Ron and Fran Wilson of Low Tipples.

The second two doses, then, will be from the 2014 Royal Highland Show Male Champion, G1 Highberries Highlander, a Bluefaced Leicester Tup, owned by Mr Marston and Martyn Archer.

John Geldard of Low Foulshaw Farm Levens, Kendal, and a former chairman of the National Sheep Association, said: “NSA North Sheep is a long established event which always proves to be both informative and interesting for all sectors of the agricultural industry and of course most specifically for the sheep sector.

“Agriculture at the moment is experiencing varying amounts of volatility due to currency and other factors and this is event is a great opportunity for people to see exactly what the NSA are doing to support of the industry and to talk to representatives and officials at the highest levels.”

Ms Sedgewick added: “The aim of this event is for people to get together, discuss the latest developments and do business.

“We will be featuring a series of seminars throughout the day focusing on key issues.”

These will include CAP and Countryside Stewardship, the discussion being chaired by Adam Watson and featuring contributions from Will Cockbain of Natural England, David Morley of H&H, and Alan Alderson, a farmer and Swaledale breeder.

Sheep Health Issues, meanwhile, will be presented by Philip Skuce, who will focus on Fluke; Stewart Burgess, who will look at Scab; and Joe Henry, of Alnorthumbria Vets, who will discuss farm and regional Scab strategies. This seminar will be chaired by Matt Colston.

Finally, Outlook for the sheep industry: visions for the future will be chaired by John Geldard, with presentations from NSA chief executive Phil Stocker; Norman Bagley of AIMS; Tom Hind, head of agriculture for Tesco; and Rizvan Khalid of Euro Quality Lambs. Also presenting will be The Woodland Trust.

This year, the main sponsors of the event will be Carrs Billington, whose divisional sales manager Ian Oliver said: “This is the major sheep event in the North of the country, and a very important business platform for us.

“It is an opportunity to highlight the range of products and services we offer to a wider audience.”

In addition to Carrs Billington, NSA North Sheep 2015 - which will feature the North of England inter-county shearing competition - is being supported by a range of organisations from the sector, the mainline sponsors being BWMB & Campaign for Wool, Caltech & Scotmin Nutrition, EBLEX, Elanco Animal Health, Mitchell’s Auction Company Ltd, Rumenco & Nettex and Shearwell Data.

Throughout the day, craft stalls and a traditional farmers’ market will be running, while a range of traditional practical activities such as dry stone walling, stick making, spinning, weaving and felting will be demonstrated.

There will also be a few more light-hearted elements.

Ms Sedgewick said: “We will be running a ‘Ready Steady Cook’ competition, which will show that our sheep-selling professionals can turn lamb from the fell to lamb for the table.

“The competitors are as follows: Grant Anderson, of Harrison & Hetherington Auctioneers; David Bowman, of Hopes Auctioneers, Wigton; Andrew Wright, from Mitchells Auctioneers, Cockermouth; and Chris Dodds, of the Livestock Auctioneers Association.

“The professional chef is Barbara Huddart, the commentator Anthony Skelton of Maryport. Mitchells of Cockermouth will be sponsoring via the provision of the lamb.

“Three heats will take place, with menus revealed on the day.”

Tours of the Marston’s 650 acre farm, home to the well-known North of England Mule-producing Highberries Crossing Blue-Faced Leicester flock, are also expected to be a highlight.

Mr Marston has been breeding sheep all his life, and currently farms with his parents Raymond and Frances, and wife Sally.

The family, who have been based at at Millstone Moor Farm since 2008, hold the record for the highest priced animals ever sold at Mitchell’s Market in Cockermouth, with the champion and reserve champions at the Bluefaced Leicester sales selling for £8,000 each last year.

The Marstons have also had success in the showing world, winning a Royal Highland Show championship with a Mule Ewe lamb.

In addition to the Highberries flock, the Marstons also have a small flock of pure-bred Swaledales, North of England Mule ewes, a pure Dutch Texel/Beltex flock and some Texel cross Mule ewes.

Mr Marston said: “We are delighted to be hosting NSA North Sheep 2015.

“It’s a great honour to be welcoming the leading sheep event in the North England once again to Cumbria.

“Visitors on the day will see a working farm on the edge of the Lake District, as well as learning about developments in the sheep sector.

“They’ll also be able the unique geography of our farm – with magnificent views across to the Lakes on one side, and on the other across the Solway to Scotland.”

NSA North Sheep event was last held in North Yorkshire in 2013, attracting more than 7,000 visitors.

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Factfile:

Entrance Fee: £12 or free to NSA members, students and those under 16

Free parking and a free event guide will also be provided

Judges

Best sheep breed society exhibit – Martin Richardson and David Croston

Best indoor trade stand – Sally Marston and Sam Wharry

Best outdoor trade stand – Mr and Mrs R Marston

Judging of best indoor, best outdoor and best sheep breed society stands begins at 8:30am

Event open to the public from 9am - 5pm

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer