New North of England Mule Sheep Association (NEMSA) chairman Kevin Wilson has begun his two-year term of office with a clarion call to farming’s future generations.

“We need to get more young people interested in and involved with the Association. Our future success depends on it,” said the North Yorkshire upland sheep and cattle farmer, who is based at Hewness House Farm in Blubberhouses.

“Moving forward we are exploring a number of avenues to build on the many past achievements to both maintain and raise the Association’s profile and that of the breed in general, with enhanced marketing and promotion key to our long-term aims and objectives, particulary through enhanced use of recognised social media channels,” commented Mr Wilson.

NEMSA chairman Kevin Wilson looks over some of this year’s crop of Mule lambs on their Swaledale dams.

He said the Association would also be looking to more effectively publicise its main autumn gimmer lamb shows and sales staged at auction marts across the North of England.

Mr Wilson noted: “These high profile sales continue to prove extremely popular. Not only do they cater for our own membership, but they also continue to attract North of England Mule aficianados and buyers from the length and breadth of the UK, both from our northern heartlands and much further afield.

“Among then are long distance travellers,  including regular visitors from the south-west of the country, notably Devon and Cornwall, as well as East Anglia, the Midlands, Wales and beyond. We look forward to welcoming them all back to our Association sales this autumn.”

Mr Wilson added: “I am both delighted and proud to have taken over at the helm of a strong, financially sound and forward-looking NEMSA. We have a growing membership covering all areas from the English/Scottish Border down to Derbyshire and it shouldn’t be too long before we are welcoming our milestone 1000th member on board.”

The roots of the Wilson farming family stretch back across many generations to 1783. Mr Wilson started farming in his own right in 1983 – his wife Daphne is also an integral part of the business – and they have since been joined in partnership with their son, James. Together, the family farms three separate packets of upland between Skipton and Harrogate.

Mules are their main stock-in-trade. They breed their own Bluefaced Leicester tups, also buying in ram lambs at society sales to introduce new bloodlines, while selling all their gimmer lambs at CCM Skipton, where Mr Wilson remains a director.

At Skipton’s second NEMSA highlight last year, the Wilsons were proud to win both show classes for pens of ten and 20 for the first time.The majority were sired by their highly regarded Harland F1 Bighead tup, shared in partnership with his Richmondshire breeder Alan Busby, of Marrick.

The ram has been used successfully for three breeding seasons and now has his fourth crop of lambs on the ground. Bighead has since been joined by his home-bred shearling son, Junior. Both were among the prizes at last year’s Great Yorkshire Show.

Mr Wilson – the family also runs a Limousin-x-British Blue suckler herd – has been involved with NEMSA for many years, the last two as vice-chairman. He has served on the main NEMSA committee for the past decade and is a former chairman of the Skipton Branch. He is also a former chairman of Nidderdale Agricultural Society, continuing to serve on the show committee, as well as the sheep committee of Otley Show.

Mr Wilson said the current lambing season had been an extremely difficult one for sheep farmers countrywide. “In fact, it’s been the worst lambing time I have ever known, with a long, hard winter and the so-called ‘beast from the east’ prior to lambing really knocking the condition of sheep. We have all suffered from the elements and, as a direct result, I think we will see less lambs on the ground this year,” he said.