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.
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.
NEMSA remains in fine heart, with a growing membership fast approaching four figures and a solid financial footing, members heard at a well-attended 34th annual general meeting in Settle.
The meeting was also told that the breed, too,remains as strong as ever, with the main high profile members-only ewe lamb sales held at auction marts across the north of England throughout September and October each year achieving total sales of some 246,000 head in 2017, the highest for some time.
The annual meeting unanimously re-elected Randal Raine, of Renwick, Penrith, as president for his third year in office, while his nephew James Raine, of nearby Kirkoswald, after completing his two-year term as chairman, handed over the reins to the vice-chairman, North Yorkshire’s Kevin Wilson, of Hewness House Farm, Blubberhouses, between Skipton and Harrogate, who was also elected unanimously.
The outgoing chairman thanked all concerned for their support and wished his successor every possible success. “Efforts to further promote the North of England Mule have been commendable. Lamb sales figures were up last year and trade was better than we might have expected. We must continue to collectively market and promote the breed wherever possible – and showcase just what our commercial ewe is capable of,” stressed Mr Raine.
Mr Wilson said he was looking forward to building on the success of both the association and the Mule breed in general and he agreed with his predecessor that marketing and promotion should be high on his list of priorities. “It is vitally important we get more young people involved. Social media is a powerful tool, particularly among younger generations, and we must seek to maximise its full potential,” he said.
Other officers elected included Cumbrian sheep farmer Chris Harrison, of Alston,as new-vice chairman, with Mule breeder Jeff Burrow, of Kendal, re-elected treasurer.
Officials also paid tribute to the ongoing support and generosity of NEMSA’s two main long-term sponsors, Shearwell Data and Animax, which has been supporting the association for more than 30 years. Animax’s GB sales manager Jim Adair and North of England representative Tom Rayner handed over a cheque for £2500.
The meeting, held at North Ribblesdale Rugby Club, welcomed another member of the Raine family, the president’s cousin David Raine, of Old Parks, Kirkoswald, as guest speaker. The upland sheep farmer and NFU Cumbria county chairman is a true champion and informed spokesperson on behalf of the UK sheep sector.
He gave an in-depth review of the history and development of the UK sheep industry, notably its present-day influence in European markets, which now account for 40% of the UK’s trade.
The lambing season offers an ideal window to carry out routine management practices that improve animal health for the year ahead and farmers should take this opportunity to supply the necessary trace elements to their flocks, advises NEMSA sponsor Animax.
“No farmer wants to go into the Spring with sheep losing weight and having a weakened immune system,” said Elizabeth Berry, Animax vet director. “I cannot stress enough the need to address the flock’s trace element needs and to ensure that they are provided.
“I want to emphasise the vital importance of trace elements for animal performance – an area sometimes overlooked, particularly at busy times of the year. Trace elements are essential for cell metabolism and many other body functions, including energy production, growth, reproduction and the nervous system – so have a major impact on animal performance.
“Consider your options – the most effective and labour saving product is a leaching bolus – which offers up to six months supplementation. This is particularly useful when sheep are grazed on fells, or away from the farm or adequate handling facilities. It provides a slow release, consistent supply of trace elements and is the optimal size to ensure retention. This gives you peace of mind that the product is doing its job – it eliminates uncertainty.
“Also, by balancing the diet correctly, you maximise the benefits of home grown forages or grass and so the efficiency of your nutrition is increased. It reduces the cost of concentrates, or supplementary feeds, by ensuring that forage or grass is used much more effectively.
“By using a leaching bolus pre-lambing, the ewe is prepared for the demands of lambing and in better condition for milk supply. The benefits are passed from ewe to lamb so you will be giving the lambs the best start you can – which will be evident in their growth rates and vigour.
“One major advantage of a leaching bolus is that the rate of release is regulated only by the rate of water infiltration and so does not vary between different animals. This is important as farmers aim to produce consistent animals and the leaching technology is a tool which helps to deliver uniform stock.
“With the modern demands of sheep farming, we need to focus on ways to work smarter and embrace labour-saving technology that provides best practice for our flocks. Products that offer effective, labour saving benefits and support animal performance should be adopted within farm management plans,” added Dr Berry.
Suffolk based NEMSA Sponsor Animax has been voted the Trade Supplier of the Year, for the UK animal health industry at an awards event in London.
Animax specialises in the research, development and manufacture of effective animal health products and is the market leader in trace element supplementation for livestock. They are best known for their range of leaching boluses which are sold internationally and marketed in the UK under the Tracesure® brand.
This prestigious award, one of the top business awards in the industry, is part of the National SQP Awards, organised by Over the Counter magazine in conjunction with AMTRA and AHDA. (SQP’s, or Suitably Qualified Person’s are able to prescribe veterinary medicines).
Animax was voted for by readers of Over The Counter magazine, including animal health shop staff and SQP’s who work in merchants shops, vet practices, equine shops, pet shops and pet superstores from right across the UK. Animax was voted the winner for ‘’demonstrating how they live and breathe the trade, for marketing products with enthusiasm and for having excellent product knowledge, providing the necessary support through buyers and SQPs in order to advise and inform farmers.’’
The company saw off formidable competition from the other shortlisted and much larger companies – Bimeda, Ceva Animal Health, Elanco, Merial Animal Health, Norbrook, Trilanco and Zoetis.
Marketing director Carolyn Holland commented: ‘‘We are absolutely thrilled to have been given this award. SQP’s and the many people who work in animal heath do such an important and difficult job, providing expert and technical advice to farmers and having to know about a huge range of conditions and products. Our team try to give the right support and we are always reviewing what is needed.’’
Carolyn continued: “We are so impressed by the standard and the knowledge the SQP’s have. This year we were delighted to sponsor the Newly Qualified SQP of the Year. This important award was won by Megan Thomas from Carrs Billington, Settle, North Yorkshire. Her application was really outstanding. Samantha Mitchell from Mole Valley Farmers, Holsworthy, Devon, was the well-deserved runner up. We wish them both all the very best for the future.’’