A Cumbrian shepherdess and a Carlisle farmer are two of the keynote speakers at a flagship sheep event next week.
Hannah Jackson, 25, of Croglin, will highlight the difficulties facing young people trying to get into the agricultural industry when she speaks at this year’s National Sheep Association (NSA) North Sheep.
Hannah, who works as a self-employed contract shepherd on a number of Cumbrian farms, runs her own flock of pedigree Hampshire Downs and North of England Mules.
Last year she was one of those involved with the NSA Next Generation initiative, the ambassador programme.
During the event’s final seminar, chaired by Garrigill young farmer, Thomas Carrick, Hannah will highlight the struggles of a young person from a non-farming background who developed a passion for hill shepherding.
She says with no family farm to rely on, it can be extremely difficult to break into a very specialist sector.
Eddie Eastham, NSA northern regional chairman, from Longburgh, near Burgh by Sands, will chair ‘Balancing Upland Farming and the Environment’, during which Margaret Read, Defra head of commons, access and inland waterways, will discuss new replacement support and environmental schemes.
Eddie now finishes about 1,200 bought-in sheep annually, alongside 200 gimmer shearlings, on his farm at Longburgh Fauld.
He took up the mantle of NSA northern region chairman in February.
A committee member for more than 20 years and treasurer for 10, he says he is looking forward to this year’s North Sheep event on Wednesday, June 7.
“For the sheep farming community across northern England, North Sheep – held every two years – is a major event; and this year it is being held in an area where livestock is key,” said Eddie.
“It is both a platform for open discussion and for sheep farmers to naturally gather the latest information, and certainly this year with an election and Brexit looming, there will be much for debate,” he added.
Eddie said sheep farmers face many challenges, including unknown future trading conditions and the outcome of Brexit.
He added: “We rely on the European markets to purchase our lamb, especially France, so will we still have access on similar terms, or will this be reduced?
“Over recent years a lot of effort has been put into developing new markets for UK sheep meat to destinations around the world.
“There have been some successes, and more will follow, but the volume involved is unlikely to be significant in the immediate future.
“If European markets do diminish it will be difficult to replace them in the short term,” said Eddie.
However, he added, it is important to remember the home market.
He said: “We need to ensure that we are producing for this existing market, recognise how it is changing and what we can do to develop it further.
“If we do not have people eating lamb, we do not have a market.”
NSA North Sheep, will take place at Tow Law, County Durham.
With the biennial event’s track record for attracting in the region of 8,000 visitors a time, sheep farmers are expected to flock to the host location, West Shields Farm, just off the A68.