Dumfries House to host Scotsheep show

Trade stand entries for NSA Scotsheep 2012 are flooding in and potential exhibitors have only a few more days left to secure a presence at Scotland’s biennial national sheep event.

The last NSA Scotsheep held two years ago attracted 150 trade stands and this year’s event is expected to attract even more in view of the highly prestigious venue and the current buoyancy of the sheep sector.

This year’s flagship event for the Scottish sheep industry, organised by the National Sheep Association Scottish Region, will be held at the Morrisons Farm at Dumfries House, Cumnock, Ayrshire, on Wednesday, June 6, and is sure to attract a large attendance of sheep farmers from all over the UK and Ireland and from further afield.

Historic Dumfries House was saved for the nation by Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, in 2007, and the adjoining 960-acre home farm is run as a joint venture by Dumfries House Trust and the UK’s fourth largest supermarket, Morrisons.

The sum of £2 million has been committed to developing the farming enterprise which includes 750 Scotch Mule ewes, a small flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep and 250 beef suckler cows, including pedigree herds of Beef Shorthorn and Aberdeen-Angus.

“Dumfries House is a first-class venue for NSA Scotsheep 2012 and is sure to prove a big draw,” said Sandy Hay, head of agriculture with Bank of Scotland who have been confirmed as main sponsor.

“NSA Scotsheep is well established as the premier sheep event in Scotland and is a “must attend” event for all companies and individuals with an interest in servicing the requirements of Scottish sheep producers. Bank of Scotland is delighted to be the main sponsor.”

Features of the event will include a farm tour, which will include a view of Dumfries House, Scottish Young Shepherd of the Year competition, trade stands, practical and technical demonstrations, seminars, advisory and educational exhibits, sheepdog trial, stockjudging, ATV competition, farmers’ market, sheep shearing and all things wool.Mr Hay said the sheep industry was currently on a high as a result of the significant rise in prices for all categories of sheep over the past two years and the prospects for 2012 were for the market to remain strong.

“Sheep farmers are at long last getting the returns they need and deserve to operate a viable business and this is good news for the whole industry,” said Mr Hay.

“But increasing costs inevitably mean that margins are tight and only producers at the “top of their game” will be achieving a profit without the Single Farm Payment and support under the Less Favour Area Support Scheme (LFASS) in hill and upland areas.”

Maintaining this level of support would be vital in forthcoming negotiations on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy but it also highlighted the need for producers to maintain and improve efficiency in terms of genetic performance, animal health and livestock husbandry.

“This is where NSA Scotsheep 2012 comes in and provides producers with the opportunity of sourcing all the latest technical and marketing expertise to help them run a sustainable and profitable business,” said Mr Hay.

The continuing decline in the national sheep flock in Scotland was a concern and Mr Hay put some of this down to the high price of cull ewes encouraging more farmers to reduce their flocks, or exit the industry altogether, because of the difficulties of attracting skilled labour, the well-documented difficulties associated with the introduction of the electronic identification (EID) of individual sheep and the heavy penalties which were being imposed for non-compliance.

“Scotch quality lamb is in strong demand both at home and in overseas markets and we need a thriving and expanding industry to meet the requirements of the market,” said Mr Hay. “The industry is facing challenging times and NSA Scotsheep 2012 can lead the way.”