The NSA Next Generation Shepherd of the year competition national final takes place at the Sheep Event, with 17 shepherds competing for the title and £1,000 prize. Hannah Park speaks to 2016 winner Richard Carter.
Picking up tips from like-minded shepherds was part of the attraction for NSA Next Generation Shepherd national final winner Richard Carter.
He took the title at the last NSA Sheep Event in 2016, where he was one of 18 competitors who went head-to-head in several tasks designed to test their shepherding skills.
Competition elements are designed to test competitors as they undertake everyday shepherding tasks, from shearing, sheep handling and practical sheep husbandry, to ATV handling and lamb selection.
Mr Carter, 26, grew up on his family’s farm in Newent, Gloucestershire, and won the competition when he was 24 after qualifying at an event in his local NSA Marches Region.
He says: “I learned a lot from talking to others on the day.
“You pick up practical tips from other competitors on how they would go about certain jobs, sometimes ways you would not have thought of to start with.
“Those taking part come from all over the country, so speaking to them about their different farm set-ups was also useful to get a different perspective on everyday jobs.”
Mr Carter says it was also good to talk techniques through with the judges and get more information about the latest technologies.
“It was also useful to talk to the shepherds who have taken part in the competition before, especially for the flock health and management questions to get an idea of what might be asked,” he adds.
Since winning in 2016, Mr Carter moved away from the family farm at home after recently getting married to Sarah.
Farming has taken a different direction for him, as he now works alongside his wife’s family on their dairy farm in Kempley, Gloucestershire, milking 225 pedigree Holsteins via robots.
Mr Carter and his brother, Michael, also do some contact shearing and run a sheep shower unit in the local area.
His family farm in Newent is a mixed beef and sheep enterprise, run by his parents, Roger and Joanne, and Michael.
The 120-hectare (300-acre) unit runs 900 breeding ewes and 350 ewe lambs, selling finished lambs through local marketing group May Hill collection centre, Newent.
“I really was not expecting to win,” says Mr Carter.
“You never do in a competition like this which has so many elements. But the way it is run gives a fair opportunity to everyone competing and I was pretty happy to have picked up the prize on the day.
“Some of the pointers and tips given out have definitely stayed with me and it was worthwhile taking part.
“I would encourage anyone thinking about it to give it a go.”
As competitors in this year’s final get ready to take part, Mr Carter says he is keen to support those from his local NSA Marches Region prepare and will be helping out where he can.