The first ever National Training weekend was held at the end of April in Lincolnshire, and what a success it was. With almost 50 members attending, there was a perfect mix of wisdom and young enthusiasm in the company with everyone benefiting from the presentations and the social opportunity to share and discuss ideas and knowledge.
Saturday morning began with a trimming demonstration by Jim Cresswell. This was the first time for many to see the master at work, but those of us who have seen it all before continue to be amazed at the skill of his well-placed snips to produce a model sheep.
Things then got technical with Judith Galbraith giving two veterinary lectures on feeding and endoparasite control. Using the ‘ham sandwich’ as an example, she emphasised the importance of balancing protein and energy and how the rumen and ‘friendly bugs’ have to be fed in balance. Giving careful thought to the source of this energy and protein, the take-home message was to feed grass and forage, know your target intake, and balance accordingly with supplementation. The only way to put a balanced ration together is to know the analysis of your hay or silage and to sample it each year, likewise an understanding of your pasture and the length and quality of grass on the ground is important. Grass on the ground is the most beneficial and cost-effective way of producing young-stock. The afternoon veterinary presentation covered worm resistance and effective use of anthelmintics.
The stock judging competition, won by newcomer Zac Blackmore, was followed by a discussion of faults and what we are looking for in a correct sheep. It was also an opportunity to discuss judging priorities with some of the Panel members present.
In the afternoon Nick from Sunnysideup Farm Shop, owned by Hampshire Breeders Hazel & Julian Hammond, gave an entertaining and enlightening butchery demonstration using a new season Hampshire lamb and a commercial lamb where the depth of muscle of the Hampshire and quality of the meat was clear to see against the commercial lamb which had probably taken very much longer to reach target condition.
With such a packed day with listening and talking and learning, perhaps the memory that many will take home with them is ‘food glorious food’. The hospitality of Tim and Judith Hunter and organisation by Jim Birkwood and Jane who helped backstage in the kitchen, was outstanding with an endless supply of hot meals and baking all day long. Then on Sunday morning the hospitality continued with many staying on to visit the Normanby Flock where we were hosted by the Brant family on their stunning farm set on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with far reaching views to Lincoln Cathedral and beyond. Their March born lambs were on display out at pasture and a pen of high performance shearling rams in the shed. Finally the weekend drew to a close with hospitality from Simon Williams and his family with drinks and lunch in the sunshine on the lawns at Croxby Hall.