2017 AGM Weekend, Newmarket

by Barbara Adams

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The Annual General Meeting in the last weekend of October has changed enormously since the early days of our membership in 1986. In those far off days certainly it would be held in an hotel but staying overnight? gala dinner? My goodness, we were lucky if we got a cup of tea and a digestive!

How things have changed - and so much for the better. Every October we have the splendid opportunity to spend a weekend getting to see a different part of the UK, meet friends old and new and catch up with the latest Hamp news with everything beautifully organised for us.


And this year was no exception.  Newmarket in Suffolk was our destination, a place that I, for one, and I suspect quite a few others, knew little of apart from its association with the racing world, in a county that I have rarely visited. So, on a beautiful autumn day Mike and I, with Kay and Rob Vincent, set off from the West Country with the privilege of plenty of time to drive East and, for once, avoid all motorways. Yes, it took time but it was a glorious journey and when comparing notes after we arrived, hearing horror stories of traffic jams and accidents on various motorways, we felt very fortunate.

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Checking in to our hotel, The Rutland Arms, we were quickly greeting familiar faces though after the quirky twists and turns of corridors and stairs wondered if we would ever see them again. Then, for most, off to The Jockey Club for the business part of the weekend - the Annual General Meeting.  As the weekend has got longer, so the AGM has got shorter.  I can’t tell you about the meeting since, dear reader, I did not go. I used to, but now I don’t - a privilege of old age. Well, there needs to be some perks. The business side of things will be reported separately when the Minutes of the meeting are published.  

The Jockey club, where we all met for an informal dinner, unsurprisingly, has pictures of horses covering every wall, a collection we learned, worth £90 million which, as they have to stay on the walls, may be more of a liability than an asset. Interesting, though, to see some of the artists names, including probably the most famous of all horse painters, George Stubbs. After a convivial evening most, though not all, retired for an earlyish night before the rigours of the Saturday visits.


Saturday morning was bright, fresh and promising and the whole day did not disappoint. Everyone heeded their instructions and were well in time to board, or follow, a very smart double decker bus to our first destination. Dalham Hall Stud, part of the Darley Stud is owned by Sheik Mohammed Bin Al-Maktoum (the 7th richest man in the world, vice President and PM of the UAE and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai) and is utterly awesome - not a word I use lightly. We were made very welcome by head shepherd Dan Phipps, who, before taking us to see the flock of two thousand mules and mainly Texel tups, took us on a tour of the most immaculate stables I think I’m pretty sure in saying, most of us will ever see in our lives. Together with two lively chaps, all in their blue waistcoats and caps, they explained in fascinating and jaw dropping detail how the stud works.  Most of us were bemused trying to get to grips with the whole breeding scene there, where service by their top stallion Dubawi will set you back £250,000 a time.  And he works four times a day in the breeding season after which he’s packed off to Australia to ‘work’ there. 

I could write another page on our time there but must press on to our next visit. Hole Farm is home to the the St Paul Flock and the Middleditch family who welcomed us with a hot lunch and a tipple followed by the most important part of the day - seeing Hampshire Downs. Tractors and trailers were on hand to take the group to see the Poll Dorsets, their commercial flock, then back to the farmstead to inspect the Hamps and take part in the stock judging competition. A lot of interest there, probably because of the prizes on offer - several boxes of Maltesers.


The countryside, still bathed in autumn sunshine highlighting the changing colours of the trees, is truly beautiful and the architecture so distinctive that most people kept awake for the lovely drive back. Then into the gladrags for the Gala dinner back at the Club, with our new president, Roy McFarlane, in post. I don’t think I have ever seen roast beef and Yorkshire pudding presented and served so beautifully - and it tasted exquisite too. Our after dinner speaker was Charles Howard, general manager of the Jockey Club who in between giving us some background of the club told a scurrilous story or two. This was followed by the presentation of prizes for the flock competition and an auction of donated items, ably conducted by Tim Hunter, proceeds of which went to our Society apart from that from a ewe lamb, donated by the Middleditch family, which went to the Alzheimer’s Society.


After a thoroughly good day we retired to our hotel rooms knowing that we had an extra hour in bed - or in my case, an extra hour in my Sunday.  Mike and I had the intention of being out early to see the horses being  exercised out on the gallops. We had heard that on Saturday morning there had been over three hundred.  We saw one. What a disappointment - they don’t often go out on a Sunday we were told too late. We hope one day to return but will choose a Wednesday or a Saturday to do so.


And so to the last visit - Harry Elsden’s Hertford Flock 40 minutes away at Tewin Bury Farm Hotel, a Country House Hotel where Harry keeps his flock which not only supplies 5 lambs a week to the hotel restaurant but also acts as a visitor attraction. A tractor and trailer tour around the hotel farm took in the opportunity to see Harry’s Hamps together with his commercial flock.  Using Beltex and continental rams to complement the earlier finishing Hamp cross lambs, Harry is able to extend the season of home grown lamb for the menu. Almost half of the AGM attendees stayed on for this extra visit and yet more hospitality before making their way home to the corners of the country and continent.

So, another interesting and enjoyable AGM weekend (though surely it was only about six months since the last one?). The Middleditch family pulled out all the stops and put together one of the most memorable AGM weekends, and for this, enormous thanks and gratitude are due. We were delighted to see how many young and enthusiastic members we have these days and hope as many as possible will make it to Newquay in 2018.



Want to know more about breeding in general and performance recording in  particular? Join us at this year’s Performance Recording Workshop at The Marriot Hotel, Edinburgh, EH12 8NF on Saturday 7th October starting at 10am. (close to the airport for anyone wishing to fly in).

We have invited some great speakers to join us to discuss genetics and how we can use them to improve our flocks and to talk about what we should aim to produce to satisfy commercial and processor needs.

Dr Jo Connington, a leading livestock geneticist from the Roslin Institute

Sam Boon and Emma Steele from AHDB

Emily Grant Knowledge Transfer Specialist from Quality Meat Scotland

In addition to presentations from our speakers, there will be a Question Time session where you can put your questions to them and in the afternoon a practical sessions for both novice and experienced breeders.

Lunch is included and the total cost will be £15/delegate

Places are limited so book yours quickly! To book your place, please email Janet janet@hampshiredown.org.uk


A further opportunity to meet, talk and learn is on the 17th November when we will be holding a Q and A session after the first afternoon of the Sheepbreeders Roundtable . For more information about the conference:- http://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/SBRT/. Book your place and then let us know that you want to join our HDBSA session.


NATIONAL TRAINING WEEKEND - a sharing of knowledge & ideas

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.


We are looking forward to the first ever NATIONAL TRAINING WEEKEND - this weekend!  A good number of members have already booked their place, but if you have forgotten to do so or find yourself available to come along, there are spaces for just a few more.  Contact Janet (details below) - you would be very welcome.

(and Eastern Counties Spring Meeting)


22nd/23rd April 2017

WORKSHOPS, DISCUSSIONS, DEMOS - Nut Tree Farm, Fotherby, Lincolnshire home of the LINDSEY FLOCK, by kind invitation of Tim & Judith Hunter   -   10.00 am START

PREPARING YOUR SHEEP FOR SALE — Jim Cresswell,  Selection (Shape, growth, condition, skin),   Presentation & Trimming


PRODUCING FIT FOR PURPOSE SHEEP—Judith Galbraith, Nutrition & Feeding, Condition Scoring

JUDGING, What the Judge is looking for, Stock Judging Competition

(HDSBA Panel of Judges will also be meeting this weekend, so it will be a good opportunity to meet and talk)

CARCASE QUALITY— A view of our sheep from the inside. Discussion and demonstration by Master Butcher

SUNDAY:  FARM VISITS to the Brant family to see their Normanby Flock, Limousin Cattle and Lleyn Sheep, and to Karen Hames’ Rennisons Flock—a young flock making early progress.

TO BOOK YOUR PLACE, CONTACT JANET NOW! 01700 831652janet@hampshiredown.org.uk



Hampshire Down Ireland held a highly successful, enjoyable, educating and entertaining Open Day on 8th April kindly hosted by Kevin and Anna McCarthy at Mossbank Farm home of the Ballycreelly Flock, attended by a number of new breeders and a contingent across from Belgium for the Weekend.

Health and Presentation were the main themes, with visitors having the opportunity to see the 2017 Ballycreelly crop of lambs and Stock Ewes whilst watching David Fletcher’s trimming for shows demonstration.  His brother Jonathan then discussed worming, dosing and correct use of anthelmintics.

Neil Acheson of Animax attended with his stand, to allow all breeders to discuss the use and the advantages of bolusing your sheep with demonstration by Kevin and Sean Doyle on correct blousing technique.

Ram Selection discussions were led by Olive Mercer, Sean Doyle and Allen McFadden, before the whole day was brought to conclusion with a lovely spring lamb BBQ, raffle and live Irish Music well in to the night.


We’d like to encourage members going to Welsh Sheep to enter the Pairs of Hogg/yearling ewe show and sale which will be held at NSA Welsh Sheep on Tuesday 16th May 2017 at Llwynbedw, Talybont on Usk, Brecon.

This will be a great opportunity to show off our breed and would welcome members with good quality stock to exhibit.

Sale Details and Rules HERE  Sale Entry Form HERE


Hampshire Downs on the BBC

Many of you will have seen the trailers appearing on TV for the latest of the BBC's farming programmes.  A new series called The Farmers Country Showdown starts on Monday 13th February and will feature Hampshire Down Breeders and HDSBA Council Member Jonathan Barnard together with his wife Justine of the Stourfield Flock.  This new series runs every week day on BBC 1 at 3.45pm for 3 weeks and the Hampshire Down episode  is being shown on Thursday 23rd February.  If you are out and about and can't catch daytime TV, then remember to set your TV to Record.. 

Gearing Up for 2017

With lots of 2017 season lambs now on the ground anticipation is beginning for the coming season.  A very important part of the Hampshire Down Calendar is attendance at the National Sheep Association Sheep Events throughout the country.  If you've never been to one, check out your nearest event and go along - it really is a fascinating day out no matter how great or small your knowledge of sheep is.  Even better, volunteer to do a stint and help out on the Hampshire Down Stand.  The Stands are all booked now, and we can confirm we will be attending: WELSHSHEEP 16th May, Brecon; HIGHLANDSHEEP 31st May, Ross-shire; NORTHSHEEP 7th June, Co Durham; SHEEPSOUTHWEST 20th June, Devon and SHEEPNORTHERNIRLELAND 3rd July Ballymena. - See You There!