In a fantastic showcase of UK shepherding skills, four young competitors from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland dominated the European ‘Ovinpiades’ Young Shepherd Competition in Paris this weekend.
Supported by the National Sheep Association (NSA) and AHDB Beef & Lamb, and sponsored by Randall Parker Foods, the UK competitors were required to demonstrate sheep husbandry and industry knowledge in quizzes and practical tests, including use of electronic identification (EID), sheep movements and finished lamb assessments.
Winner of the whole competition was Dafydd Davies, 18, from Bala, Gwynedd, a student at Glynllifon College, North Wales. He qualified for the European competition following success in the NSA Next Generation Shepherds’ Competition at NSA Welsh Sheep in May 2017, and gets plenty of practice working with more than 1,100 Welsh Mountain ewes on his family farm.
Dafydd comments: “It was a great experience to take part in the Ovinpiades in Paris. The competition was challenging so I was really pleased to win the European section. I am now looking forward to competing in the final of the NSA Next Generation Shepherds’ Competition at the NSA Sheep Event in Worcestershire in July.”
Hot on the heels of Dafydd were two fellow UK competitors. Representing England, 24-year-old Robert Walker of Clitheroe, Lancashire, took second place, and Northern Ireland competitor Iain Wilson, a 21-year-old from Larne, County Antrim, was third. Not content with just taking the gold, silver and bronze places, the entire UK team was placed, with Scottish representative Farquahar Renwick, of Ullapool, Rossshire, coming sixth.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Congratulations to Dafydd, Farquahar, Iain and Richard for representing the UK to such a high standard. They were a credit to themselves and our industry; it is heartening for the UK sheep sector to know we have such enthusiasm and skills coming through for the future. The NSA Next Generation programme is all about encouraging individuals such as these, and we are proud of the opportunity NSA Next Generation Shepherds’ Competitions offer at a regional, national, European and international level.”
All nine of the NSA’s regional sheep events run an NSA Next Generation Shepherds’ Competition. Two people qualify at each of these for the biennial UK final, and top placed competitors from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also selected for the European and International finals, which tend to fall every four years depending on the host country. France hosted the most recent European final as part of the Ovinpiades Young Shepherds Competition, which it runs for agricultural students aged 16 to 24 each February at the Paris International Agricultural Show. Over 700 students took place in regional heats across France, with qualifiers meeting European counterparts for the finals in Paris.