After the last two winters this one, so far, has been fairly good as far as snow is concerned – although that might not altogether be the case in the north and north west.
2011 started much the same as 2010 and one began to wonder what might lie ahead for lambing time. But then Mother Nature gave us one of the best springs for many years. There were no records broken as far as numbers were concerned but due to the very fine weather mortality was very low.
In some parts of the country lambs would never have a wet back for the first two months but since then the weather has gone in the opposite direction with a very wet summer with rainfall varying from 30 in. in the east to 147 in. in parts of Argyll.
But lambs, after their good start and plenty grass (although quailty might be variable) came forward in numbers earlier than the previous year and the price for early lambs was up, setting a trend for the rest of the year. Store lambs were up £12 -£13 and fat £8. There was good demand for breeding sheep, too, leading to substantially increased prices. Imake no apology for the current prices, because, as we are all very well aware overheads keep rising and this is where we need to be.
Events – the NSA marqee at the Royal Highland Show was an astounding success and a very big thank youis due to everyone who gave their support, especially Hazel Brodie at Scottish Enterprise, Rene Douglas and her ladies and of course Mr Organizer, Euan Emslie. Lamb Dressing creates a lot of interest –well done to all concerned, thanks to sponsor Rod McKenzie and to Michael Dun for supplying the lambs.
We had to hastily organise a Young Shepherd competition to find two people to represent Scotland at the World Finals in New Zealand. The event was kindly hosted by Oatridge College and organised by Dave Turner. Competitors were of a very high standard and the final outcome was that we had two top quality representatives in David Gray and Gregor Ingram. We will be hearing from them a little later. Well done boys and also thanks to the sponsors.
For this year’s competition there are qualifying competitions at Oatridge, Barony and Aberdeen with the final at Scotsheep which, as we all know, will be held at Dumfries House – an event we are all looking forward to.
Also, last year for the first time we attended some of the summer shows including Border Union and Dumfries - where I had the pleasure of presenting the sheep trophies on behalf of NSA.
George and I went to Cunningsburgh Show in Shetland which was followed by a meeting later that night with 20 very enthusiastic members – organised by David Nicolson. The meeting nominated Hilary Burgess to represent their interests and Hilary is a very welcome addition to the Scottish Committee.
It is difficult sometimes to guage the value of attending some of these events but I think we all agree that the NSA shouold have a presence, not only to listen to member concerns but to try and encourage new members. Recruitment is not all that easy and we, as an organisation need to look closely at how we address the situation.
Policy issues I will leave to George, as usual.
It does not seem like twelve months since we were here for our AGM and dinner and entertainment which was enjoyed by everyone. A huge thank you to everyone who donated to the Auction and the Raffle and the tremendous generosity which resulted in a substantial sum shared between the McMillan Nurses and the Young Shepherd competition.
I look forward to tonight and talking about looking forward, the same could be said about the sheep industry. There is lots of optimism but one of the biggest clouds on the horizon is the euro exchange rate – even Mystic Meg doesn’t have the answer to this one.
Of course there is also the Independence issue which is a personal decision but it will, to say the least, stimulate some very interesting debate.
On all the major issues that affect sheep farmers you can be sure that the Scottish NSA will do its utmost on your behalf.
Thanks to all members and Breed Societies for your continued support over the past 12 months and also to Sybil, Ian, Maimie, George and JC.
Thank you, too, to Louise Rodger who was secretary for a number of years – for her input and commitment.
Thank you all for your attendance and I wish you all a prosperous year.