NSA Samuel Wharry Memorial Award for the Next Generation

Article originally published on the NSA Website

Announced at the NSA Sheep Event in July 2018, the very first NSA Samuel Wharry Memorial Award for the Next Generation was offered in Spring 2019 in the form of two £2,750 travel bursaries funded by NSA and the Company of Merchants of the Staple of England to support young people (under the age of 35) in a study trip to explore the application of science in sheep production.

Both NSA and the Merchant of the Staple of England are excited to share news of the very first two recipients of the awards.

Selected from a high calibre group of short-listed applicants, Marie Prebble from Kent and Charlotte (Charlie) Beaty from Warwickshire can now begin to firm up travel plans as both receive an award of £2,750 to explore sheep farming enterprises overseas.

Marie who farms 550 Romney breeding ewes in Kent is planning on using her bursary to travel to Norway and Iceland following a trip to compete at the world shearing championships in France with shearing and sheep welfare central to her journey. Marie says: “I am looking forward to putting my environmental sciences background to great use in studying 'practical considerations for welfare during shearing in the Northern Hemisphere' by connecting animal, social and environmental sciences with their practical applications on farm. I am so pleased and grateful to both NSA and the Staple for providing me with this opportunity and look forward to feeding back from my trip on my return.”

The second recipient, Charlie Beaty, farms 300 North Country Mules in Warwickshire alongside an arable and beef enterprise and is planning on travelling to New Zealand to explore ways of improving grassland management. Charlie explains: “With the current uncertainty facing the UK sheep industry I feel that sheep farmers should be looking to lower production costs by maximising the potential of the cheapest feed available to them – grass. I have chosen to travel to New Zealand as I don’t believe grassland management can be seen better in any other country. I am now very excited to plan each stage of my trip and look forward to working with NSA and the Staple to make the most of this opportunity.”

Marie and Charlie were selected following interviews with NSA Northern Ireland Region Development Officer Edward Adamson, NSA Wales and Border Ram Sales Director Jane Smith, NSA Operations Director Joanne Briggs and Stephen Fell from the Staple.

Joanne reports: This is the first time NSA has awarded a bursary and we are thrilled with the outcome so far. This bursary is named in memory of NSA Chairman Samuel Wharry who sadly passed away suddenly in 2017. Samuel was an advocate for the application of science and technology on farm and we are confident he would be pleased to hear of the study tours both Marie and Charlie will take. All at NSA hope Sam’s enthusiasm, curiosity and practical nature will live on through these travel bursaries.”

Stephen Fell of the Staple comments: “I was very impressed at the interest shown in the new award and at the quality of the applicants. The eight applicants we interviewed demonstrated a good involvement in the sheep sector and the challenges facing it. The subjects they wished to study were wide ranging and very pertinent to those various challenges.

“The process was well structured and fair, and as a major supporter, we in the Merchant Company of the Staple of England are delighted with the result. Marie and Charlie were brimming with ideas and enthusiasm and I’m sure will prove worthy recipients of our new award.”

Marie and Charlie both plan to set off for their information-gathering trips later in 2019 and will report back to NSA and the Staple on their findings.

2019 Winners

Charlotte Beaty

Sample Application Questions (see full application here)

What is your current involvement in the sheep sector and what are your future plans?

I am currently working at home on the family farm, following 4 years of study and 18 months working on farms across Australia. It is a typical mixed farm of arable, beef and sheep enterprises. We run a flock of 300 breeding ewes, the majority of which are North Country Mules and are put to a Charollais tup.

I also spent 3 months in 2018 working on a stock property in New South Wales, Australia, where the genetics and breeding focus mainly on wool production, rather than meat production as is generally the case here in the UK. Since returning home I have been looking at ways to increase our flock size and productivity by improving the grassland management.

What topic would you like to study, why is it relevant to your sheep farming situation and how would you implement any findings within your own sheep farming situation?

With Brexit looming, I feel that sheep farmers need to lower production costs by maximising the potential of the cheapest feed available to them – grass. I would like to study the role of grass management in lowering production costs for UK sheep enterprises.

I would like to look at the factors involved in growing high quality grass, such as soil fertility, grazing systems and grass varieties, as well as grazing systems that involve both sheep and cattle, something that is very relevant to our situation. It is commonly known that there are anthelmintic benefits to grazing sheep and cattle alongside each other, but I would like to look further into how a symbiotic relationship can be achieved here.

I would also like to look at re-seeding and over-seeding routines and how they many differ from farm to farm.

What do you already know about your chosen topic and its relevance to the UK sheep sector? How might you share the practical findings with other sheep farmers?

Grassland management is relevant to all sheep farmers across the UK, whether they be lowland, upland or hill, intensive or extensive. I have a fairly general knowledge of grassland management, following my degree and other reading that I have undertaken, but I would benefit massively from seeing other systems first hand and being able to ask questions and discuss with those running them. I would like to share the knowledge that I gain using social media platforms and through my involvement in Young Farmers.

Please outline your travel plans – where do you plan to go, for how long and to see what, and what will the various components roughly cost?

For my chosen study topic, I would like to visit New Zealand. I feel that this may be seen as a fairly generic answer, but I honestly don’t think that grass management could be seen better in any other country. Also, with a climate not dissimilar to that of the UK, I feel that a study in New Zealand would be most relevant.

I would be very interested in spending time visiting Agricultural colleges/universities to see any current study projects that are being undertaken, as well as private farms to assess and study their methods of grassland management. Although I am from a lowland farm, I would like to assess methods of hill, upland and lowland enterprises, which the diversity of farming in New Zealand would allow me to do. I feel that 6 weeks would be a sufficient amount of time to spend studying, even though I would happily stay 6 months given half a chance!

The Staple has a particular interest in wool production and the related textile industry. If your study topic is not directly linked to wool, what might you learn about wool on your travels?

New Zealand is still the world’s third largest wool producer, behind Australia and China. I would be interested to learn how and if New Zealand is addressing the falling wool export market by advertising the benefits of wool compared to other (namely synthetic) fibres. I would also like to learn more about the classification of wool, having spent a small amount of time in a shearing shed seeing fleeces sorted, whilst in Australia last year.

What appealed to you about this award and what makes you a suitable candidate? How will you make the most of the opportunity?

The opportunity to travel whilst farming was what appealed to me most about this award. I am a very keen traveller, but I enjoy it most when visiting other farms.

I would love the opportunity to study a topic that I am passionate about that I can then talk to other people about, and I would be thrilled to pass on anything I learn to anybody that would like to listen.

I often say that I would like to travel the world, one farm at a time!

Marie Prebble

Sample Application Questions (see full application here)

Picture: Martin Apps

What is your current involvement in the sheep sector and what are your future plans?

I have a flock of 550 breeding Romneys on our MoD tenanted farm in Kent, which I have built up over the past 7 years, buying females from other local farmers and breeding my own replacements. My aim is to become well-known as a breeder of high-performance commercial Romneys and maternal crossbred sheep, producing consistent carcasses to market specification.

I am a keen sheep shearer and next season plan to take on a shearing run from the contractor I currently work with. I enjoy taking part in shearing competitions around the UK and would like to improve my wool-handling skills. I will be travelling to compete in the Shearing World Championships in France this July, which could provide the first element of my study tour.

I enjoy providing shearing demonstrations at public events to educate people about sheep and wool production. I hope to run shearing courses from home in the next few years and perhaps even become a Wool Board Instructor one day.

What topic would you like to study, why is it relevant to your sheep farming situation and how would you implement any findings within your own sheep farming situation?

The topic I wish to study is 'Practical considerations for welfare during shearing in the Northern Hemisphere', including:

  • Provision of infrastructure such as sheds and suitable penning. The use of handling systems and shearing trailers.
  • Implications of shearing in the field.
  • Issues surrounding the timing of shearing.
  • Managing biosecurity at shearing time.
  • Impacts of lamb shearing for improved welfare and growth vs. end sale value of sheep.
  • The importance of natural fibre in the environmental sustainability debate.

I believe there is much knowledge to be gained by studying sheep systems at shearing time in the UK, France, Norway and Sweden, Iceland, and the USA/Canada to benefit both myself as a sheep farmer and shearing contractor directly, and the Sheep Industry more widely.

Please outline your travel plans – where do you plan to go, for how long and to see what, and what will the various components roughly cost?

I plan to visit France in July for the sheep shearing World Championships to meet farmers and shearers from across the globe; I will produce a questionnaire in advance to circulate at that event to collect qualitative data on current practices at shearing time in various countries.

I will go to Norway in October during the peak of their main shearing and could work in shearing sheds around the country to meet farmers and contractors to observe current practice. I have contacts on farms in Sweden also should those be required.

I would like to visit Iceland as I know their climate and landscape provides particular challenges to sheep production and learning how those are overcome will be interesting for my study. It is possible to follow up my existing contacts in Canada and the USA without having to actually visit in order to manage travel costs and realistic time away from my own farm.

What appealed to you about this award and what makes you a suitable candidate? How will you make the most of the opportunity?

For my undergraduate dissertation I interviewed 40 farmers about their farming practices and that was before I became a farmer myself. Now, with extensive contacts in the sheep farming and shearing industry, I can put my Environmental Sciences background to great use in studying 'Practical considerations for welfare during shearing in the Northern Hemisphere' by connecting animal, social and environmental sciences with their practical applications on farm.

It will be possible to gather a good amount of qualitative data from first-hand experiences of shearing practices and extensive interviews with farmers in a short time period, to inform recommendations and guidance for the industry going forward.