As THE Scottish sheep industry stands at a crossroads, all eyes will next week be turning to the Berwickshire farm of Quixwood, near Granthouse, when it hosts the national biennial Scotsheep event.
With over 160 trade stands and 40 breed societies in attendance, the event – which takes place on Wednesday 4 June and is organised by the Scottish region of the National Sheep Association – is expected to attract in the region of 6,000 sheep farmers from across Scotland and the north of England.
And although there will be farm tours, sheep shearing competitions, sheepdog trials and a sale of some of the top breeding ewe hoggs in the country, the opportunity to get the low-down on the latest developments on the proposals to implement the common agricultural policy (CAP) is likely to be one of the biggest draws.
“Reform of the CAP is causing considerable uncertainty in the industry and a seminar on the topic will provide the ideal opportunity for sheep farmers to catch up with the latest developments to help them plan ahead for a profitable future,” said David Leggat, executive chairman of United Auctions and chairman of the event’s organising committee.
“The opportunity to meet up with fellow sheep farmers to discuss everything that’s going on in the industry is also an important element and the comprehensive seminar programme will offer advice and opinion on a range of topical issues from leading figures in the industry.”
One of the chief debating points at the event is likely to be the industry’s approach to coupled payments.
Having become a political football in recent months – and despite earlier proclamations that the move would not be allowed – the possibility of increasing the coupled payment ceiling to 13 per cent was finally confirmed two weeks ago.
Since then some in the sheep sector – including senior members of the Scottish National Sheep Association – have been viewing with some suspicion the option that it might benefit from a 5 per cent slice of this offer, citing fears that it could lead to a considerable increase in both inspections and bureaucracy to comply with the legislation.
However, other industry voices have welcomed the move and have indicated that it could serve as an important tool in ensuring that support payments were targeted towards production, especially in the hill areas of the country.
There will also be seminars on animal health and welfare issues and looking at how the industry can increase the consumption of lamb both in the UK and abroad.
Another main draw will be the farm tour of the unit where the host farmers – father and son team John and Iain Macfarlane – run 1,500 ewes and 700 suckler cows along with some arable cropping on 2,500 acres of typical Border upland land.
More than 30 competitors will also participate in an invitation sheepdog trial at the event and many of the leading sheep shearers in Scotland will take part in a regional team competition, the first of its kind in Scotland.