YOUNG SHEPHERD Michael Hogg has been named as the first winner of the National Sheep Association's 2020 membership prize giveaway.

With plans to start his own sheep enterprise in the near future, the win is perfectly timed for Mr Hogg from Tyne and Wear, who currently works as an employed shepherd on a mixed farm near Barnard Castle.

His prize is the first of four Ritchie portable sheep races, each worth more than £1000, that NSA will be giving away throughout 2020 to new members and existing members who have recommended a friend or family member sign up to join. Mr Hogg said that the handling system would provide an ideal set-up for carrying out fundamental husbandry tasks with his flock and had the potential to expand for a greater capacity in the future.

“My interest in sheep started at an early age when a well-respected livestock farmer from Penrith, called William Coulston, took me under his wing and taught me so much about farming sheep and also about suckler cows," recalled Mr Hogg. "This gave me the experience and confidence to take on my current position as a shepherd on a mixed farm near Barnard Castle following my studies at the local agricultural college in Durham.

“I am now enjoying working with the farm’s flock of 600 Swaledale and North of England mules. The flock is predominantly a closed system, only buying in tups from reputable sources. We produce pure bred replacements, and breeding stock for the lowland flock and also cross the Mules with Texel or Suffolk tups to produce prime lambs to be sold through Darlington Farmers and Barnard Castle Auction Marts.”

Mr Hogg decided to join NSA to show his support for the organisation after having visited last year’s NSA North Sheep event where he competed and came second in the NSA Next Generation Shepherd Competition: “Last summer I attended North Sheep which was a fantastic show. Until then, I was aware of the NSA although I hadn’t realised what a fantastic organisation they are in sharing my passion for sheep and being a voice for all UK sheep farmers. Therefore, I joined the NSA to show my support by signing up online at the beginning of the year.”