A founder member of Europe’s biggest ram sale has called on the UK Governments to do more to keep sheep on the hills and prevent them from reverting to wilderness.
Auctioneer Richard Gwilliam lives and works in the Welsh Borders and says that the balance has swung too far in favour of environmental schemes. There was little understanding of the fact that sheep production is an environmental tool.
Mr Gwilliam added: “The Government has been reducing payments to farmers for farming in the hills at the expense of environmental schemes. I think they have to go back to supporting production in the hills.
“Animals keep the hills under control and without sheep the grazing goes wild and the hills become ungrazeable and unwalkable. I believe the Government has now started retraining people in how the hills work, but the evironmentalists are blinkered and don’t realise animals help the hills and that without them they will revert to wilderness.”
Mr Gwilliam conceded that in the Eighties the balance was probably too much in favour of sheep production. The system that prevailed meant that at one time farmers were getting three times the value of the meat produced in subsidies and that had possibly led to overgrazing.
Now the balance had swung too far and more Government support was needed to keep more sheep on the hills. Sheep numbers had decreased in Wales, England and New Zealand.
Mr Gwilliam is based in Kington and is a consultant with McCartneys with whom he has been associated for almost fifty years. He says the Wales and Border Ram Sales is a high spot of his year and the premier sale for commercial rams in the Northern Hemisphere.
He praised the choice and quality of the six thousand plus rams from thirty or so breeds that are available at the Royal Welsh Showground on the one day. The introduction of the Tup Taxis meant it was a more manageable event than it had been in its heyday when there were close to ten thousand rams sold.
He added: “We’ve been very, very. lucky over the years to have terrific organisation from our secretariat. That makes life easier and although it may look chaotic, it’s certainly not
“Selling there is fun, we wouldn’t do it otherwise. It’s not our bread and butter, more a service to our customers and quite an expensive day out for us!”
But he said it was always a terrific day. It was a very privileged existence to deal with kind people and good livestock.
Note: The main NSA Wales & Border Ram Sale will be held at the Royal Welsh Showground on Monday September 24. The event is an important economic driver in rural Wales. Last year turnover was more than two and a quarter million pounds, with a top price of 6,800 guineas paid for a Bluefaced Leicester ram.
Sponsors include Symtag, Ketchum, Pfizer, Novartis and the Farmers Guardian.
Chelford Beltex Rams Peak at 1,350gns
Teiglum Lamb Tops Welsh National Texel Sale at 5500gns
Record Prices for Lleyns at Exeter