OLMC will be publishing fortnightly articles relating to the sheep industry written by Iain Turner.

The introductory article will be a background/overview of the sheep industry and this will be followed by further articles covering sheep husbandry – feeding, management, market trends, case studies and issues ‘of the day.’

Iain Turner is uniquely placed to discuss all aspects of the Sheep and lamb industry, having a wealth of experience farming pedigree and commercial sheep for over 50 years.

Iain ran a flock of Welsh Halfbred ewes from 1971 to 1983. He bred pedigree Border Leicesters from 1984 to 1989 and pedigree Charollais sheep from 1989 to 2012.

With a keen eye for confirmation and breeding Iain judged both pedigree and commercial sheep and was on the judging panel for both Charollais and Zwartbles sheep.

Iain worked for Brightwells in Hereford looking after their computer auction customers from 1989 -1999 and from 2000-2011 ran the Graig Farm Producer Group marketing organic fatstock from farms all over England and Wales.

Iain currently has a small flock of commercial ewes producing fat lambs for customer’s deep freezes.

Overview of the Sheep industry

In 2020 and there were 30 million sheep and lambs in the UK and the value of their production was around 1.3 billion pounds.

Approximately 10 million hectares of grassland in the UK store 600 million tonnes of carbon. This grassland also absorbs another 2.4 million tons of carbon annually as well as supporting livestock production.

60% of farmland in the UK is unable to grow crops such as cereals or oil seed rape, fruit and vegetables because of soil type and typography but is ideally suited to livestock production.

Even in these times of unusual weather patterns our climate in the UK is amongst the most suitable in the world for growing grass. It is therefore no coincidence that each generation of farmers inherit an industry that not only produces a large tonnage  of food which includes essential minerals and proteins for a balanced diet, but it is also being carried out in the most suitable climate by an animal ideally suited to take advantage of  grass that  can be grown without the use of fertilisers.

The industry is going through many changes brought on principally by four influencing factors. Firstly, the changes in the demand for sheepmeat worldwide; secondly, our decision to come out of the EU; thirdly, the weather patterns in Australia and parts of Europe resulting in a serious lack of rain; and finally inflation that has particularly affected feed and transport costs.

I will look at these four areas in more detail in future articles.