Two UK farmers have finished inside the top 10 during the recent World Shepherd of the Year contest in France.

Following six competition stages that included tests of shearing, foot care, ewe and lamb selection, body condition scoring and electric fencing, Matthew Fearon emerged as the top UK competitor.

Fearon, who works on his family’s hill farm in the Lake District, Cumbria, finished fifth out of 30 participants.

Liam Doyle, a student from Greenmount College, Co. Antrim, also finished in the top ten, coming in ninth place.

Four young farmers from each of the UK nations fought for the title during the week-long competition, which aims to give young shepherds a chance to network and compete against fellow young farmers from countries including Australia, Canada and the Ivory Coast.

Representing the UK was:

  • Liam Doyle from Northern Ireland;
  • Matthew Fearon from England;
  • Caryl Davies from Wales;
  • Lana Bell from Scotland.

With the competition travelling across the sheep farming regions of France, attendees were also able to use the event as an opportunity to learn more about the sheep industry outside of their home nations.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) said they also had they chance to become part of an expanding international network committed to supporting the next generation of farmers.

‘Impressive knowledge and skills’

NSA support & activities officer Fiona Parker, accompanied the group on their trip.

“The group enjoyed a fantastic week of competition and networking, being welcomed by our French hosts with warm and generous hospitality,” she said.

“Our four UK competitors demonstrated impressive knowledge and skills throughout the week that will have undoubtedly aided those at the event with lesser understanding of progressive sheep systems.

“NSA must thank MSD Animal Health for its sponsorship of the UK team, allowing them to benefit from what I’m sure will have been a memorable and hugely beneficial week.”

The four UK competitors were selected having previously successfully competed at NSA Sheep Event’s national finals of the NSA Next Generation Shepherd of the Year in 2022 or were chosen following a competition to find competitors in Scotland.

NSA Sheep Event 2024 will once again be host of the NSA UK Next Generation Shepherd of the Year competition when it takes place on Tuesday, July 30, at the Three counties Showground, Worcestershire.

18 young farmers from across the country will come together at the event, sponsored by the Texel Sheep Society, to compete for their chance to take home the title and a piece of the prize pot.