With plans to start his own sheep enterprise in the near future, news that he was the first winner of the National Sheep Association (NSA) 2020 membership prize giveaway was perfectly timed for young shepherd Michael Hogg from Tyne and Wear.

Michael, who currently works as an employed shepherd on a mixed farm near Barnard Castle was randomly selected to win the first of four Ritchie portable sheep races that the NSA is giving away throughout 2020 to its members.

Mixed farm shepherd

Michael said his interest in sheep farming has been with him for as long as he can remember: “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.

“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 [rams] from reputable sources.

“We produce pure bred replacements and breeding stock for the lowland flock, while we also cross the Mules with Texel or Suffolk tups to produce prime lambs to be sold through Darlington Farmers and Barnard Castle Auction Marts.”


Michael 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.

Michael said: “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.

The news I had won came with initial disbelief and great surprise. Whilst never normally using emails, I had to take a look at them for a reason and just by chance saw an email from the NSA and I couldn’t believe what it read.

“The race will bring huge benefits going forward as I am set to start my own sheep enterprise soon.

“This sheep handling system will provide an ideal setup for carrying out fundamental husbandry tasks with the flock and offers the potential to expand on the handling system for a greater capacity in the future.”

All new members joining the organisation as well as existing members who recommend a friend, neighbour or family member will be entered into the draw for a chance to win one of the remaining ‘Ritchie’ races that will be given away throughout 2020.

NSA has three further sheep races, each worth more than £1,000 to giveaway to new members this year.