A CUMBRIAN hill farmer is among 12 young shepherds preparing to take part in the finals of a competition that should have taken place last year.

The National Sheep Association (NSA), organisers of the Next Generation Shepherd of the Year, had to cancel last year’s competition, which was scheduled to have taken place at NSA Sheep Event 2020, because of the pandemic.

The long-awaited finals will see competitors take part in a demonstration of skills including ATV handling, health care administration, carcase judging, and shearing via virtual tasks.

Representing NSA Northern Region is Matthew Fearon, 21, who is working as a contract shepherd.

He said: “I was lucky enough to be born into farming, on a hill farm in the Borrowdale Valley, Cumbria where I developed my passion for everything to do with the Lake District hill farms, the Herdwick sheep running on the fells and traditional dog and stick shepherding techniques.

Competition organiser Helen Roberts said: “It is encouraging to see the competitors embrace using virtual technology in order that the competition can take place and to see how they have overcome the new challenges that this has bought to the competition. I wish all the competitors well with their tasks.”

The Texel Sheep Society are sponsors of the competition.

Texel Sheep Society chief executive John Yates said recognising the need to encourage and develop the younger generation and its support of the NSA Next Generation Shepherds competitions was just one of a number of activities the society undertook in this area.

Competitors have already completed a carcase judging competition.