CURRENT problems involving the inclusion of horse meat in processed meat products was a real slur on British farmers who meet a raft of rules and regulations – but also presents an opportunity to promote British meat.

That was the key message from Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association (NSA) addressing the Northern Region’s annual meeting.

Mr Stocker told the meeting in Penrith: “I think the issue will raise a lot of interest in prime meat products produced in Britain and that people will take these best ingredients and do more home cooking.”

However, retiring NSA northern chairman, Geoff Lawn, said: “We in the farming and food industry must be careful not to take a ‘holier than thou’ approach to the present situation.

“However, I do think that the present situation is something that we can use to our advantage in promoting British produce both now and in the future.”

Mr Stocker said farming organisations must work together in responding to the horse meat issue and welcomed an initiative by NSA chairman, John Geldard, in organising a London meeting bringing groups together.

Local vet, Matt Colston of Frame, Swift and Partners, told the AGM that a happy, healthy sheep was also likely to be the most productive sheep. Looking at the problem of fluke and worm resistance to anthelmintic preparations he stressed the importance of monitoring efficacy and dealing with resistant populations before they become a major problem.

Auctioneer Stuart Bell was presented with the NSA Northern Region’s prestigious TI Allinson award for his contribution to the sheep industry in the North of England.

He has completed 40 years as an auctioneer, working at Kirkby Stephen mart since July 1975 and taking over its management in 1979.

Brought up in a Wensleydale farming family, he is a supporter of the North of England Mule Sheep Association and Swaledale Sheep Association as well as many other sheep organisations.

His citation said: “Held in high regard as an auctioneer, valuer, advisor, judge and stocksman Stuart has proven his trade by working his way through the industry gaining the respect of his clients, colleagues, friends and associates showing a dedication few could conceive.”

  • Accounts showed the Northern Region made an operating loss of £11,952 for the financial year ending December 31, 2012 compared to a profit of £12,827 in the previous year.

However, the figures show that the year ending December 31, 2011 included £24,694 proceeds from North Sheep 2011 and that without this income for 2011 was £1,078 compared to £1,855 in 2012, the latter boosted by £900 interest from an NSA national loan.

Administrative expenses were £13,807 for 2012 and £12,945 in 2011. Total assets, less current liabilities, were £52,127 for 2012 and £64,079 for the 2011 financial years.