THE National Sheep Association (NSA) has named farmer Margaret Dalton and sheep consultant Dr John Vipond as joint winners of the 2013 George Hedley Memorial Award.

The award recognises an individual’s outstanding contribution to the sheep industry, and it is only the second time in its 54-year history that is has been awarded jointly.

The awards were presented at a celebratory dinner at the Farmers Club, in London.

Dr Vipond, senior sheep consultant for SAC Consulting, SRUC, has been dedicated to the practical use of science for the benefit of the UK sheep industry throughout a career spanning more than 40 years.

He gained a BSc Hons degree at Newcastle University and a PhD in animal nutrition at Aberdeen University and has driven improvements in lambfeeding regimes and production and wintering systems.

More recently, he has supported the development of “easy care” sheep-breeding schemes and contributed to professional organisations, including the Highland Mule Breeders’ Association and the British Grassland Society, where he recently served as president.

He has also collaborated with the Scottish Quality Beef and Lamb Association and Quality Meat Scotland on the development of farm assurance schemes for the sheep industry.

Margaret Dalton worked tirelessly to make a success of her Welsh hill farm and raise two sons following the death of her husband, Don, only 12 years after they bought the farm in 1963.

She has still found time to hold numerous positions within the sheep industry.

She is a former NSA Cymru/Wales chairman and has taken on roles within her county NFU branch, agricultural discussion group and show society.

A champion of women in agriculture, she has been involved in the Women’s Food and Farming Union and has won NFU and NFU Cymru Woman Farmer of the Year awards. In 2001, she received the OBE.

She continues to take the lead on her home farm and campaigns for the legalisation of “skin-on sheep meat”

production, which she believes could open up a multi-million pound market for UK sheep producers.

John Geldard, NSA chairman, said both recipients had made contributions to the industry that could not go unrecognised.

He said: “Margaret Dalton has spent a life-long career doing what she could to help not only herself, but also others.

“Her work for charity as well as for the NSA and other organisations has won her huge respect in the sheep farming community.

“John Vipond has worked in agriculture for 40 years and remains passionate about helping farmers to do better. His support of NSA events has been much appreciated over the years and many have benefited from his wisdom.”

Mr Geldard added: “That we have two such worthy recipients of the award is testament to the depth of talent and commitment that exists within the sheep industry, and the NSA is delighted to honour two such shining examples of that.”