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Rapidly increasing changes to farm support means sheep producers should seek professional advice, say experts. Sheep producers urged to seek help on farm support

• Speed of changes getting faster

• Huge impact on farm businesses

• Planning can help farmers adapt

Rapidly increasing changes to farm support means  sheep producers should  seek professional advice, say experts.

The removal of the Basic Payment Scheme means almost all sheep farmers face big changes, says the National Sheep Association. This includes adapting existing production systems, diversification and applying for new schemes.

Lack of clarity

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker says: “With so many changes to farm support being implemented or on the way, it can be challenging for farmers to know which direction to take their business – and which, if any, new scheme is suited to their systems.

Information is readily available for schemes already open for applications, says Mr Stocker.

But the volume can be overwhelming and it is not always clear – so how can farmers ensure they can make the most of what is on offer to them?”

Funding streams

The answer may be using a professional livestock adviser such as a member of the Register of Sheep Advisers (RoSA) – a network of well-rounded professional advisers working within the UK sheep industry.

Advice includes guidance to help sheep farming businesses adapt during and beyond the transition, including ways to join agri-environment schemes and other funding.

The register was established by the National Sheep Association and BASIS Registration in 2021. It directs farmers to advisers with specialisms including business management, electronic reading systems, animal health, nutrition and breeding.

Farm business consultant and sheep producer James Oliver says: “The RoSA network is critical in these ever-changing times with significant shifts in payments and how the government is issuing support.”

Embracing change

Farmers need to embrace change rather than be scared of it, says Mr Oliver. Many produers are already doing a lot of the work needed to receive payments so they should be  able to easily tap into these schemes.

“With increasing capital costs in farming, these can help with infrastructure such as fencing and hedging. There are a lot of good advisers out there with practical sheep experience who can relate to their clients and help them to increase their resilience.”

Mr Stocker says the sheep farming sector is likely to be tested by huge forthcoming changes in land use and farm support, driven by global issues of food security and environmental challenge.

“If sheep farmers are going to adapt and succeed, its likely more will want and need advice. Therefore, it’s important there is a network of well-informed, trusted sheep specific advisers and this was the reason for the formation of this register.

“Taking advice, whether that is on policy change or practical sheep farming matters, should not be judged as a cost but by what benefits it will bring to the farm business.”

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