Coloured Ryeland sheep breeder
Not hailing from a farming family has been far from a deterrent in Thomas Nash’s sheep farming career.
He became interested in sheep through the Royal Bath and West Show some years ago and recently landed the RBST Young Shepherd of the Year title.
At first, he desired to become a cattle farmer, but his parents thought “that was too much of a big step for me”, as he recently explained.
So, instead, they bought him two Coloured Ryeland ewes for his birthday, and he has “not looked back since”.
“We have always had farmers just a few fields away from us, who competed at the show, and I always went to visit them,” he explained.
An avid visitor to the Royal Bath & West Show, Thomas, now aged 12, first competed there in 2017. But this year will be the first year with a full show team, he claims.
And, of course, preparation is key. “There is a lot of effort that goes into it. I spend weekends washing the show team.”
“Then, one or two weeks before the event, I will start getting them in and giving them their first trim,” he explains.
“I will be trying to get a nice flat back onto them – they should be nice and square,” he explained.
So, what does he seek in his show stock? As he explained, with Coloured Ryelands, there are certain breed characteristics he looks for.
“They need white teardrops, white mealy markings, and as with all other sheep, generally good conformation, and head carriage. As Ryelands are a medium-sized breed, I want them nice and stocky but not too leggy. For me, I also like small ears and a small nose.”
Thomas has successfully built up his flock from two and now has 39 Coloured Ryelands, including lambs and one Ryeland.
He admitted: “Mum was not very pleased when I came back from the breed show and sale with a white Ryeland, but hopefully, I will be able to show her and start another Ryeland flock alongside the Coloured flock.”
And his hard work paid off when he won the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s Young Shepherd of the Year award 2021.
“It was similar to the other young handler classes; the judge looks at the way you handle the sheep, getting them to stand correctly and walk around.”
“I was ecstatic when I won; it makes all the time and effort worthwhile. Especially in the winter months or when you are lambing at 3 am, it pays off when you win something like that.”
Win or lose, Thomas loves showing and says that the atmosphere and the buzz are “great”. “Even if you do not do well, it is still an enjoyable day, and everyone I show with is like an extended family.”
“The thing I enjoy, is at the end of the show when most of the public have gone home, just walking around and enjoying it yourself – it does not get much better.”
He is currently gearing up for the Royal Bath & West, a “very” prestigious event in his calendar. “The competition is strong. I have been honing my skills for the past few years, and hopefully, this year, it will pay off.”
“It would be great to win at the Royal Bath and West, as it is one of the biggest shows in Somerset. Everyone knows about it; it would put me on the map nationally for coloured Ryelands.”
The Royal Bath & West Show takes place on June 2nd-June 4th, 2022, at The Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset BA4 6QN.
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