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Award-winning sheepdog breeder urges more young livestock farmers to apply for £5,000 prize

Shepherd and sheepdog breeder Megan Jenkins. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Shepherd and sheepdog breeder Megan Jenkins. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

Young Norfolk livestock farmers have just a week left to apply for a £5,000 prize in an award scheme which has a track record of sending fledgling agricultural ventures on the road to success.

Shepherd and sheepdog breeder Megan Jenkins. Picture: Matthew Usher.Shepherd and sheepdog breeder Megan Jenkins. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The biennial Chris Lewis Award was named in memory of the inspirational farmer and pedigree sheep breeder who was known for supporting young people.

The first winner of the award was Helen Reeve in 2009, described as a “wonderful ambassador for Norfolk agriculture”, who used the money for purchasing a cattle crush to ease the handling of her Dexter cattle herd.

In 2011, it was given to Ewan Cumming, to help him increase his flock of Poll Dorset sheep which he was lambing three times in two years.

And the most recent award in 2013 went to Megan Jenkins who breeds, trains and sells sheep dogs.

She used part of her £3,000 prize to build a training ring which helped her business to grow, and later acquired new blood lines which have not only provided her puppies with a prize-winning pedigree, but also widened the gene-pool for the benefit of the whole county.

Miss Jenkins, 25, said: “My first priority was getting the environment right for training puppies. I needed a small permanent-fenced area so we could contain three or four good sheep. How you introduce a puppy to sheep can make or break the dog in the long run, so I needed that ideal environment for puppies to progress into fantastic working dogs.”

The success of that initial training area allowed Miss Jenkins’ business to expand, moving from its original site at Caister to a 60-acre permanently-fenced site at Roudham Heath, near Thetford.

She said: “As great as a two-acre paddock is for starting puppies, I have now moved to a place where I can train all levels of dogs. Having a larger area also means I can now also give people lessons with their own dogs, which have a variety of ranges and abilities.”

One of the key criteria of the Chris Lewis Award is that the winning project should benefit other people in Norfolk. Miss Jenkins achieved this by using some of the prize money on breeding one of her best sheepdogs with a Scottish champion, which has now provided two puppies.

“Part of the reason I applied for the award was to expand the blood lines in Norfolk,” she said. “It is about looking at the bigger picture. I sell all my puppies in the area and I really wanted to take the opportunity to improve the diversity and broaden the gene pool.

“The award is a fantastic opportunity, not just for the accolade of achieving it, but for the benefits it can bring for yourself and others in the area. “I would encourage people to apply, even if they don’t win – they have got nothing to lose by applying and the process will help them to progress with their career.”

The closing date for the 2015 prize is March 1, and The Norfolk Farmers Trust is inviting applications from farmers aged 30 years or under on March 1 2015, who must have lived in Norfolk for the last five years.

For more details or to request an application form, contact trust secretary Christopher Deane at the NFU office at Folgate House, Folgate Road, North Walsham, NR28 0AJ, call 01692 402929 or email christopher@norfolknfu.co.uk.

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