Pedigree Norfolk shepherdess Michelle Lakey wins 2017 Chris Lewis Award
PUBLISHED: 18:16 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:02 09 June 2017
An ambitious young shepherdess is preparing to expand her flock using a £5,000 prize awarded in memory of an inspirational Norfolk stockman.
Michelle Lakey, 26, from Briston, is the fifth winner of the biennial Chris Lewis Award, established in 2007 after the death of its namesake – a renowned sheep breeder who was known for making time to help young people.
The prize-winner is the only breeder of Berrichon sheep in Norfolk and she said she would use the award to buy more ewes and a top-quality ram to “hopefully produce prize-winning lambs”.
She also aims to buy handling equipment which would open up more options for contracting work.
Miss Lakey currently has 120 commercial ewes which lambed in April and 11 pedigree Berrichons which lambed in March.
As well as being a self-employed shepherdess, she also works with her father Chris Lakey on the family farm, where they have recently lambed 1,000 breeding ewes and will fatten 4,000-5,000 lambs.
She said: “I am going to expand the Berrichon flock. They are a very under-rated breed, with a triangle white head, very easy-lambing, with tight wool, and they fatten easily.
“I am the only breeder in Norfolk and since buying my first ewes and putting my name out, many people have expressed interest in them. Many people have commented that it is nice to have a local breeder rather than having to travel hundreds of miles to sales.
“As well as buying some more Berrichons I would like to put the money towards a handling system. With having more sheep on keep and the increase in my own flock it would make things easier when having to do work with sheep as I wouldn’t have to borrow gates from people.”
The Chris Lewis Award is open to Norfolk livestock farmers aged 30 years or under, and is awarded by the Norfolk Farmers Trust.
The 2017 prize was presented at Snettisham Park in west Norfolk by Mr Lewis’ widow Jane Lewis, who said: “I know Chris would fully endorse this decision, for this extremely hardworking individual deserves to be assisted in her work.
“No matter how determined you are to succeed, the lack of funds is always a concern. So it is very pleasing to give a helping hand of £5,000 with this award.”
Miss Lakey added: “My dad used to buy tups from Chris Lewis. I know that he only used to have very good quality and so for Jane to say he would have been pleased (with the choice of award winner) is really nice.”
The six finalists for the 2017 Chris Lewis Award, and their projects, were:
1st prize, £5,000. Michelle Lakey, Briston – mobile sheep handling system, purchasing Berrichon pedigree sheep.
2nd prize, £1,000. Megan Atkins, Briston – cattle handling equipment.
3rd prize, £500. Emma Germany, Coltishall – expanding a sheep enterprise.
Finalist: Robert Hirst, Ormesby – packaging, labelling and meat storage.
Finalist: Jade Lanham, North Burlingham – sheep handling system.
Finalist: Oscar Smith, Salhouse – mobile handling system, electric fence.