Government and industry bodies must work together to deliver a strategy for “sustainable intensification” in the UK sheep industry, said experts at NSA Sheep 2012.

Speaking at a debate at the NSA’s flagship show – “Sustainability: can sheep deliver?” – experts agreed that “sustainable intensification” was essential for the future of the industry, but said the practical terms of how this would work in reality needed to be developed in partnership between government and the industry.

The government’s chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, said: “We need to move to a sensible balance of taking into consideration both the environment and food production; a vast amount of biodiversity has declined under a modern agriculture regime and there are a large number of people who want to see that reversed.”

How the sheep industry achieves the call to “produce more from less inputs, more efficiently”, as outlined in the Foresight Report, is down to the industry itself, he added.

NSA chairman John Geldard (pictured) added: “The government needs to come together with the industry to figure out how to achieve this; when a politician wakes up, his first responsibility should be how to feed the nation.”

This was echoed by Euro Quality Lambs’s executive director, Rizvan Khalid, who said the industry needed to communicate the message that sheep were net contributors to the environment and landscape. “We must start promoting sheep meat as the most natural of all meats and the most environmentally friendly.”

New entrant sheep farmer Sion Williams, who farms without SFP, added: “The key driver for our business is financial return from our ewe flock and that means we have to farm intensively, but at the same time farm sustainably to ensure the future for our family.

“Farmers need to be profitable in what they do when looking after the environment and the countryside. We are custodians of the countryside and I’m proud to be a professional sheep farmer.”

For more on the NSA Sheep 2012 event

Go to our Sheep 2012 page