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NSA Research Work

National Sheep Association (NSA) is the UKs leading membership organisation representing the views and interests of sheep farmers. 

Its vision is to support sheep farmers with increased knowledge exchange opportunities, increase aspiration for adoption of good practice and maintain passion and enthusiasm within the sheep the sector. NSA also aims to ensure those not directly involved in the sheep sector maintain awareness of the contribution sheep make to society and highlight the core aspects of the sector. As such, NSA is in a good position to work collaboratively with researchers, advisors and other industry partners on projects focused on improving our sheep industry. 

NSA has a strong communication network, including our membership database of UK sheep farmers and around 83 affiliated Breed Societies putting it in a strong position to provide expert advice for research projects, as well as the ability to identify, organise and host farmer focus groups, distribute farmer surveys and provide a strong interaction with industry stakeholders through our well-established networks. 

NSA is also active in a huge range of policy areas affecting the sheep sector and will be able to both advise any research partner in this regard and to feed information back to governments specifically from project outcomes.


NSA’s role in Research: 

NSA has always understood the importance of research for innovation and sustainability and in the last seven years has had the capacity to provide a dedicated job role within our organisation. NSA has always provided guidance in past research projects, usually acting as an expert advisor when requested. 

In recent years employing a full-time, devoted researcher has allowed a focus on coordinating it’s research commitments and deliverables to meet current and future research. Research is hugely important to ensure the future survival of the sheep sector, but without expertise coming directly from the sector guiding and advising from project inception, adoption and acceptance of new research can be limited.   


Past projects:  

NSA has broadened its involvement in research from numerous expert advisory roles with levy bodies such as Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, and advises as an industry representative in Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance, Sheep Vet Society and other bodies. 

NSA has also been involved in a number of international projects working directly within the consortium. For example NSA was a member of the consortium in the iSAGE – Innovation for Sustainable Sheep and Goat Production in Europe (2016-2020), Wellcome Trust FIELD project (2018-2020), Defra UK Sheep Genetic Identification Scoping Study, a stakeholder in SEEGSLIP - Sustainable economic and environmental grazing systems: learning from innovative practitioners’ project (2020-2024), SheepNET/Eurosheep and lead on NSA’s British Heritage Sheep. More recent projects include NSA as the sole UK partner in an EU-funded Turkish-led research project called E-Organic Erasmus (2021-2022), MSD Vaccines trial (2021-2023), Zolvixs Exchange programme (2023) and NSA coordinated the South West lot through its regional connections was the Defra funded RDPE Scab Project (2021-2023). 


Current projects: 

NSA is currently a project partner on the Innovate UK Defra funded Breed for CH4nge project (2023-2026), the Fabulous Fibre project (2023-2024), the Lamb Monitor project (2023-2026), Breeding animals for resilient feet project (2024-2025). NSA is also part of the Canine DNA Recovery project (2024-2026) led by Liverpool John Moors University, the Defra Sheep Scoping Efficiency project (2024-2025) and Land Use for Net Zero hub. 

These research projects are in addition to a number of academic PhD projects such as Lameness in sheep (Newcastle University), Hydata project - Study of farm dogs and parasites in Livestock, Joint-ill and other health related disease at Liverpool University and Investigating Lameness in Sheep at Warwick University. NSA is regularly approached to sit on advisory boards within project consortiums on most UK (and non-UK) sheep projects, even when a direct consortium position is not available. 


NSA research services:

NSA is striving towards a leadership role identifying sources of funding, locating partners and ensuring research deliverables are met. In addition, NSA has very strong relationships with levy bodies, policy makers, NGO’s and is in regular contact with them on a two-way advisory level, so projects working at a policy level are also of great interest. 

Farmer engagement is vital to ensure any project results lead to changes in current practise to improve sustainability, health & welfare and economics. NSA will seek to put any project teams in touch with farmer participants if necessary, through its membership database of UK sheep farmers and strong relationships with other organisations within the industry. 

NSA also has the capacity to work closely within research consortiums to ensure events and farmer/industry interaction ensures quantifiable routes to impact. Use of NSA’s own specific farmer focused communication channels such as NSA’s Sheep Farmer Magazine (6 editions per year), Weekly Email Updates to all members, social media outlets and through seminar programmes at key NSA events (4-6 per year), webinars and engagement through regional activity are just some of the ways NSA can promote knowledge exchange, to encourage adoption during and after project completion.  

It is therefore of considerable interest for NSA to be more proactive in future research projects targeting the sheep sector. NSA is happy to act as an industry expert, providing key advice within the consortium and to attend project meetings as appropriate. NSA is also keen to discuss other related research where project aims/outputs share a common goal.


Summary of what NSA can provide:

  • Ability to use diverse membership database to invite sheep farmers to take part in research related activities via NSA – e.g. farmer focus groups, invitation for practical on farm research, invitation to take part in specific data collection.
  • Practical staff labour for on-farm (sheep) data collection – practical sampling at farm level (e.g. liveweights, faecal egg sampling, sward sampling) and farmer interviews.
  • Staff time for research related activities – collation of data, analysis, reporting etc.
  • Staff time for sheep expertise – participating on research advisory board, sounding out project ideas (before & during the project), advise on potential impact of research.
  • Staff time and consumables for identifying farmers for farmer focus groups, feedback sessions, direct farmer contact – email, letter, telephone, social media.
  • Knowledge exchange through well-established NSA communication channels. 
  • Production of article/s in NSA’s Sheep Farmer magazine relating to project activities.
  • Access to NSA events, webinars, regional activity, workshops and seminars for project promotion and to increase project impact.
  • Distribution of surveys and questionnaires to farmers.



Who to contact:

For anyone interested in discussing research collaborations contact NSA’s lead contact Nicola Noble, Project Manager. 


Mobile: 07930574309