There are six vacancies to fill at this election and each Gold membership is permitted up to six votes in the ballot.  You are not obliged to use all six votes if you do not wish to.  Voting is now open and will run for three weeks, closing on Friday 23rd February 2024.

You will only be able to vote if you have paid your membership for 2024 by the end of January 2024.  If you have met the criteria you will have been sent an email containing the link to vote, please check your junk mail if you have not seen it.

You may only enter the vote once per membership.

Set out below is the information provided by each of the eight candidates on their nomination form, in answer to the following questions:

1.What is your experience of breeding/keeping/showing Valais Blacknose Sheep?

2. What skills can you bring to the Society Council?


From Northern Ireland:
Jackie O’Shea V0461
1.My name is Jackie O’Shea and along with my  husband Patrick run a flock of commercial sheep, a small flock of VBN and more recently a flock of pedigree Dutch Spotted in Co Fermanagh, N.Ireland.My introduction to the Valais Blacknose breed was at the Highland show in 2016. Like a lot of people I fell in love with the breed instantly although Patrick was less impressed!! After some background research into the breed I purchased my first 2 animals at Blacknose Beauties in 2019 from the Horsemill and Moorahill flocks.
My aim has always been to have a small naturally bred flock adhering to the Swiss traditions of developing and protecting the breed as much as possible. At present I have 13 animals.
I attended my first local show in 2022 and was delighted when both entries won their class and ram secured overall reserve champion. Same ram went on to take overall supreme champion at his next outing and I knew my breeding programme was on the right track. This year our local county show had no Valais classes however I persuaded the organisers to allow us to bring along some VBN for  the public to enjoy.
Despite terrible weather it was a great success and a great opportunity to promote the breed. This year I managed to secure classes at this show and another of the main livestock shows in N.Ireland.

Recently I joined the committee of the NI Valais Blacknose club helping to fundraise, organise events and providing support to new and existing members.

2.Throughout my working career I have built up a range of skills which I can bring to the society council. Working in the business banking sector for over 15 years I have experience of finance, problem solving and working with the public.  These skills stood me in good stead when I set up my dog grooming business in 2012.  Running my own business I acquired a whole new skill set in organizing events, marketing and establishing and retaining a customer database.

At present I work as a Registrar for Fermanagh and Omagh district council.  Dealing with major life events I continue to enhance my people skills as well as accuracy and efficiency in record keeping and data processing.  All of these roles have involved dealing with regulations, audits and returns.

Most of my adult life I have been involved in the voluntary sector.  For a number of years I was treasurer of a local NI hospice group.  I have also completed charity checks in Thailand, Mexico and Canada, raising £12k for Mencap.

Perhaps my biggest challenge was helping to set up the Special Olympics basketball club, since I knew absolutely nothing about basketball.  The club was established by six enthusiastic volunteers from scratch and grew to be a great success.  Covering all aspects or organising a club and fund raising.

As a result I believe I can bring a wide range of skills and life experiences to the society council to the benefit of all it’s members, problem solving, dealing with members and their families, competition and training, even becoming a qualified junior basketball coach.

From Scotland:
Tom Blackwood V0440

1.I have been interested in Valais Blacknose sheep since 2017 when we first saw them at the Highland Show.  I was brought up on a farm so have always had an interest in animals.

We got our first three in early 2018 and have steadily increased our flock to over 140 to date.

We have naturally bred over 120 lambs since we started breeding, all looked after by myself and my wife Joan.

I am constantly trying to learn more about these sheep and improve our breeding.  We have made several trips to Switzerland to the Valais shows to see how the sheep are bred originally.

We started showing our Valais in 2022.  We attended local shows in AOB classes and the Highland Show.

It was also our first year at Blacknose Beauties at Carlisle where we were delighted to be awarded maximum points for a few of our sheep and a few first in class.

In 2023 we attended the local shows again,  but we also went a bit further and showed at Skipton, Yorkshire and the Black Isle shows.

We had a very good year with lots of first places including Supreme Champion at Black Isle and reserve supreme champion with our home bred ewe at Blacknose Beauties.

To complete our year, we attended our first grading event outside Blacknose Beauties and achieved maximum points with two of our ewes.

2.I think I could bring the following skills to the council.

Having owned VBN sheep for 6 years now I feel that I have a reasonably good idea of what it takes to look after and breed these loveable animals.

I am very heavily invested in this breed both financially and with my time, and I am constantly trying to improve my flock and the general UK breeding.

I have showed a commitment to learning more about this breed by visiting Switzerland on numerous occasions to speak to the breeders and watch how the sheep are prepared and shown.

I have run my own business since 1989.  During that time, I have had to learn organizational skills, people skills and general management skills.

I believe I have a can-do attitude and can get things done quickly and efficiently.

I would be 100% committed to helping the council represent the members of the society and to uphold/improve the breed standards in the UK.

Deian Thomas V0374

1.I have been brought up on the family farm with pedigree sheep, showing various breeds in local and national shows, with national championships.  I have competed in stock judging from a young age on various breeds of animals and have been selected to represent the county young farmers at National level.

Having bred Valais Blacknose for numerous years we now have one of the largest flocks in Wales with around 100 animals on the holding.  We have imported and exported animals.  I am an active mentor for numerous breeders that have started out in the breed and will offer ongoing support for all animals that we breed.

I have a keen interest in animal genetics and was awarded a scholarship to travel and report on a specific gene to increase the prolific value of animals.

2.I have been working and running agricultural discussion groups on various topics in Wales over a number of years.  I am a fully trained Action Learning leader and ran Action Learning groups for farmers to develop ideas and get the best from their businesses. I have a Masters level qualification at group mentoring “Facilitation for Organisational Leadership” that I gained during my period as a Development Officer for Farming Connect in Wales – the national support service for Agriculture.  I have travelled the world and taken part in various Agricultural meetings and delivered many presentations including New Zealand where I spent 12 months as a Ambassador for Wales and England Young Farmers.   During this period I had to travel the country and speak at events and learn new ideas and farming practices.

I would like to represent the Welsh breeders and make sure their voice is getting represented on the society.  There is a large amount of breeders in the Country and a need to develop the Welsh Society and a grading day.

From England:
Carla Bunter V0651

1.I am now in my 4th year of Lambrook Valais Somerset. We run a small flock of 20 Valais sheep that we have bred naturally. I am passionate about natural breeding and I enjoy researching and looking at different pedigrees to bring in to my flock to achieve the best of the breed standard. I have competed at many shows at both County and also local shows promoting the breed, competing and winning  1st for our Ram in a tough mixed breed class was a highlight last year. I am proud that our flock has been successful winning rosettes in several different classes. 2023 saw us achieve firsts at Devon County and Dorset County and also winning Breed Champion at Bath and West in 2022.

I have volunteered to help where I can and last year helped at the Southern Show and Sale and at the Worcestershire Grading day. I endeavour to support local breeders who contact me for advice and help and I am actively supporting other Valais breeders on social media offering help and advice where I feel able to.

2.As well as the knowledge I have built up over the last 4 years keeping and breeding Valais Blacknose sheep, by day I am a Deputy Practice Manager at a busy GP practice with over 8000 patients. I am responsible for the day to day running of the two practices, troubleshooting any problems that arise and ensuring the legal requirements of running the practices are upheld and keeping them running efficiently. I have good HR knowledge holding appraisals, disciplinaries and running recruitment campaigns and interviews. I organise all the practice events and run the Patient Participation group creating agendas and recording minutes. I am responsible for booking and coordinating GP holiday and booking locum GPs working within tight budgets. I maintain the practice website and social media.

Our family business is a design & print company, we supply every service in-house, including Graphic design, Web, Exhibition & Display, Books, Product Packaging and Business Stationery and across two production sites employ 45 people.

Jenny Campbell V1166
1.I was smitten by the Valais Blacknose sheep in 2021 having seen them on This Farming Life during covid downtime hours.  I have always been an animal lover and wannabe farmer so now was the time to make it happen.  I researched the breed extensively, joined the Society, bought my first three ewes, then a few more and a few more, had an enormous amount of fun with the help of my neighbours preparing them for their first show, attended BB22, got my first max points and several -1ax, and had my first lambs in 2023.  The breeders of my foundation flock have been enormously helpful and welcoming.  I have been involved in pedigree dogs for 40 years, showing and breeding and have been able to transfer a lot of knowledge and experience from that world into the world of Valais.  I enjoy and spend many hours studying the breeding lines of the U.K. flock and assessing what delivers good conformation, appearance and wool quality of the resultant stock.

My aim is to protect the future of the Valais in the U.K. by breeding quality stock on a small scale and helping to educate and inform new owners on how to support and promote the future of this lovely breed.

2.My career background of 40 years is in business, banking, payment services, commercial turnaround, entrepreneurship and investment.

Throughout my business career I have also been actively involved in showing, breeding, working and judging dogs at championship show level, in the U.K. and overseas.  I was a Board member of the U.K. Royal Kennel Club (RKC) 2020-2022 and am currently on the RKC Finance Committee.

I am currently on the General Committee of the Flatcoated Retriever Society (FCRS) which has 1800 Members, and on the FCRS Field Trial Sub Committee.
I believe my background in business and wider voluntary roles gives me the experience to add value to the VBN Society Council.  Specifically I have experience in finance, operations, communications, governance, compliance, leadership and the world of pedigree dogs.

I have empathy and patience with volunteer roles, in trying to align passionate enthusiasm and competing priorities with the Society’s core objective of taking the breed forward in the right direction in order to protect the breed for its long term future. I believe in proactive engagement with the Membership in order to inform and implement new initiatives.

Mel Christie V0351
1.Rare breeds and small populations have always been my passion, having been brought up on a small holding with Dales ponies and various livestock. I became intrigued by the story of the first known ‘Animal Breeder’ Robert Bakewell (c1750) and his work, and from then on, have always wanted to be involved in maintaining original breed type, and genetic variation in small populations. Having followed my love of livestock breeding I became an ‘animal breeder’ (a livestock geneticist and reproductive physiologist) and I have been lucky enough to spend my career researching and teaching a subject that I love and am very passionate about.

From our home, ‘Buerton Hall Farm’ in Cheshire, we run a flock of rare breed Leicester Longwools, Dutch Spotted and of course our beautiful Valais Blacknose, along with a herd of Dales ponies. I’ve been involved in the Valais breed since 2016, initially researching it and then as a breeder and member of the Society and I am passionate about its maintenance, welfare, health, development, and its future.

2.In 2023, I was delighted to be co-opted onto the Society Council along with two other members which has been a great experience. I have loved the opportunity to apply my experience and knowledge to help move the Society and the breed forward. Whilst only having been on council for 1 year, I have been a part of some superb improvements such as introducing grading events across the UK, more shows and sales, the judge’s pathway, and membership votes. Grading particularly is an invaluable tool for us all, and so important to allow each of us to quantify the quality we have at home as a baseline for improvement. I was thrilled for my own homebred Blacknoses to be awarded 1 maximum point and several -1 in 2023 grading events.

My role in Veterinary and Agricultural departments, within the UK and overseas has enabled me to educate and be educated by a huge variety of people. These experiences have been priceless in my own personal development, from farm level practical research to international collaborations with Professors and government officials. This has been fascinating and hugely rewarding and has inspired me to want to transfer some of this experience to development of the UK Valais Blacknose. My aims, should I be re-elected, are to assist in promoting the original Swiss breed standard whilst seeking to maintain those original genetics that we still have. In addition, I’d like to promote education in all aspects of the breed, making information accessible to all members.

I am a confident person and a ‘doer’- I like to get things done and to ensure subjects are dealt with thoroughly and fairly, accounting for equality and correctness and ensure that both sides of any matter are represented. However, I’m also a fun, empathetic and sociable communicator. I’ve also loved contributing to several different committees within Schools, various Science Societies and Universities (academic, management and disciplinary) and Breed Societies.

I do really love working with likeminded people and have spent my life working with farmers, students and colleagues of many different nationalities having lots of fun along the way. I’ve learnt that when privileged enough to be in a Council position it’s so important to listen to everyone’s views, collect all the evidence and form an educated, impartial, and researched opinion to move forward.

Emma Collison V0001
1.I have been breeding Valais since 2014. I was the first to import the Valais and with the other original breeders have been an integral part of educating and breeding the Valais.

I was part of establishing the breed society and the Registry.

I have been showing sheep since 2015 and judging for 3 years.

I have spent a substantial amount of time in Switzerland learning from the Swiss shepherds.

I am also a Society judge and look forward to progressing along the programme.

2.I can bring a unique perspective to the committee. Having sat on both sides of the fence I am able to support the society and its members.

I am a hard worker and am always willing to help in various areas. My main skills are in organizing events and communicating with members about what they want out of the society.

I look forward to the opportunity to contribute.

Steve Dace V0411
1.I purchased my first Valais Sheep in 2014 being an early members of the Society (V0039).My prefix ‘Yew Tree’. Later I changed my prefix to ‘Cheshire’, and was given a new flock number (V0411) when I moved to my new farm ‘Valais Farm’.

I sourced my Valais’s from breeders that had imported them into the UK. I purchased two in lamb Swiss Imports. My breeding plan slowly progressed and my flock grew. I had a strict selection policy just keeping my ewes for breeding off the required standards. Following research, my initial selection criteria was to buy only ‘type 3’ (ARQ:ARQ), because that was by far the major genotype within the Swiss Valais population.

My Cheshire flock quickly grew and then following Covid restrictions, myself and the family then hit the show scene hard to test my Cheshire flock and we were delighted with how the recent 2 years of showing has gone, winning Supreme & Reserve Champions at Six Royal Shows. Winning The Royal Welsh 2 years on the bounce and claiming all 6 bells which took my success to 18 bells in my display cabinet!

I’ve been overwhelmed at Black Beauties winning a few classes and Reserve Supreme Male Champion in 2022 and also won Supreme Champion at BB Worcester 2023. I have also bred eleven maximums and twenty -1 point off a maximum. To cap off a great 2023 it was fantastic to set a new British Valais Blacknose Record selling maximum points Ram ‘Cheshire Incredible Hulk’ for 18,000 guineas.

2.As my 12 months on the Valais Society Council comes to an end I have decided to stand again. I have met some great people and thoroughly enjoyed my time being a part of the Council. I feel I have  hopefully  helped to make a difference and brought new perspectives and ideas. I believe I am a people’s person and have been able to contribute to many topics which we have had to deal with in the last 12 months of my tenure on the committee. I have owned my own business for over 30 years with over 100 employees and have had to deal with many different challenges and personalities along the way. I’m sure that I can offer a common-sense opinion where needed, listen to others and am always fair.

I am a committed person and having the biggest flock in the UK with over 200 Valais Blacknose sheep in my Cheshire flock, shows I am heavily committed and invested in the breed and only want what is best for it so it can continue to prosper and keep going from strength to strength.

I was happy to have passed my judge’s tests in 2023 so will be able to start judging some shows in 2024. Hopefully I can pass on some knowledge and experience I have gained with the Breed and so look forward to 2024 meeting more breeders of our wonderful sheep.