Melton sheepdog training champion appeals for land to carry on his craft

John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas with his sheepdogs Todd and Cody EMN-181105-133429001
John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas with his sheepdogs Todd and Cody EMN-181105-133429001
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A world champion sheepdog trainer, who has been served notice to leave his rented farmland, has appealed to the Melton farming community to offer him a site where he can pass on his skills.

Nij Vyas, who lives in the hamlet of John O’Gaunt, near Melton, has been training sheep farmers and their sheepdogs for 23 years and last month celebrated winning the inaugural UK Four Nations Nursery Championship which involved the best handlers in the world.

John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas working with his sheepdog Cody EMN-181105-133452001

John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas working with his sheepdog Cody EMN-181105-133452001

But he is concerned he may no longer be able to train others from next month, when he must leave the land he rents at Tilton on the Hill.

This is the fifth time in seven years he has been given notice to leave farmland, having also previously rented fields at the Langtons, Lubenham and Saddington in the past.

Nij, who was also part of the five-man England team which won the World Sheepdog Trials in the Netherlands last year, said: “There is a huge demand here in the UK and since moving to Melton word has spread about my training classes and more and more people are coming for training so it would be nice if someone came forward to let me rent some land.

“Many of the youngsters are far more skilled and able than I was when I first started.

John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas with his sheepdog Cody and the UK Four Nations Nursery Championship they recently won.'PHOTO BY ELAINE HILL EMN-181105-133440001

John O'Gaunt champion sheepdog trainer Nij Vyas with his sheepdog Cody and the UK Four Nations Nursery Championship they recently won.'PHOTO BY ELAINE HILL EMN-181105-133440001

“They need help and guidance, but sadly, once again, I will not be able to offer this for much longer.

“I naively believed that Leicestershire would embrace the fact that they had a world sheepdog trials medalist and UK Nursery Champion, but sadly this is proving not to be the case.

“I desperately need to plead to the farming community here in Melton, and specifically near John O Gaunt, to consider helping not just me but the young farmers so that this time old tradition of shepherding with dogs can continue.”

Nij said he moved to the Melton area to be more central to a large sheep farming community. He says he needs just five or six acres of land to do his training on and to keep his small flock of sheep but he is frustrated that landowners seem unwilling to allow him long-term leases of fields to work with sheep farmers from throughout the UK.

“Only a handful of farmers have been sympathetic to my cause of wanting to work with the farming community and give something back and offered me support by offering sheep or land to train on,” said Nij, who has five sheepdogs.

“All of my landlords have been horse owners and I’ve had to move off to make way for the horses. Landowners also value their privacy and they are not welcoming of people coming on to their land.”

Despite strong demand for his training sessions, Nij says many sheep farmers in Leicestershire prefer modern mechanical methods of controlling their flocks. He argues that using sheepdogs saves valuable time in the busy life of a farmer. Training a young pup requires five to 10 minutes a day, he says, with the right facilities and know how.

Nij added: “The Border Collie remains the most economical and efficient way of managing livestock and there is no greater pleasure to be had than in moving a large flock of sheep with a couple of well trained dogs rather than chasing them around with quad bikes and risking injury.

“The vast majority of farmers say they do not wish to compete in sheepdog trials yet the very purpose of trials is to replicate the jobs that farmers have to do on the farm daily.

“Whether they like it or not they are competing against time, the elements and the terrain.

“Well trained sheepdogs are integral to every farmer with a flock of sheep but few realise the value of one or have the know how to train one.”

If any landowners are interested in renting out a field to Nij in the Melton area they can call him on 07530 439561.