The NSA has announced that its chairman Sam Wharry died suddenly on Friday. He was appointed national chair of the NSA in January 2015. Sam had represented Northern Ireland as a trustee of the UK-wide organisation since 2012.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Sam was such a strong, capable and enthusiastic individual who gave us all so much, something he would have continued to do long into the future if he had been able to. My thoughts, and those of the NSA, go out to his family at this unbearable time.”

Sam kept Scottish Blackface sheep on his hill farm in Carnlough, Co Antrim. He had been participating in maternal line breeding research with AFBI and AgriSearch as a commercial partner farm since 2001.

Sam had also entered into a shared farming agreement on his home farm with a younger business partner in recent years.

A statement from the NSA board of trustees issued on Monday read: “Samuel was a thoroughly decent gentleman and to say he will be missed is very much an understatement. He was not only an exceptional NSA chair, but a fantastic ambassador for the UK sheep industry. His loss is a great one, to his family and friends, business partner and all of his associates through the sheep world. He will be sorely missed.”