The inaugural “Beefing up YDP” conference, organised by the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society’s industry leading Youth Development Programme was hailed a huge success with young stock enthusiasts going home enthused about the industry and with many ideas of how to further their knowledge and education.
The event which took place on 28th and 29th March at The Tiverton Hotel and then on farm courtesy of Ed and Claire Jones of the Rull Aberdeen-Angus herd, Cullompton, Devon, was sponsored by Dawn Meats and involved speakers from all areas of the industry.
Commenting on the conference, YDP coordinator Gayle Bersey explained: “The idea was to give young people some great tips about cattle production with a view to emphasising that the YDP is not just about showing. In fact this has come off the back of ideas from the senior interview panel from last year’s National YDP Final.”
Some 16 youngsters from all corners of the UK attended with proceedings kicking off on Saturday morning with Duncan Findlay of Vale Vets discussing the major diseases that can affect herd fertility and productivity along with stock bull health, care and management.
Following him was Charlie Morgan of Grass Master who told the delegates how to get the most out of grass, while EBLEX’s Mary Vickers followed with a discussion about suckler cow production.
Following the morning’s speakers, Miriam Parker of Livestock Wise started the afternoon on-farm session with a thought provoking and engaging session about animal behaviour. “This was one of the highlights of the day as Miriam even provided glasses which show a cow’s vision,” added Miss Bersey.
Conference sponsor representative Sarah Haire of Dawn Meats then gave an interesting session of market specifications for the beef sector, looking at the different areas that affect beef quality.
Meanwhile, her husband William Haire followed with a discussion group on breeding cattle. “Topics here included everything from whether showing is relevant to modern beef production to whether sales such as Stirling have had their day. There were no right or wrong answers given here, but it provided delegates a great opportunity to test their debating skills on various viewpoints,” added Miss Bersey.
The practical demonstrations then ended with freelance stockman Andrew Hughes giving a cattle clipping demonstration with the delegates having the chance to ask key “top tip” questions with a view to giving them the edge when it comes to competing at shows.
Taking care of the after dinner speaking was Paul Westaway of Melview Farming. Paul farms Aberdeen-Angus cattle, but also runs Sterling Sires, as well as a number of other businesses and well and truly stuck to the brief of inspiring the youngsters with an account of how he has made his way in this increasingly difficult industry. His parting quote of “surrounding yourself with positive people as negative people have a negative effect on your life” certainly left the delegates feeling motivated for their own futures.
After an evening of socialising, Sunday morning saw Damien Lee of Devon Driving give the youngsters a thought provoking seminar on driver safety, covering everything from speed awareness to alcohol limits and in particular an education on how long alcohol takes to get out of your system.
Then wrapping up the conference was a discussion panel on the subject of EBV’s versus the stockman’s eye with Rob Bishop of the Warrenho herd taking the view of the stockman’s eye, with previous speaker William Haire taking on the EBV mantle and Genus’ Mark Thomas commenting from both sides of the argument.
“Feedback from the delegates has been positive and we’re already discussing ideas for future conferences,” added Miss Bersey. “The balance between classroom style seminars and practical activities, along with in depth discussion panels certainly made for a fun and educational weekend.”