Youngsters from all across the country came together for this year’s highly anticipated Youth Development Programme final as they demonstrated their skills across a number of different activities. The final took place in Shrewsbury on the 29th of September at the Shrewsbury Agricultural Centre. A huge congratulations must go to all participants as very high standards were saw across all categories!
Claiming Overall Senior Winner at this year’s final was Meg Aitkens aged 21 from Briston. We manage to speak to Meg and get to find out a little bit more about her background, how she got in to farming, her thoughts on the course and her future aspirations! Take a look below:
What is your background?
“I live with my grandparents on their small family farm in Briston, North Norfolk where we run around 30 head of cattle, I also run a small flock of blue Texel sheep. I attended Reepham High school and completed my Level 3 Diploma in Agriculture at Easton and Otley College. Whilst at college I worked part time, waitressing in different pubs and restaurants, I also helped with shows and helped preparation for a number of different herds.
I now currently help around the family farm, whilst working full time as a stockperson on a large commercial suckler herd where I have now been working for nearly 3 years.”
Do you have any other interests outside of agriculture?
“My passion has always been livestock, particularly cattle. I can’t seem to get away from that, so in terms of interests outside of agriculture I don’t have too many. When I’m not at work I’m helping with the cattle at home, I enjoy spending time with my friends and family. I try visit as many different shows and sales as I can around work, I enjoy opening my mind to new ideas and developing my knowledge of the industry, specifically focusing on pedigree herd improvement.”
How did you get in to farming?
“Being brought up on a small family farm I have always had an interest in farm life, especially cattle. Our herd is made up of mainly commercial cows, these being mostly Angus cross Charolais or Angus cross Limousin going back to a Charolais bull. In August last year I established my own Charolais herd.
Working with cattle has always been what I’ve wanted to do and there’s never been a doubt about it. I’ve always looked up to my Auntie and Grandad who have always worked with cattle, my background with cattle stems backs generations with my family, so you could say it’s in my blood.”
How did you get involved with the YDP?
“I have been involved in the YDP for about 6 or 7 years, qualifying in 3 finals. The YDP is a great experience and gives you the opportunity to meet likeminded people with the same interests, as well as learning new skills and techniques from experienced stockmen/women and industry specialists.”
What are your thoughts on the programme?
“As well as the YDP being a great stepping stone into the industry, it really helped my confidence whilst at work. When I first started I was so shy and had no confidence in showing or clipping, I’d never even been in a show ring before, so the skills I had learned from the YDP workshops gave me the confidence to take pride in my stock and present them in the best manner I could.”
What was your reaction like to winning?
“When I realised I won I couldn’t believe it, I was completely overwhelmed, it really did take a while for it all to sink in! For me it’s such a big achievement, I was happy enough to just qualify for the final again, let alone win, especially with the strength of competition involved. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities the YDP has provided me, this is just the icing on the cake really.”
What are your plans now that you have won the YDP Final?
“At the moment I have a rough idea of where I would love to travel, I’ve always wanted to go to Canada and America, I love American Angus. I think they are very underrated in this country and have a lot of potential for both the pedigree and commercial herds, they are strong cattle and have immense feed conversion rates, this is one of the things I want to find out more about through the travel scholarship. I look forward to this but for now I will keep working where I am as well as managing my herd and flock.”
What are your plans for the future?
“In the future I would love to manage and work on a pedigree herd, I think this is something that would challenge and push me. I think there is so much potential for traits of the Angus breed in commercial herds and I think the breed as a whole is underestimated. A future goal of mine would be to push the Angus breed commercially. I understand that anything can happen in the future, so I’m going to jump at every opportunity and try to learn as much as I can so I can improve the stock I breed and work with.”
Do you have any words of advice for any other young enthusiasts?
“My words of advice for people would be to have confidence in yourself. Focus on what you want and really push yourself. And lastly, have fun! Don’t always think it’s about the winning, stay humble and keep your feet on the ground.”
A huge congratulations to Meg for becoming this year’s Overall Senior Winner, well deserved! We’d like to thank Meg for taking the time to talk to us and we wish her all the best in her very bright future. It was great getting an insight in to the benefits she has felt from the Youth Development Programme and we thank her for the advice she has gave to the youngsters. We look forward to catching up with Meg in the not so distant future!