This year’s Youth Development Programme (YDP) Senior Conference took place on the weekend of the 24th – 26th February and it was a resounding success. 24 senior YDP participants travelled to Northampton from all over the UK and Ireland for a weekend which gave them an opportunity to progress their skills on a number of levels, whilst having a great time! We must extend a huge thank you to Dawn Meats for their sponsorship and the help that Sarah Haire and her colleagues committed to making this event such a success.
The weekend started with a visit to Dawn Meats at Cardington on the Friday morning where Sarah met 18 enthusiastic youngsters plus a few older participants (John Lohoar joining as a judge for the Forum Team, Angela McGregor, Vice President of the Society and Gayle Bersey, YDP co-ordinator). Dawn Meats deals with many markets and a diverse range of customers, which Sarah explained is a benefit; being able to buy different cattle to fit different specs for different markets.
Caption: The group at the Dawn Meats plant at Cardington
The Friday afternoon saw the group visit Roger Simms at Whitesfield Farm, Aylesbury who fattens 400 cattle at 27-30 months of age. The group was joined by Mark Allan and Donal Horgan of Dawn Meats. There was a great discussion on rations, general performance and keep, plus what Roger is aiming for to suit the market he supplies. The team had great fun guessing the weight of steers ready to go fat; it has to be said that most were pretty good, but some were better than others!
Caption: the group deep in discussion with Roger Simms
On the Saturday morning the group travelled to Red Oak Farm, Brackley Road, Westbury to meet with farm manager George Coles and his family. The group were shown round the farm buildings and had lengthy discussions about cattle type, selection criteria and the work George does. Miracle Vet Group was also on hand to explain the health and embryo programme that the herd is currently a part of.
Reproductive management – Getting the best from your suckler herd – Laura Stephens MRCVS
Laura discussed bull fertility and AI techniques, heat detection in suckler cow productivity, and the importance of getting all the factors correct to ensure good conception. It was great to hear from someone who takes their work home, putting the theory into practice and demonstrating it does work on her own cattle at home.
Meat quality – Liz Ford, Knowledge Exchange Manager, AHDB – North West
Liz asked the question, ‘what is meet quality?’. Other than ‘Aberdeen-Angus’, the answer is that it varies for different people. The group learned about how issues affecting quality range from classification, weight, yield, microbiology and defects through to the consumer end where concerns are safety, traceability, price, environmental, taste and tenderness, plus many more.
Milly Fyfe – Ambassador for Love British Food
Milly is a marketing professional who gave a great presentation about knowing your consumer and what they want. The group learned a few great tips including bearing in mind the emergence of the health-conscious consumer and not getting drawn into conflict.
After dinner on Saturday, the group were entertained by Stuart Roberts, NFU Chairman for Hertfordshire. Stuart farms in partnership with his parents on a 700ha arable and beef farm, and he told us of his varied career with DEFRA, the British Meat Processors Association and the beef and lamb processor ABP and how it was in the Chair of EBLEX/AHDB. A few life lessons from him were ‘surround yourself with good people that question you and do not always agree’ and ‘do what you love’.
Sunday morning saw all the group gather to learn about Newford Suckler Demonstration Farm, which Dawn Meats are running in joint partnership with Teagasc, Irish Farmers Journal and McDonald’s in Ireland. Sarah explained that the main objectives are to teach and transfer skills, creating a real sustainable asset for anyone who visits the demonstration farm.
Caption: Sarah Haire talking to the group about the Newford Suckler Demonstration
The final session of the weekend was brilliant fun, as William Haire demonstrated the do’s and don’ts of giving presentations, plus an exercise on public speaking. Divided into pairs each partnership had to present on a topic about the weekend for two minutes, the main challenge was getting some to limit their chat! There was then a three-minute question slot, with William providing feedback on techniques for answering and body language.
The weekend was a huge success with all 24 participants gelling really well and forming friendships and alliances for future. A huge amount of information, time and tuition both formally and informally was given to young and old alike. Well done to everyone that has taken part.
The Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society would like to extend their thanks to those professionals that gave up their valuable time, and to Dawn Meats for their continued support.