January started with the flu. There was, however, definitely no time for rest as there was TB testing to be done.
In fact, our vet advised me that the best cure was to work through it. My dad and I had many disagreements that day, particularly when my stick met his hand. He certainly wasn’t impressed when I hastened to add that it was unfortunate I missed his head. (You have to laugh about it afterwards.)
That night, I was fortunate enough to attend Asda and ABP’s annual BeefLink producer group meeting, where there was various speakers throughout the evening.
Contained within Asda’s presentation were two aspects: providing quality, healthy products to their consumers; and the strategies it had set up to help sustain British agriculture.
Jim Viggars explained that the consumer’s priorities have changed when buying beef. They are now moving away from factors such as price and promotions, and towards factors they consider to be more important, such as quality, welfare and origin. This was something I hadn’t expected him to say given the current state of the economy.
Strategies for sustainable agriculture included the National Suckler Strategy Group, the Cattlemen’s Academy and discounted beef semen the farmers.
The Suckler Strategy Group is made up of some of the UK’s leading suckler beef producers. The aim of the group (of which my Dad is part of and likes to call “the dirty dozen”) is to address issues such as bovine TB, the lack of young people coming into the industry and decreasing suckler cow numbers, and to develop strategies for the sustainability of the beef industry.
Other presentations throughout the night were about visual image analysis (VIA) in abattoirs and a market update from EBLEX.
VIA will, in time, replace carcass graders in abattoirs. It will reduce human error, improve consistency and will also take meat yields into consideration.
It was an interesting evening and also a chance to put the industry in perspective against the rising fuel and feed costs that farmers now face. But will food prices rise to compensate these costs?
My attendance at meetings continued with the NFYFC Youth Forum, the Cattle Breeders Conference and the North West British Blue cattle breeders club’s AGM.
This year, as well as having the calf show, our British Blue club are having a calf photo competition. So I will have to squeeze in time to do some halter training pretty sharpish if I’m going to stand a chance.
Meanwhile, back at Harper Adams, my second term is in full swing and it has been far from quiet. House-hunting was first on our agenda and finally, along with three of my good friends, we have now put our names down on a house for next year which we see as a luxury as it has carpets.
Student Union campaigns are on-going with most buildings plastered in posters and slogans in the run-up to the annual elections. The new social calendar looks exciting with more quirky fancy dress themes and the brilliant line-up of acts including Radio 1’s Sara Cox on 12 February and The Wurzels on 12 March.
I am particularly enjoying Animal Production as we have reached the beef section of the module and was relieved to find out that I had passed the two exams I took before Christmas.
Furthermore, I have now had my first experience of being a student ambassador, where I helped out on an interview afternoon for prospective students. It brought back memories of when I was in their shoes as they all looked so petrified.
Young Farmers is also keeping me busy by means of the many public speaking and entertainments practices. And even though we have three months to go, the excitement is already mounting up for the AGM in Blackpool and we have even decided on our fancy dress outfits. But I will keep that one a secret for now as I have been sworn to secrecy by the girls.
The rest of February looks like it’s going to be jam-packed, with the YFC Public Speaking competitions I am competing in, the entertainments, and the build-up of my assignments.
I have also been fortunate enough to be asked to attend the NFU conference in Birmingham by the Mid-Staffordshire NFU group, and so this will be my next venture.