Wandering Wagyus cause a commotion

20-year-old Harriet Wilson is going into her second year at Harper Adams, where she is studying for a BSc in Agri-Food Marketing with Business. Back home she manages her own herd of British Blue cattle on the family’s 300-acre farm in Haughton, Stafford.

I am pleased to say that we are experiencing a milder winter at home and so this year my holiday hasn’t been spent de-freezing water troughs. Most of the cattle are now indoors, but even though Dad has been working on a new outdoor corral we still don’t have enough space for all of the heifers.

Before I returned home for the holidays there was plenty of festive buildup, including our very own “Christmas Day”, a visit from Harper’s finest carol singers and the renowned Christmas Ball, which saw the SU bar undergoing a magnificent makeover to resemble a cosy chalet.

Being part of the SU, we also decided to enter the Farmers Weekly college review competition. Our video takes the viewer on a small campus tour while explaining the qualities that make Harper stand out from other agricultural colleges.

Much less festive was the distressed phone call I received from home to say that a calf had escaped onto the main road. The previous day the calves had been weaned from our other farm in Shropshire and the heifer calf in question was a female Wagyu. Four hours and three car accidents later – one of which was a head-on collision – the calf was found heading back to Newport on the A518 with no visible injuries. The damage the whole debacle has done to our car insurance premium is considerably more visible.We were introduced to the Wagyu breed three years ago by Pierce Hughes, agricultural manager of Asda. We started to use semen in 2009, to trial on some well-muscled blue X limousin cows. All cows calved without assistance and we were extremely pleased to find that all calves were up themselves and sucking.

The main reason for choosing the breed was for ease of calving but it also followed some taste tests, and the excellent eating experience we had gave us more confidence in the breed.Towards the end of the holiday I took the opportunity to attend the Oxford Farming Conference as a scholar representing NFYFC, sponsored by the Royal Agricultural Society of England. Conveniently my sister also attended and was sponsored by the Staffordshire and Birmingham Agricultural Society; which continues to be extremely supportive to both of us.Oxford University itself was unlike anything I had seen before – the buildings were magnificent and, combined with the line-up of topics and speakers, it was definitely a worthwhile trip.

We were joined by a healthy contingent of Harper Adams students and enjoyed lively debates, delicious British food and took advantage of valuable networking opportunities. It was also encouraging to hear the many questions that were asked relating to recruiting young people into agriculture.

My highlight of the conference had to be the McDonald’s scholars workshop, where we discussed various questions relating to UK food production. Check out the College Calendar blog for my full report from the conference and my views as a young person entering into the agri-food industry.

Coincidently I have been honoured to gain a placement with McDonald’s for my third year of study. This is such a fantastic opportunity and hopefully a chance to develop my knowledge of the supply chain. My job description is vast but my main role will be to assist with the day-to-day running and co-ordination of the agriculture assurance within their quality assurance department.

As we move through January and the days slowly get longer, I have a jam-packed schedule ahead of me. Spring term at Harper starts on 16 January and assignment deadlines are looming in the first few weeks of term. I also have more conferences on the agenda including the Cattle Breeders and NFU conferences. And so all that is left for me to do is to wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.


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