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Backbone of Britain: Hereford breeders represent UK down under

Four young breeders travelled across the globe last month to represent the UK at the World Hereford Conference. Emily Ashworth speaks to the team to find out more.

Backbone of Britain: Hereford breeders represent UK down under

Above left to right: Di Harrison, Matthew Rollason, James Ludgate, Moralee 1 Lucy KS S1, Sophie Harvey, Ryan Coates, Tom Harrison. Tom and Di donated half of the value of the sale of the heifer to the UK Hereford Youth team fund.

 

About 450 delegates descended on Queenstown, New Zealand, this year to take part in the World Hereford Conference.

 

An international event hosted every four years, it aims to give breeders and enthusiasts an update from Hereford associations around the world, plus technical updates on the breed and the wider beef industry.

 

It is also a chance for the host country to showcase the best genetics and farming it has to offer to an international delegation.

 

There is also the meeting of the World Hereford Council, where delegates can discuss global issues within the breed and, every four years, elect a world secretary general.

 

This year, Larry Feeney, the secretary of the Irish Hereford Breed Society, was elected the world secretary general taking over from Jose ‘Pepe’ Bonica of Uruguay.

 

Featuring technical sessions, farm visits and cultural excursions, this year came with a difference as, for the first time, a dedicated young breeders competition saw teams from around the world compete for the top spot after going head-to-head in various challenges.

 

Taking place on March 9-13, Matthew Rollason, Sophie Harvey and James Ludgate represented the UK team, headed up by captain Ryan Coates. Each are passionate about the industry and the Hereford breed, and more so about expanding skills through such opportunities.

 

Ryan, 27, who hails from a 405- hectare (1,000-acre) family arable enterprise in Leicester, Leicestershire and runs 25 pedigree Herefords, says: “I believe mixing with others from around the world is massively important.

 

Not only can you make good friends, but you will also make your business more efficient by embracing new farming practices and making them work for your system at home.

"I wanted to meet fellow like-minded breeders and to look for new connections and genetics to further our family’s herd"

Ryan Coates

Productive

 

“I wanted to meet fellow like-minded breeders and to look for new connections and genetics to further our family’s herd. Also, I got to see the different farming practices between the UK and New Zealand and look at how we can be more productive in the future.

 

“Travelling abroad and seeing the quality of cattle was a big incentive to take part. It is a great privilege to represent your country in any international competition, and it is definitely the case in this instance.”

 

There has also never been a more fitting time for the next generation of agriculture to step up and promote the industry, and with so much change happening, being advocates for UK farming is something they are all equally proud of.

 

Sophie, 24, who studied agriculture at Scotland’s Rural College, Aberdeen, says: “It is important that young farmers in the UK go out and represent and stand up for what they believe in.

 

“Agriculture is the biggest UK manufacturing industry left and needs significantly more backing.” She is passionate about the breed, working part-time at home in Glasgow managing their Harveybros Hereford and Limousin herds alongside her father George.

 

She says: “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When else would I get this chance to be around so many like-minded people from all over the world?

Word from World Hereford Conference

Phil Barnett, chairman of the World Hereford Conference organising committee, believes it is down to ‘the youth to show a pathway into our industry’ and showcase that it is ‘not gender-specific’.

 

He says: “These youngsters are our future and the networking, enthusiasm and showcasing, we have provided are vital. As an industry, we need to be more involved and engaging and consider young people’s views and objectives going forward.

 

“We wanted to create a discussion and challenge people on their thoughts and get people out of their comfort zones.”

Represent

 

“I wanted to go out and represent my country, as well as build on my weaknesses.

 

Showing cattle is a major part of my life, and I wanted to further my education on breeding and showing “Our UK team came together really well, and I don’t think the team could have been any better balanced.”

 

The competition consisted of various tasks, such as handling, stockjudging and clipping, and although basic skills in stockmanship were required to make the team, skills such as communication and a wider knowledge of agriculture and its challenges were important.

 

Each member has their own personal interest in the Hereford breed. For some, like Sophie, they have been a part of her life ‘since day one’, while others, like Ryan, are keen to utilise their well-valued ‘easy calving, docile and milky traits.’

 

But Matthew, 23, from Bury, Lancashire, thinks they are well suited to a more sustainable farming future.

More Success

Isla Soutter, 19, and of the Normanton herd, Leicestershire, was invited by the Danes to join their team.

The Normanton herd is known for breeding Normanton 1 Laertes, the bull which took the show circuit by storm in 2016, winning the inter-breed at the Royal Highland and Royal Welsh.

Background

 

He comes from a non-farming background but graduated from Harper Adams in 2018 and is now a graduate agriculture manager for Dunbia.

He says: “With animal protein facing uncertain times, I really believe the Hereford has extremely valuable traits needed to ensure our beef supply chain is sustainable going forward.

“Whether it’s feed efficiency or eating quality, the Hereford breed is in a prime position to tackle the challenges of this new post-Brexit world we’re faced with.

“I really wanted to understand how the Hereford has been adapted to suit local geographical conditions and different world markets.” The four young breeders were competing against other teams from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Ireland, although New Zealand took the winning spot.

However, James, 27, came second overall handler.

At home in Thame, Oxfordshire his family run a wholesale meat business, selling to farm shops, butchers and restaurants.

They also run a herd of pedigree poll Herefords and most recently, a flock of pedigree Beltex sheep.

James says: “We source the finest meats to sell.

But I wanted to gain new knowledge to bring home and advance my business.

“There is no other breed that can do what the Hereford does all around the world.

It can produce the best beef in the world in any circumstance with very low inputs.” eating quality, the Hereford breed is in a prime position to tackle the challenges of this new post-Brexit world we’re faced with.

“I really wanted to understand how the Hereford has been adapted to suit local geographical conditions and different world markets.” The four young breeders were competing against other teams from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Ireland, although New Zealand took the winning spot.

However, James, 27, came second overall handler.

At home in Thame, Oxfordshire his family run a wholesale meat business, selling to farm shops, butchers and restaurants.

They also run a herd of pedigree poll Herefords and most recently, a flock of pedigree Beltex sheep.

James says: “We source the finest meats to sell.

But I wanted to gain new knowledge to bring home and advance my business.

“There is no other breed that can do what the Hereford does all around the world. It can produce the best beef in the world in any circumstance with very low inputs.”

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