New to this year’s event is the Future Beef Farmer Challenge, a competition to test the skills, knowledge and abilities of teams and individual young farmers.
The team challenge is open to groups of two to four members, aged between 16-26, which must enter in advance. The open challenge is for individuals aged 16-36, who can enter on the day.
National Beef Association (NBA) director Chris Mallon says: “There really is no competition like the Future Beef Challenge anywhere else in the UK and we are delighted to both launch it as part of NBA Beef Expo 2015 and for it to become an integral part of the event in the future.
“Encouraging the next generation of progressive beef farmers is hugely important for the future sustainability of the industry and it is something we at the NBA are keen to support.”
All entrants will be required to visit four exhibition stands around the Beef Expo site where their expertise will be tested. The British Charolais Cattle Society challenge is to correctly classify four finished cattle using the EUROP grid. Points will be awarded for identifying the correct conformation and fat class. This challenge will use four Charolais cross Salers, chosen because they are representatives of today’s British beef industry.
David Benson, the society’s chief executive, says: “The challenge is designed to test beef farmer business skills and knowledge in detail.
We are looking for the next generation of progressive beef farmers and the different tests entrants will face have been designed to assess their overall understanding of the industry."
The Eblex challenge will look at breeding and genetics. Competitors will be asked to compare the EBVs of six bulls and select the most appropriate choice in different scenarios, including for use on first-time heifers, breeding replacements and for producing beef.
XL Vets has set a multiple choice health questionnaire covering a range of issues including biosecurity measures to protect a farm against viruses and disease.
Finally, Thompsons of York will test entrants on their nutrition knowledge, asking them to identify seven straight feeds and four forage silages to decide whether each is primarily a source of fibre, energy or protein.
Askham Bryan College will be fielding several teams for the competition. Second-year students, Hannah Raynor, Thirsk; Tom Wallbank, Clitheroe; and Sam Coote, County Durham; have all chosen the beef option as part of their course and are optimistic for the future of beef production.
Tom says: “It is tough, but you have to move with the times. One our assignments has been to set up a plan advising a potential beef producer on the challenges they would face and how to address them. For example, ensuring the right breed and management system is chosen for your farm."
As part of the preparation for the competition Sam was one of a group of students which visited the East of England Smithfield Festival, where he took part in their College Challenge, and he has recently been on an Eblex Live to Dead day. He says: “I found the Live to Dead day really useful as I was able to see the carcases and learnt a lot. I will now be able to apply this to selecting finished cattle.
“In our second year, we are focusing much more on the technical side of beef production, looking at growth rates, EBVs, monitoring and recording data – something I think will be particularly relevant in the future.”
Ali Moody, lecturer in animal production says: “We have a very enthusiastic, hard-working group of students, who get a lot out these types of competitions.
“It is a very good way of getting students to verbalise their opinions. Of course, many of them have experience from Young Farmers, but for those who have not, we hope the college has given them confidence.”
With almost 50 per cent of the beef we eat coming from the dairy sector, beef from dairy is a key part of the national diet.
A major part of this year’s event will be the ‘Beef from the Dairy Herd’ display by livestock marketing company Peter Jones Livestock (PJL).
They will be highlighting the potential opportunities from this sector and detailing farmers who are already prospering in the market. These include Ian Rutter, who has an indoor beef unit producing 200 dairy-bred steers, mainly Simmental and Blue crosses, per year. He sells them after they have been in his unit for approximately 10-12 months and Willy Raine, Northallerton, who buys-in 80 Holstein Friesian four- to five-month-old bulls per year, selling them at 16-17 months old.
Pens of reared continental bulls, continental heifers and black and white bulls will also be on show.
Formed in 2002, Cheshire-based PJL operates farm-to-farm, mainly across the north of England, and directly supplying and buying store and breeding stock, including quality baby and reared calves.
Peter Jones, managing director of the firm, says: “With the decline in the suckler cow herd, we are seeing an increased interest in beef produced from dairy animals, especially because their production is predictable and uniform."
The winning team will be awarded the NBA’s Duke of Northumberland trophy and the winner of the open class will receive the NBA Frank Momber memorial trophy. A range of other prizes for first, second and third places will include Yorkshire Show tickets, goody bags and a voucher to attend workshops organised by Eblex and XL Vets, Farmskills.