Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Getting the next generation into farming



It will come as no surprise to anyone that, according to a recent BBC article, the average age of a UK farm holder is 58, 58% of UK farms are in the hands of over-55s and only 3% are held by under-35s.

With stats like this appearing all too often in the media, encouraging young people to enter the farming industry has become a key priority over recent years. It was a theme EBLEX chairman John Cross touched on at our annual conference when he said that the beef and sheep sector can only capitalise on the current market potential by attracting highly skilled young people in order to keep the momentum going.

With this in mind, the fact that two recent events have put young people in the livestock sector in the spotlight and recognised the valuable role they place is something which should be welcomed.

The first of these was the joint levy PhD seminar hosted by BPEX, DairyCo, EBLEX, HCC and QMS. The annual event brings together PhD and MSc students who we support in order to both provide information relevant to our research priorities and to stimulate their interest in careers in the livestock sector. More information about the students’ projects can be found on our website.

Every funded student gives a presentation about their project, with a prize being awarded for the best presentation from a final year student. This year the award went to Laura Cavill for her PhD looking at methods of detection, elimination and control of Clostridium estertheticum in the red meat industry.

The breadth and depth of knowledge demonstrated by the students at the seminar was certainly impressive and the ambition is that they will go on to make good use of their skills with fulfilling careers within the livestock industry.

The second event was the NFU Future of Livestock Conference, aimed specifically at those under-40 and working in the livestock sector, which took place earlier this week. Attended by over 100 delegates, and with a range of high-profile speakers addressing the issue of how 21st century beef and sheep farmers can feed the nation, it was hard not to leave with the impression of a forward-thinking and vibrant industry.

For those who remain unconvinced, initiatives such as Farmers Weekly’s Farmers Apprentice and Farmers Guardian’s FG 26/46 are also doing a lot to profile young entrants to the agricultural sector and the opportunities on offer to them. Hopefully some day soon these messages will also trickle through to the wider media.