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Farming

Agri Academy applications open

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A hugely valuable stepping stone: Agri Academy

FARMING Connect’s prestigious personal development programme, the Agri Academy 2018, was launched at the Farmers’ Union of Wales annual farmhouse breakfast at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay (details elsewhere in this section).

The Agri Academy, now approaching its sixth year and with 165 alumni, brings together some of the most promising people making their way in the agricultural industry​.​

Regularly quoted by past candidates as ‘life changing’​,​ this unique programme which takes place over three short, action-packed study periods and overseas visits, gives individuals selected the inspiration, confidence, skills and networks they need to become future rural leaders, professional business people and entrepreneurs. The application window for this year’s programme, will be open ​until March 30.

Comprising three distinct elements, the Agri Academy’s Rural Leadership programme, a collaboration with the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, aims to develop and nurture a new generation of leaders and individuals keen to influence the rural agenda at a local, regional and European level. The programme provides an opportunity to meet and lobby Welsh Government and EU figureheads in Wales and Brussels and to learn the skills of effective public speaking and media interviews.

The Business and Innovation programme offers personal and business development which can help candidates meet the challenges of farming in the future, as they network and learn from top industry experts and business leaders at home and during an overseas study visit.

The Junior Academy, which is run in partnership with Wales YFC, is targeted at young people aged 16-19 considering a career in the food and farming industries. For many it provides focus and guidance at a time when many are uncertain about their future career pathways and a prestigious, relevant notch on their CV.

Speaking at the launch, the Cabinet Secretary said “The Agri Academy’s format of three short but intensive study periods has a proven track record of paving the way to business success for so many of its alumni.

“Farming Connect’s unique personal development programme of training, mentoring, support and guidance gives both young entrants with ambitious aspirations and more experienced individuals a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other in a success-driven, supportive environment.

“There are no barriers for eligible individuals wanting to apply for the Agri Academy and there are no limits to what you can achieve if you put your mind to it.

“The Agri Academy has been a hugely valuable stepping stone, which has inspired so many individuals, giving them confidence and necessary networks to plan for their future as successful rural leaders, professional business people and innovative farmers.”

Einir Davies, development and mentoring manager with Menter a Busnes, which delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government, says that the 2018 programme promises exciting opportunities.

“Candidates selected for the Business & Innovation Programme will visit Iceland, a country renowned for its innovative approach to environmental management, renewable energy and sustainable farming methods.

“Iceland has a similar topography to Wales with its combination of lowland, upland and coastal farms and it is self-sufficient in meat, eggs and milk,” said Ms Davies.

Rural Leadership Programme candidates will meet figureheads and policy leaders from the Welsh Government and visit the European Parliament in Brussels.

Branwen Miles (24), a candidate for the Rural Leadership Programme in 2017, grew up at her family’s organic dairy farm near Haverfordwest.

Branwen, who was recently appointed to a policy role with CLA Wales, studied French and international politics at Aberystwyth University, which involved her spending a year working in Strasbourg.

“I can’t believe how much confidence I gained through the Agri-Academy, and I know that the new friends and many business contacts I made will stand me in good stead in years to come.

“A particular highlight for me was visiting the European Parliament in Brussels, where our group met many high-ranking EU officials and heard at first hand their views on agriculture, and their opinion on the future as the UK plans its exit of the EU.​”​

Branwen’s father Dai was one of the Agri-Academy’s first intake of students, and so a persuasive advocate when his daughter first mentioned applying.

“I’ve always known that I want a career which involves me in the policy side of agriculture, rather than grass roots farming.

“I would advise anyone wanting a career in agriculture in Wales to apply for the Agri Academy. Not only has it given me a very relevant notch on my CV, the training, mentoring and new network of friends has been immensely empowering.

“I enjoyed university and I’ve had a number of interesting jobs since I left, but the Agri-Academy has contributed hugely to my sense of ambition and focus and I’m so grateful to have been part of it.”

For further information, eligibility criteria and to download application forms, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect

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Farming

Local farmer sentenced for animal welfare offences

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On 6 January 2021, at Aberystwyth Justice Centre the Magistrates passed sentence on Mr. Toby Holland of Maesgwyn, Blaenporth after he was found guilty in his absence of 10 charges relating to Animal Welfare and Animal By-Products offences.

Following the trial on 3 February 2020, a court warrant was issued for Mr. Toby Holland’ arrest in connection with these offences, and he was arrested by Police in December 2020.

The District Judge, in the trial held on 3 February 2020  heard that Animal Welfare Officers of the Public Protection team visited the farm on the 29 January 2019 and found a number of animal welfare issues. A sheep was found to be lying on its back unable to move and it was evident that it had been there for some time. Despite requesting that Mr. Holland seek veterinary assistance for the animal, a visit the following day had found that he failed to seek treatment for the animal and left it to die. He was found guilty for the unnecessary suffering of this sheep.

The Animal Welfare Officers found a barn containing 19 pigs. On seeing the officers the pigs were shrieking for food. The pigs were very thin and kept in an accumulation of muck with no dry lying area available. Within the pen were two dead pigs to which the live pigs had access. A post-mortem of one of the dead pigs found that the animal had likely died of starvation after finding no fat reserves remaining in the carcass.

The Veterinarian from the Animal and Plant Health Agency who attended the farm concluded that both the dead and live pigs had been suffering unnecessarily, and Mr. Holland was found guilty of these offences. He was also found guilty of failing to meet the needs of the animals, by failing to provide a dry lying area for the pigs.

The visit on 29 January 2019 also found a number of sheep carcasses strewn across the fields. It was clear that that they had been there for some time, and the live sheep had access to the same field. The District Judge found Mr. Holland guilty of failing to dispose of the carcasses in accordance with the requirements of a notice served under The Animal By-Products (Enforcement) (Wales) Regulations 2014.

A follow up visit on 30 May 2019 found the pigs were kept in a field where they had access to plastic bags, metal sheeting with sharp edges, and animal bones and skulls. These items could cause harm to pigs, and he was found guilty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 of not providing a suitable environment for the pigs. Tthere were sheep carcasses in the fields, that Mr. Holland failed to collect and dispose in accordance with legal requirements. He was found guilty of a further offence under the Animal By-Products Regulations.

He was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment in total for the offences, and he was issued a disqualification order for 2 years from keeping any animals. The Local Authority were awarded £750 costs.

Following sentencing, Cllr Gareth Lloyd, Cabinet member for Public Protection Services, said: “The majority of farmers in Ceredigion have excellent farming practices, that ensures the highest standards of animal welfare. Unfortunately we must deal with a minority who for whatever reason fail to meet basic legal standards. I wish to thank the partner agencies who assisted the authority in the investigation, and the officers for their hard work in handling a difficult case.”

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Farming

First week of life is key

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IMPROVED new-born lamb and calf survival rates not only result in increased income, but also improve welfare, reduce disease, and reduce environmental footprint, according to the results of major GB-wide research.

The Neonatal Survival Project, funded by AHDB, Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) in the sheep and beef sector, was established to study the key factors which could drive further improvements in farm efficiency and maximise animal welfare.

Key findings show that the majority of lamb and calf losses occur in the first seven days after birth, with over 98 per cent of lamb and 90 per cent of calf losses occurring in this period.

The findings – and the recommendations for new practices to be adopted on farms – will be discussed at two major webinars. The first will be held on 5 January for vets followed by an event on 21 January for farmers. To register visit ahdb.org.uk/events.

A spokesperson on behalf of the three levy boards said: “A survey and interviews were used to understand motivations and barriers for change. While many farmers were aware of good practice industry advice on new-born survival, it was not consistently followed. This was particularly true with respect to colostrum management and genetic selection.

“Farmers were confident in their abilities to improve survival rates, but tended to underestimate new-born losses on their farm relative to national averages. A cultural stigma around losses limits farmers in discussing their experiences with peers, and in some cases, even with their vet.

“The research also discovered that losses can be highly variable between years; the importance of accurate record keeping also became apparent. While most suckler farmers have access to reliable records, a significant number of sheep farmers do not consistently record their data.”

With global pressures to reduce antibiotic use, this study found that a significant proportion of beef and sheep farmers were able to manage infectious diseases without purchasing critically important antibiotics. Preventive antibiotic use was reduced or withdrawn successfully on some farms, while oral antibiotic treatment at birth made no difference to lamb outcomes in an experimental study within this project.

The study also demonstrated that good long-term protein status in late pregnancy results in reduced lamb losses between scanning and 24 hours old.

Twin born lambs with a low serum antibody (IgG) concentration were more likely to have poorer growth rates. As shown by previous studies, poor energy balance in late pregnancy results in a low lamb IgG. This indicates that lambs born to ewes in negative energy balance are at increased risk of absorbing insufficient colostrum antibodies from the ewe.

The project is now complete, although work is ongoing to enable the implementation of a sustainable youngstock survival plan across Great Britain.

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Farming

Consumers ‘sleepwalking’ away from meat

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A LACK of inspiration, rather than a conscious reaction to trends such as veganism, was at the heart of the pre-Covid-19 reduction in meat, fish and poultry consumption, new AHDB research has suggested.
Before the pandemic struck, some 7.8 million (35%) households in Great Britain had unwittingly purchased less meat, fish and poultry products, according to AHDB analysis of Kantar data [52 w/e 26 January]. This figure accounted for 99% of the 1.3% volume drop in retail sales.

However, the twenty per cent of households which had at least one ‘conscious meat reducer’ accounted for just 1% of the losses, with the majority citing other reasons for reducing consumption.

The unconscious reducers were said by the report to mostly be of retirement age and living with fewer people. They were found to be much less likely to experiment with cooking or refer to themselves as a ‘foodie’, preferring more traditional dishes. They were also found to be unsatisfied with shopping for meat, with just 29% of the unconscious reducer group saying they enjoyed browsing meat aisles and only 31% find them to be inspiring.

The report urged the meat industry to focus its efforts on winning this group back as they offered a better route to boosting meat consumption than conscious reducers.

“How unconscious reducers think and feel about meat isn’t any different to those people who are actually increasing their meat consumption – they’re not turning away on purpose so there is a chance to re-engage them with the category,” explained one of the report’s authors, AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley.

“The biggest opportunity is at the point of purchase. The key thing the report highlights is those people are wanting a better in-store experience. There could be simple messaging in-store to remind people why they enjoy meat, give them a bit of inspiration and remind them it’s versatile and convenient.”

Malley added the meat-free category is “excelling” in innovation and convenience through ready-meal and marinated NPD – products which the report said the meat industry had invested less heavily in.

She also praised the packaging of meat alternatives, which tended to be “very colourful and brought recipes and flavours to life” for shoppers, and urged the meat industry to do its own innovation in these areas in a bid to win back “distracted” consumers.

According to the report, distractions included negative media coverage of the meat industry and the prominence of plant-based ranges in stores.

But in positive news for the sector, it found the coronavirus pandemic had seen sales volumes of meat, fish and poultry rise 8% year-on-year in the 52 weeks to 6 September. Unconscious reducers were discovered to have accounted for 35% of this uplift.

Malley said meat “benefited massively” from the rise in in-home occasions this year and consumers thinking more about their food choices. “It has highlighted that it’s quite easy to re-engage people,” she said.

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