Wednesday, December 6, 2023

NZ Hereford youth immerse themselves in all things beef

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NZ Hereford Youth programme puts keen would-be farmers in front of experts in field.
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By Ella Holland

Last month youth from all over motu gathered in Wairarapa to take part in New Zealand Hereford Youth’s annual three-day development forum.  

Launched in 2021, the development forum focuses on creating an event where youth can immerse themselves in all aspects of the beef industry.  

One does not need to be a Hereford  Youth member to attend the forum, or even be from a farming background. It is open to people aged six to 30 years old. 

 “The only criteria are that you need to be keen to learn about the beef industry and have a give-it-a-go attitude,”  NZ Hereford Youth co-ordinator Sage Harding said.

The New Zealand Hereford Youth group completed an EBV workshop on day two of the forum.

This year’s forum kicked off with a visit to a local business, Homegrown Butchery. Owner Ali Kilmister explained that the butchery’s job is only done once the stock leaves the farm gate to supply homes around the country with meat. The butchery grows, trucks, processes and sells meat from the farm. 

The business embraces the idea of “eating how farmers eat” and allows customers to connect to where their food comes from.  While there, the Hereford Youth youngsters were shown how to butcher a lamb. The butcher took the group through ways they could improve their own home kills.

The group also visited a commercial farm, Te Rangi Station in  Whangaehu Valley, where they were given a tour of the farm and learnt how it uses Angus, Herefords and Charolais in its breeding programme. The day ended with Hereford Prime patties on the BBQ at Te Taumata Stud.

Day two of the forum was an early start as the group headed to Otapawa Poll Herefords, which sits in the foothills of the Puketoi Ranges. Despite the wet ground conditions, they managed to have a good look around the well-maintained farm. The group remarked on what an eye-opening experience it was, as from one of the high points it was easy to see that Otapawa Station was being surrounded by pine forests. The group enjoyed sharing in the Robbie family’s farming passion, as their breeding stud ticks on despite ongoing pressures from forestry companies. 

The farm tour was followed by two workshops, on structural assessment and EBVs/Genetics. 

Award winners, from left, Jamie Clements, Niamh Barnett, Shanti Aplin, Ella McWilliam and Blake McEwan.

Otapawa Station owner Stuart Robbie took the group through structurally assessing cattle, passing on a wealth of knowledge. 

“He explained what to look for and the implication when things are not quite right in an easy and methodical way. Even the youngest youth member, who was 10 years old, was able to follow along,” Harding said.

The Otapawa Station workshop set the group up perfectly for the last day of the forum.

Day three saw the group’s knowledge tested when they participated in a stock-judging competition, and those over 16 had herdsperson leadership interviews. 

Two lines of Te Taumata heifers were put up for the stock judging, and everyone had to rank the lines based on their structure and give the reasons behind their decision. The public-speaking aspect of the judging was out of most of the youngsters’ comfort zones, but stock judge Peter McWilliams said he thought everyone did very well. The herdsperson interviews were a chance for the older members of the group to test their knowledge about the industry. 

The three-day forum concluded with a farm tour around Te Taumata Herefords.

“Overall, very impressive weekend,” tour attendee Georgie Moody of Manawatū said. “Awesome guest speakers and breeders – such a privilege to be able to tap into their knowledge.”

Plans are already in motion for next year’s development forum and there are still events to be held throughout the year.

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