Dr Sam Strain wins BT cup at UFU annual dinner 2024

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Over 200 guests attended the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) annual dinner at the Lough Erne Resort on the evening of 22 March 2024, with Dr Sam Strain being awarded the prestigious BT cup.

Among the many members, industry representatives and Northern Ireland government officials, notable attendees included DAERA Minister Andrew Muir, AERA Committee chair Tom Elliott, UK farming unions and IFA representatives.

Commenting UFU president David Brown said: “We had a fantastic turnout at our annual dinner, and it was a privilege to welcome all those in attendance to the Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh. What makes the UFU a strong, thriving organisation is not down to its leaders, but its members, and the annual dinner enables us to come together for a night away from the farm to celebrate NI agriculture and reflect on the year gone by.

“With DAERA Minister Andrew Muir now in post, we have been lobbying, and will continue to do so, on a range of issues that had been stalled due to an absent Assembly. Our first NI Farm Family Day provided a great opportunity for our sectoral committee chairs to speak directly to the new DAERA Minister and MLAs on a range of matters.

BT cup winner Dr Sam Strain being presented with the trophy by UFU president David Brown. Pic: McAuley MultimediaBT cup winner Dr Sam Strain being presented with the trophy by UFU president David Brown. Pic: McAuley Multimedia
BT cup winner Dr Sam Strain being presented with the trophy by UFU president David Brown. Pic: McAuley Multimedia

“We continue to make a strong case against proposed TB livestock valuation cuts, underlining the crucial difference between compensation and valuations, and the need to include sheep support within the future agriculture policy. Investing wholly in our farming and growing sector is essential for productivity, job creation, and economic and environmental delivery. All of which translates into a prosperous future for everyone in society.

“High input costs, falling farmgate prices, devastating weather events and TB continued to challenge our farmers over the last 12 months. We have proved our resilience time and time again, but we need the support of government and consumers to pioneer a sustainable approach to farming, enabling us to tackle climate change and preserve the land for future generations while feeding a growing population.

“Fairness throughout the supply chain from the primary producer through to the consumer is equally as pressing. The viability of family farms is critical to sustainability ensuring our young farmers have a future. We were proud to have recently launched the third tranche of the Next Generation Committee. The high number of applications received reinforces the passion our young farmers have for this industry. Their enthusiasm, eagerness to learn and pride in their family farms provides great confidence for the future of our sector and our ability to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.”

NFU Cymru deputy president Abi Reader, was one of the guest speakers at the event. Addressing those in attendance Ms Reader said: “It was a privilege to be invited to speak at the UFU annual dinner and to see so many NI farmers, government officials and agri-food representatives in attendance. At NFU Cymru, we are in regular contact with the UFU as well as NFU and NFU Scotland, engaging on a range of matters affecting UK farmers from trade deals to combating climate change.

UFU president David Brown with the NW Armagh group managers, the group won both the Mary Wilson Trophy and Cuthbert Trophy. Pic: McAuley MultimediaUFU president David Brown with the NW Armagh group managers, the group won both the Mary Wilson Trophy and Cuthbert Trophy. Pic: McAuley Multimedia
UFU president David Brown with the NW Armagh group managers, the group won both the Mary Wilson Trophy and Cuthbert Trophy. Pic: McAuley Multimedia

“Working together as a united agriculture industry is critical to safeguarding our family farms across the UK and delivering for everyone in society, and we all know we can deliver so many benefits for society with our safe, nutritious, climate friendly food that supports a vibrant ecosystem and thriving rural economy. Each country has its own uniqueness but how we work together for our ambitions and our challenges is our real strength. It has been an absolute pleasure to join UFU members this evening to celebrate this connection.”

Following the addresses, the prestigious BT Cup for outstanding agricultural achievement was awarded to Dr. Sam Strain.

Mr Brown continued: “I’m delighted to award Dr. Sam Strain, CEO of Animal Health and Welfare NI, with the BT Cup. Sam has been instrumental in the development and advancement of successful animal disease control programmes for the agricultural industry in NI. He has developed and delivered training programmes for both livestock farmers and veterinary surgeons, including responsible use of antibiotics and Johne’s Disease control. Both of which are integral to quality assurance schemes.

“Over the past five years, Sam has worked tirelessly on TB as the scientific expert on the TB Eradication Partnership providing expert advice to DAERA on a strategy to eradicate the disease and we continue to work closely with Dr. Strain to achieve this. He has also been pivotal to the significant progress that has been made in substantially reducing BVD on NI farms.

“Sam has an undeniable passion for agriculture and improving the health and welfare of our animals. He is extremely approachable and is always happy to help farmers and others in the industry in any way he can. His demeanour has gained him huge respect across the agricultural sector and throughout the veterinary profession, making him a worthy and credible recipient of this award.”

The UFU presented two other awards on the night. The Mary Wilson Trophy for best overall UFU group performance in 2023 was presented to NW Armagh. This award recognises the group’s outstanding performance in membership recruitment, securing subscription income, and their successful delivery of group meetings and social events throughout the year.

The Cuthbert Trophy was also awarded to NW Armagh for retaining the highest percentage of their members in 2023. The dedication and commitment shown by the group managers and their staff over the year have enabled them to achieve a retention rate of over 96 percent.