Building for the future of the breed

The UK and Ireland teams from the youth competition at the World Angus Forum 2017
The UK and Ireland teams from the youth competition at the World Angus Forum 2017

As with many other industries and lines of work, the cattle breeding industry is faced with an ever-changing landscape.

Breeders must be equipped to cope with and react to changes both seen and unforeseen in the near and more distant future, and part of that involves the effective development and nurturing of young talent to drive the individual breeds and overarching industry forward.

Since first coming into place in the 1990s, the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society has used its Youth Development Programme (YDP) as a platform for doing exactly that, providing youngsters with vital experience and the chance to work towards an industry recognised qualification in the City & Guilds award through Duchy Agricultural College.

The Youth Development Programme offers young farmers of all levels of ability from the ages of 8-24 a chance to gain hands-on experience in everything from preparing cattle for shows and sales to stockjudging, clipping, halter making and public speaking through their regular workshops and conferences which are run by some of the best stockmen and stockwomen in the business.

These workshops take place one or two times per month up and down the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland, and aren’t only for those with Aberdeen-Angus backgrounds, offering a great programme for all industry youngsters. Each year, a YDP participant is also selected to study the Aberdeen-Angus breed abroad, with an official finale competition every year to help select who wins the trip.

The YDP provides a platform to assist the young people in carcase selecting, nutrition, fertility, and gives the opportunity to look around an abattoir and local beef units. Participants are also chosen to shadow judge at major shows like the Stirling Bull Sales and get opportunities to travel to the World Angus Forums and compete against their peers from all around the world in the youth competition.

Gayle Bersey is the Aberdeen-Angus YDP Co-ordinator, having held this role since 2009 and being responsible for the organisation of workshops, conferences and qualification opportunities for the young people.

When speaking about the YDP and why it is held in such high regard, Gayle said: “The Aberdeen-Angus Youth Development Programme provides a great platform for youngsters to learn the skills they need for their future careers, whilst having fun at the same time and making long lasting friendships. At the regular weekend workshop events and conferences, we have some of the best speakers in the industry presenting about all sorts of topics that can help the participants become better livestock farmers and well-rounded individuals.’’

Gayle continued: ‘’With the average age of farmers sitting at the late 50s to early 60s, it is essential that we work to encourage the youth of today and provide them with the environment they need to develop and flourish. In livestock farming, without those young individuals coming through we cannot move the breed and the industry forward. We also look at more efficient ways of farming to hopefully help our youngsters develop a profitable career path in the future.’’

The current programme boasts upwards of 300 young people taking part with around 15 workshops throughout the year and a larger weekend event which hosts the finale of the programme, where there is a £2500 cash prize fund and the opportunity for the seniors to win a study trip abroad. If you are yourself, or know anyone who is between the ages of 8 and 24 and might be interested in taking part in the Aberdeen-Angus Youth Development Programme, you can get in touch with Gayle Bersey directly at