Orla Kelly, a second year student studying BSc (Hons) Agricultural Technology, at Queen’s University, Belfast and CAFRE is the winner of the inaugural Beef Student of the Year award presented by the Beef Shorthorn Society.
She received the £2,000 award in Edinburgh this week, whilst the university she represented was presented with £1,000 towards a beef educational project.
The three finalists selected from 16 entrants were Chris Freeman, studying MSc Ruminant Nutrition, at Harper Adams University; Elizabeth Johnson, studying BSc Animal Science, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University and Katie Landers, studying BSc Agriculture, at SRUC Edinburgh.
Students studying agriculture were invited by the Beef Shorthorn Society to compile an essay discussing the future of suckler beef production.
Those producing the four top essays were invited to make a presentation which demonstrated an understanding of the industry, the challenges it faces post Brexit, and how farmers will need to respond.
The judging panel featured QMS head of economics services’ Stuart Ashworth and the Beef Shorthorn Society director, Geoff Riby.
“I’m thrilled to win this first time award,” said Orla who hails from a suckler beef and sheep farm in Downpatrick, Co Down.
“The process has helped me to grow in confidence, to share my ideas built on the knowledge I’ve gained both working on the family farm virtually all my life and at university and use that to progress my career, potentially as a consultant or working in the supply chain and new product development.
“My family’s decision to change its suckler finishing enterprise strategy helped to inspire my presentation. We’ve agreed to reduce costs by making more from grazed grass and respond to the marketplace by swapping a mix of Continental cross cows for native breeds which are gaining a premium in the finished market.”
Stuart Ashworth commented: “It was refreshing to see the passion each finalist had to share their vision of a sustainable beef sector and challenge the industry going forward to – find and share best practice, present itself to the consumer and drive technical efficiency to deliver both economic and environmental benefits at farm and sector level.
“In making the difficult decision of awarding the prize to Orla, we recognized her slightly more holistic approach to building a sustainable red meat sector requiring greater communication of knowledge and ideas through the wider supply chain and from that the selection of breeding stock and farm management practices that would deliver a profitable suckler herd.”
Geoff Riby said: “The Beef Shorthorn Society is pleased to make this new award – the first of its kind, which has identified some of the most motivated and forward thinking students within the beef sector. We are confident that the honours will contribute towards them achieving a successful career within the industry.”