Harper Adams BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Animal Science alumna Manon Lewis has visited New Zealand to find out about the country's farming systems.
Manon, from Meifod in Powys, was able to fund her trip through a £1,200 Gareth Raw Rees Memorial Scholarship, which she received at last year's Royal Welsh show.
Manon also received a George Crawford Legacy Trust Scholarship for 2021-22 from Harper Adams and used this towards her trip.
As the closing date for this year's appplications on June 23 nears, Manon shared her reflections with NFU Cymru - whose blog we reproduce, with thanks, here.
As I was nearing the end of my degree at Harper Adams University, I became assured that traveling to New Zealand to gain further experience within the sheep and beef industry was the right decision for me.
Fortunately enough, I came across the Gareth Raw Rees Memorial Scholarship, supported by NFU Mutual, encouraging young individuals with interests within farming to apply for financial assistance towards their travels. I was extremely grateful and honoured to have received the award alongside another six young farmers across Wales, and I will be forever grateful, as receiving this award allowed me to follow my dream of venturing and farming in New Zealand.
My ambition was to see and experience as many sheep and beef farming systems as I possibly could within my time in New Zealand, which spanned from the end of October through to the beginning of February.
During those three and a half months, I visited and worked on 11 diverse farming enterprises across both North and South Island, consisting mostly of high-country sheep and beef stations, but also top performing ram studs and bull breeders.
Work on farm consisted of tailing lambs, marking calves, weaning, docking ewes and all the required livestock husbandry practises associated with these periods (drenching, vaccinating, dipping etc.). All farms differed from one another, offering a new experience and lesson each time, whether farming on unique terrain and landscape, using various breeds of livestock to achieve a specific breeding objective (maternal or terminal), or livestock management and production. Nevertheless, each shared the belief that prioritising developments in animal health, genetics and nutrition together is paramount to enhancing livestock performance and productivity, which goes hand-in-hand with environmental improvement and farm profitability.
Having farmed without subsidies for nearly 40 years, it was very clear to me that the farmers I visited in New Zealand have embraced the technology available to increase productivity and farm sustainably and self-sufficiently, something we British farmers must grasp as UK payments phase out.
Whilst working on the various farms, I also gained valuable knowledge of grassland management and maintaining soil health and fertility to ensure pasture longevity. With beef and sheep systems commonly grazing animals extensity all year round, maintaining lush, nutritional grass is vital and managed carefully.
I learnt about strategies such as rotational grazing on 4-day paddocks and grazing multi-species pastures and herbal leys including lucerne, plantain, chicory and clovers, and how these approaches can improve yields as well as animal performance, helping to reduce reliance on costly supplementation. These experiences have been very valuable to me when working on-farm at home in Wales, and have encouraged me to be more aware and receptive of research and articles discussing these topics.
As we know, the UK agricultural industry is changing rapidly, and I believe this is an exciting opportunity for the next generation of young farmers to shape the future of British farming and its progression.
I would therefore encourage young individuals interested in agriculture to make the most of every opportunity to broaden their knowledge and gain experience of the industry, and applying for this generous scholarship is an excellent way of achieving this.
Someone once said to me, you never stop learning, and receiving the Gareth Raw Rees Memorial Scholarship to travel to New Zealand has been an incredibly benefiting experience, allowing me to learn from others and their farming systems, pick up new innovative ideas and apply this knowledge to make improvements to farming enterprises at home.
Thank you very much for the financial support towards my travel costs, and for influencing an unforgettable experience I will forever appreciate.