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    Harper Adams scholar in running for Dairy Student of the Year 2024

    Posted 23 January

    A male student - Jon Witter - with dairy cows

    A Harper Adams scholar who is aiming to apply the knowledge he has gained to improve his family herd of Holstein cattle has been shortlisted for Dairy Student of the Year 2024.

    Jon Witter, from Sandbach in Cheshire, was one of two students from across the UK chosen for the final two of the national competition, run by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

    The shortlisting continues a strong track record in the competition for Harper Adams students in the competition – which Jon will be hoping to continue when the winning student is announced at Dairy-Tech 2024 on February 7.

    To secure his shortlisting, Jon submitted an essay responding to a case study prepared to reflect real-life farming challenges. He was then invited to London to give a presentation on ‘The UK dairy industry in 10 years’ time’ to a panel of dairy professionals.  This year's judging panel included the RABDF Chairman Robert Craig, Vice Chairman Tim Downes, Alison Ewing, Technical Development Manager, ForFarmers, and Kaia Hillsmith from Kite Consulting.  

    Jon said: “Although nervous, it was a great experience to be able to talk about a topic which I am passionate about.

    “Writing the essay and speech really made me consider how the future of the dairy industry can be supported through advances in health and efficiency traits alongside more strategic management practices. 

    “I feel privileged to have been shortlisted for this award, especially with such a high level of competition. It was completely unexpected but is good to get recognition for what I have learnt.”

    RABDF Chairman Robert Craig paid tribute to all the students who entered the competition, and added: "The optimism and enthusiasm towards the industry are evident to see from the applicants, and it is encouraging for the sector's future success. 

    "All of this year's finalists were outstanding and had a clear grasp on the future challenges of the sector and what needs to be done to overcome them.  

    "It was hard to shortlist the final two, but Teddy and Jon had well-considered presentations with some great ideas about the opportunities for the sector whilst understanding the industry’s complexities.”

    Fellow judges agreed - Kaia Hillsmith from Kite Consulting said: “The standard of finalists in this year’s competition has been excellent, with energy, enthusiasm and positivity towards the challenges and opportunities for UK dairy. This suggests a bright future for the UK dairy industry.”

    And Alison Ewing, Technical Development Manager, ForFarmers, added: “We must encourage, develop and promote high calibre people entering the industry. This is more important than ever as we need to help our farmers in terms of productivity and profitability and increasingly with the challenge of sustainability at the forefront of our thinking. 

    “The calibre of this year’s students is really promising for our sector; they covered so much content and delivered it well, and I wish them all well.”

    Harper Adams Professor of Animal Science, Liam Sinclair, praised Jon and fellow student Kirsten Henry for reaching the finals of the competition.

    He said: “I am delighted that two students from Harper Adams University were selected for the finals for the RABDF Dairy Student Award 2024.

    “I am also very pleased that Jon has been shortlisted as one of the top two students. This success is a reflection that our students are very well prepared for the dairy industry, and that they are able to articulate their views and opinions on a variety of topics."

    Jon, who grew up on the family farm milking 180 pedigree Holstein cows, aims to apply his BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Animal Science degree to his farming – with a focus on animal health and production.

    He added: “I’ve always had a keen interest in science and wanting to utilise this to develop my knowledge in the dairy industry. I chose to study at Harper Adams because I liked the idea of the year in industry as part of the course, to gain knowledge in a practical setting.

    “When I complete my degree, I would like to continue growing my own herd with an emphasis on breeding productive commercial animals whilst maintaining high type.

    “I see myself working with high health and highly productive animals with a focus on dairy production through progression and continual development with new ideas supported by ongoing industry and animal research.   

     “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time studying at Harper as I have met some life-long friends - as well as engaging with people who will be beneficial to my future in the dairy sector.”

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