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Beef Shorthorn looking to the future with Board Apprenticeship Scheme

The board of the oldest recorded cattle breed, the Beef Shorthorn have announced three young up-and-coming members as successful applicants of their new Board Apprenticeship Scheme.

Ruth Bleakley, 31; Kirsty Leigh, 28 and Millie Birch 27 will be involved within the Board for a 12-month period, shadowing Board members along with other opportunities including the involvement in the successful Youth Development initiative, recognition as Young Ambassadors of the Society as well as supported attendance to the British Cattle Breeders Club Conference in January 2025.

Situated across the UK, the three apprentices each have a passion for contributing to the development of the breed and members.
“I decided to apply for the Board Apprenticeship Scheme as I think it’s important to involve the younger generation in decisions that will affect the long-term plans for the Society,” says Ruth Bleakley, from Northern Ireland who established Ballaghneed Beef Shorthorns in 2015 with the purchase of a maiden heifer, Jackie April at an Irish Shorthorn Society Sale.
“Being part of a few other ventures surrounding sustainability and agriculture and with the Beef Shorthorn being known as the ‘sustainable breed’, I hope to contribute some knowledge of what I have learned through other schemes so far to help the continued development of the breed.”

During the year, the youngsters will get the opportunity to attend the Society Board meetings and have peer to peer support from a current Board member.
Having already attended their first Board meeting, the young apprentices were given insights into internal running’s of the Society including breed development, marketing, and the charity’s finances and budgets. Over the next 12 months they will have further opportunities to focus more specifically on various sections of the Society as well as give their opinions and views on areas within the breed they are passionate about.
Millie Birch from Stafford, who established Highsky Shorthorns in 2019, buying her first female from the Meonside Herd in 2015 followed by a second from the Caramba Herd in 2017 said the Board Apprenticeship Scheme was an opportunity she couldn’t resist.

“I have a lot of ideas that I hope to propose to the Board to benefit the breed, members and future members. As part of the Apprenticeship Scheme, I would like to continue to encourage young members of the breed, whether this is more interaction at shows and sales or through our youth development programme.”

She continued, “On a personal level, I hope to continue to utilise breeding technologies including embryo transfer and AI to produce elite bulls and females that are marketable to both pedigree and commercial breeders. I also have a strong love for showing cattle and bringing out stock which I hope to achieve success with across the country at major shows representing my own herd and Beef Shorthorn as a native breed.”

Kirsty Leigh, based in Worcestershire runs the Follyfox herd on her family farm, which over the last 10 years has developed from an old poultry unit to an enterprise of Pedigree Beef Shorthorns, with the foundation cows coming from Stanford Park in 2021, a commercial flock of Beltex/Texel sheep and a butchery that opened in 2022.

Kirsty highlights, “As an active member of this Society, with a particular interest in genetics, I believe that I have the traits and long-term commitment that could help develop our breed.
“I come with two separate perspectives, one that wants to breed cows and bulls, which is what a lot of the other pedigree breeders want to do. My other side is that I own a butchery, so meat and carcass quality are extremely important for my business, so looking at how we achieve that off a purely grass based system is also very important.

President of the Beef Shorthorn Society, Tim Riley concludes; “We are delighted to welcome Ruth, Kirsty and Millie onto the Board for the next 12 months and look forward to utilising their skill sets over the next year, developing the future pipeline of talent for the Society. It is also important for us as a Society to continue to bring fresh perspectives and new skill sets to the Board.

“Despite the three individuals being in their early thirties or younger, they already have a great array of knowledge and experience between them including ownership of a butchery, experience within farming and sustainability and a strong passion for genetics and showing. I look forward to getting to know each of them throughout their time on the Board and hearing their thoughts, opinions, and ideas to help build sustainable foundations for the breed for next 200 years.”