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Youth Development Day (Appleton Farm) – Sunday, 10th September 2023

A tremendous day was had by all at the launch of SYD, the Beef Shorthorn Youth Development initiative.

Held at Appleton Mills Farm on the North York Moors, the Gibson family extended a warm welcome to our young people in the most idyllic of settings.

Appleton Farm

In the sweltering heat, they arrived and were treated to an array of ice-cold drinks and started to get to know each other. All made instant friends with their shared passion for Beef Shorthorns.

The day started with everyone donning their new SYD gillets and headed into the yard for a group photo, to say it was like herding cats was an understatement and that was just the parents/guardians!

Andrew and Kate of KATEM embroidery did a great job of sizing everyone up and they all looked very smart in the new SYD range.

Members were then split into groups and rotated around four workshops during the day.  All were hands on activities with the focus on learning by doing.

Halter making run by Robert Grayson was a firm favourite. His demonstration with a few rapid twists and knots looked impossible at first glance. However, under his clear and patient guidance everyone quickly got the hang of it, with confidence growing step by step.

All came away with halters in hand and were keen to get home to make more, with several commenting on how Christmas was sorted, so if you get your own personalised halter under the tree, you will know you have Robert Farmer Christmas to thank!

Drew Hyslop delivered a workshop on clipping with everyone getting to grips with the trimmers, luckily for the Whiterose herd,  everyone picked it up quickly and there were no cattle with bald patches heading back towards the fields.

Learning to groom and prepare cattle for the showring saw Mark and Drew take everyone through what products are available and how best to use them. This was followed by leading the now immaculate Shorthorns into the ring to practise displaying them to their best advantage and going over showing etiquette.

Reflecting Beef Shorthorn in their best light was also covered within a Photography module.  Alfie Shaw of Agri-images instructed all on how to best position an animal and what to think of from a photographer’s perspective.  All learned about lighting conditions, resolution, focus and depth of field in order to tell a story with the images captured. From individual animal photos in the yard, to a walk through the herd in the field, everyone learned how to approach animals safely and attract their attention without disturbing them to get some fantastic natural shots.  Everyone was blown away by Mr S’s ability to ‘talk to the animals’ and he was crowned ‘King of Moo’. More importantly everyone grew in confidence and understood better how to use their own phones and cameras to get shots that best reflected their stock in order to promote their own herds. With social media becoming an integral part of everyday life having good photographs will be key to the success of our next generation.

Most people felt that they were not natural artists so the thought of painting a Beef Shorthorn filled most with dread and there was a definite air of apprehension before getting started.  Local artist Joyce Buzeman swiftly put all at ease. Starting with a blank canvas no one dared to think that they could imitate the examples on hand, however Joyce stripped back the process to simple steps and coached all on the process of building up a sketch and then water colour painting step by step. The buzz in the room was truly amazing as everyone began to see their portraits appearing before their eyes. All that took part were blown away by what they managed to produce.

Amanda and Joe from Morrisons joined proceedings and after lunch took us through how the Morrisons scheme works and assesses output.  Carcass weights and marbling of fat were outlined, and it led to a very productive question and answer session with our breeders of the future soaking up all the information ready to put into practise.

The day ended with a farm walk.  This was much needed after the incredible food at lunchtime as more than a few pounds were gained after the delicious spread. Johnny and Hannah took us round their newly established herd and described to everyone how they had started at Appleton Mills. With a variety of stock from bloodlines like Mayfield, Millerston and the original Appleton herd, they have produced some fabulous calves. The animals themselves were incredibly calm and reflected the skill and care that the Gibson’s put into their husbandry.

It was a really enjoyable day. A huge thanks to the Gibson family, all our workshop leaders and volunteers who made the day run smoothly and a great success. Mark Severn is a true thalwart of the breed and his vision has been to engage with our young people and inspire and encourage them. He certainly achieved that…  and more, because they all had great fun and can’t wait for the next day.  We are really looking forward to hosting similar events in different locations around the UK to allow all to access SYD.   These days are being funded by the Beef Shorthorn Development fund which is a legacy from our Bicentenary year of which one of the aims was to invest in the future of the Society and the Breed.

The overwhelming message from the day was ‘Believe and you can achieve’.  We have some amazing young people and future breeders within the Society and the future is looking very bright indeed for Beef Shorthorn.

Footnote:  All our Development days rely on having skilled and dedicated volunteers so if you have time to spare or a skill that you can pass on to our next generation please contact ellie@beefshorthorn.org as we would love to hear from you.