Recently I had the great pleasure of judging the heifers at the Herefords Australia National Youth Heifer Show; held in Melbourne – what an honour – but more importantly what a fabulous event!
I remember attending and being part of heifer shows and junior judging and parading competitions during my childhood; but its only now as an adult returning to these events that I can really appreciate what I learnt and took away from these experiences. In fact 20 years later; and in reflection on these days’ I now know that I learnt so much more than just the skills of parading and judging cattle. I learnt about responsibility and leadership; my industry network grew at every event as did my self-confidence. These are all traits that I now call on daily in my life – how valuable is that!
Over recent years we have really seen the ‘heifer show’ concept take off around the country and we are seeing both an increase in the number of events being held and the number of participants at each event. The outcome of this; is that the benchmark has also been lifted; and the calibre of young people continues to get higher; and this was certainly also the case the Herefords Australia heifer show. To me this is great to see – and really indicates that there are a lot of young beef industry enthusiasts out there. But – the challenge is – how do we keep them in the beef industry!
We are hearing that the agriculture industry in general is really struggling to attract young people to take on a career in our sector. I really question at what stage are we loosing these keen passionate young people; is it towards the end of high school or during university? Are we not showcasing the abundance of rewarding careers that our sector offers? The challenge is – how do we engage these bright young people beyond the heifer show? How do we embrace that enthusiasm which is so vibrant at a younger age? How do we capitalise on the skills which they are developing and keep them involved in our industry for the future? This is a real challenge and one that I know is hot on the radar in the agriculture sector.
The Herefords Australia National Youth Heifer show; was not just about the show ring; over the 3 days the participants also attended a number of demonstrations and presentations by industry experts. Also – I was so pleased to see that there was a session on the program that did showcase some of the career opportunities in our sector – this is exactly the message we need to be sharing with these groups – well done Hereford Youth!
Brandon Sykes one of the young organisers of this event said ‘We received a lot of positive feedback about the event, in particular the hands on demonstrations on parading, grooming and cattle selection. From all reports, the show was enjoyable and educational for all participants’. I should also note that this event was solely organised by the Hereford Youth Group – and this was led by Brandon Sykes who is now a Youth Ambassador for the breed. Tick – another set of skills being developed by our young people ‘leadership’ and ‘teamwork’.