I set off on the 11th May 2018 on my big journey to Belfast Northern Ireland. In Belfast I was picked up by Hannah (host) and Amanda the Canadian exchangee. From there we went straight to Kilraghts Young Farmers Club Sports Day where they had about twelve clubs competing in sports matches consisting of senior boys, junior boys, senior girls and junior girls. This was followed by tug of war competition. Fair to say they take tug of war very seriously! Everyone wears belts that support their back as well as professional boots with good grip and support.
The next day I visited some game of thrones locations including the iconic dark hedges. That afternoon we went to David Jaimyson’s farm who grew a lot of potatoes. Due to the challenging climate they grow early potatoes under plastic which was interesting. We met up with the other exchangees, three from Wales and one from England and that night we went to a Northern Irish Young Farmer “BBQ” which is very misleading as there was not a “BBQ” inside, just a chip van and over five hundred young farmers crammed into a farm shed converted to a large party hall. Fair to say none of the exchangees were feeling great the next day but four of us still managed to drag ourselves from the sorrows to Bush Mills Distillery where Hannah used to be a tour guide. Amanda and I switched hosts that night with an "actual BBQ" and went to Richards house who was just down the road. His parents ran a large dairy, milking two hundred and fifty cows and he worked at a large feed mill. The next day we looked at several dairies and beef operations and went out for lunch. The next day Young Farmer had a factory tour organised at Dunbia a very large abattoir and butchery. It was very impressive and different to Tasmania. Some highlights included watching spicy burgers being made, checking out cows stomach washing machines and the automatic optical grading the hooked carcasses.
Richard and I went to bowling and dinner and swapped hosts to Ian Walker, his family also run a dairy, milking two hundred and fifty cows, all permanently indoors. I also visited a milk robot farm that uses 0graze mower which cuts and collects fresh grass in one go. Then toured Armagh where we looked at the Protestant and Catholic cathedrals which was a huge contrast. The next day Amy and Becky took us to South Ireland to Dublin and toured the city and went to the Guinness factory which had the best tasting Guinness I have ever tasted! The next day Amy took me on tour and we went to Gill Fresh Produce who had a large vegetable farm, vegetable packing facility, anaerobic digester and green house complex The anaerobic digester is a power plant which runs off methane generated by decaying plant mass starved of oxygen. Most of the vegetable waste went into this as well as over 500ha of prime agricultural ground which is silage and fed into the digester to rot. Huge "green energy" subsidies are given to feed these large generators. The excess heat from these generators were then used to heat the glasshouse complex which grows many types of ornamentals for the landscape supply stores.
The next afternoon we went to the farm next door which is owned by John Best, his son Rory is a very famous rugby player that plays for Ireland. John manages 500 hectares of cropping, fattens beef cattle and has his own waste recycling plant. He mixes his own liquid fertiliser and has a full time spray operator applying fertiliser and fungicide. He also has a side business where he gets paid to take green waste from councils. He has a large grading trommel to separate sizes which he then composts for 4 months before applying to his own fields. This puts a lot of plastic in his fields but makes them very carbon rich and fertile for good yields. He also owns shares into White’s Oat Flour Mill which processes over 100 000 tonnes of oats each year for breakfast cereal.
Collone Young Farmers were running transport for Ulster Young Farmers game fair which we also set a stand up for. The game fair consisted of everything from shooting, hunting and wild game. There were about thirty clay target throwers firing in all sorts of directions as part of a competition, there were also air rifle target ranges, sniffer dog competitions, horse demos and many stands selling hunting equipment.
Next on to Exeter, Richard Tucker the chairman of Devon Young Farmers picked me up and took me on a tour of his 150 cow dairy farm where he and his brother worked. The next day it was Young Farmer Devon County Competition Day. Colin and I helped prepare and set up for the competitions at this event, including clay bird shooting, fencing, ATV handling, tractor handling, stock judging, valuation (guess the value of farm land and farm machinery), workshop (metal fabrication), pallet design. I competed in clay target shooting, a tractor and ATV module for fun.
The next morning, I was off to start milking at Colin’s neighbour’s Jersey Farm who was away on holiday. I helped with the silage in the afternoon where I was put to work on the silage trailer.
Wednesday, we tried silaging again we got about 40 acres done but failed once more with a small patch of rain. That evening we went to a dairy stock judging course organised by a local Young Farmer club.
On Saturday night went to a Young Farmer foam party which involved a large shed with a giant foam machine hanging from the ceiling. This filled half the shed chest high full of foam and an intensely fun and messy party! The next day we went to the South West Region Finals for stock judging, tug of war, welding and fencing. Winning this comp means qualifying for National Championships. Both the Devon boys and girls tug of war teams performed strongly with the boys winning and the girls coming second, I then said my goodbyes and went on the train to Stafford.
Emily and Eve picked me up and showed me the farm. The farm was 300ha of cereal production. It included six WWII ammo stores which used to be used as turkey stores.
The next day we visited Nottingham University 6.3 million robot farm and followed by a Young Farmers BBQ where we fixed a bed for a bed race for later that week (dismantled a float which was used the week before at a show).
The next day we went to Greys Spud Farm, this is a very large potato growing property. His potato grading plant uses a lot of power, so he also owns a large wind turbine to help offset this. He was also leasing ground to Paul from New Farm Produce, a large vegetable and Fruit producer with over 400 staff. The entire farm was poly tunnels growing cherries, green asparagus, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.
That evening Helen took us to a Water Buffalo Farm with Pauls brother. The next day Luke Hardy (local Agronomist) and I travelled to various wheat, barley, potato and bean fields. That evening we went to an abattoir with Luke and his dad, this was a newly built facility which was designed to be world class. The loading areas were designed to cause minimum amount of stress on livestock.
The next day Mike an Uttoxeter young farmer took me to his workplace at JCB Heavy Products Factory where he is a Hydraulic Engineer designing new hydraulic systems. The factory was enormous. They assemble tracked and wheeled diggers and excavators from 10-50tonnes. We then went to the assembly line where there were four very big conveyer lines for different products. Around 400 people worked at this plant from a total workforce of around 4000 in the UK.
The next day I stayed at Richards house which is a free range egg farm. He took me to a grazing robot farm and an organic beef farmer nearby. Fair to say I was very surprised how lenient organic rules are in the UK.
The following day we managed to check out a local fruit/vegetable farm and a pheasant rearing facility at a game lodge which we were having County bed races later that evening. At the bed race I wasn’t expecting to be racing as I was hoping to leave that to the younger members but was roped into doing the race feeling very unfit and running in heavy work boots. The driver had to wear a helmet full of custard and each one of us got given an egg to look after and we got penalised if we lost custard or smashed an egg. The race involved pushing a bedframe with bicycle wheels through woodland with a person sitting on the bed. Along the way we had various challenges and had to avoid people chucking water and various other junk. (Bits of the bed snapped off along the way)
The next day I went to the British Quinoa Company and a salmon luncheon hosted by the AG Society, the young farmers table was the youngest table at this event by fifty years.
Scotland was incredibly beautiful! We stayed at a hostel for a few nights and went out for dinner and met the other 14 exchanges from around the world.
We began the next day with a guided tour of the city and its rich history followed by a bus journey. We were dropped at Craigie’s Farm, who are a pick your own fruit and vegetable producer just outside Edinburgh. That evening we were made feel very important and dressed accordingly as we got an invitation to Parliament House where we were invited guests. There were many politicians and handpicked speakers from the Agricultural Community. After some nibbles and networking one of the politicians decided to give us a full guided tour of Scottish Parliament.
The next day was a change of scenery with a day of tourist activities. We went to the Kelpies which are some big metal horse constructions which represent mythological creatures. The Kelpies guard a canal which leads to the millennium wheel which we also visited. This huge concrete and metal wheel construction is used to lift canal boats 20m up in the air to link to another canal.
I was placed with Michael who is often referred to as the “Hill Farmer”. He lived in a secluded part of Scotland surrounded by rolling hills, stone hedges and crazy, crazy cattle.
Feeling refreshed we went to the Glasgow Botanical Gardens followed by Michael’s Hill Farm that evening for stock judging.
The next day I joined the YFC tour again where we went to the Lanark market and checked out the local sheep auction, then a tour of Roadhead Farm which is a large sheep and beef stud operation, followed by Dalquahandy CHP PowerStation that ran off cheap woodchips.
Millport Island was next, where we did a tour around an island on bicycle. Myself and Matt the exchangee from Switzerland, also decided to go for a dip in the Scottish sea to test if the water was warm. It was a negative, but still decided to swim out until the jellyfish made me do a U turn. After drying off and getting back to the mainland we travelled to Habro Feed Mill. They produce milled and palletised stock feed blends as well as large lick buckets and blocks.
We finished our Lanarkshire district stay by visiting St Andrews Cathedral, which was just a heap of rubble in a nice town.
Royal Highland Show
The Royal Highland Show was a large Agricultural Show, which lost of livestock it was much bigger than Balmoral Show in Northern Ireland.
Everything was nicely divided up into sections: Machinery, cars, crafts, clubs and associations, sheep with sheep demonstrations/competitions, forge, food hall, draught horses, livestock, forestry, rural lifestyle, equine, assorted stalls.
There were many impressive events and demos including mountain biking, chainsaw carving, tree climbing, blacksmithing, young farmer competition (similar but more condensed than in Tasmania), sheep shearing, birds of prey demo.
One of the highlights of the show was the parade from cattle sheds to main arena with all prize-winning livestock from each breed paraded around main arena.
There is also a member’s area for Royal Highland Show, membership holders which gave access to exclusive areas. International guests could also go to an international guest lounge which gave you a members tag and access to a balcony lounge area overlooking the main arena.
I thoroughly enjoyed this show and the different aspects of it.
After the Highland Show we said our goodbye to the other exchanges and I got to experience first class train comfort to County Durham where I was greeted by Claire and Roger.
Claire’s dad, John often goes to livestock sales as the main business of the farm is a large feedlot fattening bull beef. Claire’s dad and brother are very handy and build their own feedlot fences, water troughs and special cattle races specially designed to handle the wild continental breed bulls. On top of that they run a large biomass boiler to generate electricity. The boiler runs off rubbish wood such as single trip pallets and general dry wood waste. Another business on the side is on farm accommodation where 4 holiday cottages are kept and I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in one.
The next day due to the heat, myself and Claire went for a walk at High Force which is a large waterfall followed by a swim there. This was followed by a game of football golf together with the local Young Farmers.
The next day we went to Beamish which is a very large historical village. This was very impressive, the site was a historical representation of 1820, 1900 and 1940. Everything was still functioning including a tram network, buses and a candy factory. All school children dressed up for the historical period which added to the experience.
The next day I spend time with Matt who has a local dairy farm where I was soon put to work milking. I then began raking in a tractor without aircon, I was then promoted to picking up and stacking bales and due to breakdown on the other tractor I was then promoted to bailing.
The next day I spent with Mark on an organic livestock farm. The farm had mobile egg chicken barns, mobile meat chicken barns, Longhorn cattle and mobile pig fattening units with an on-farm butchery.
The next day we went to Rabie Castle. Lord Rabie owns Rabie castle and 1000’s of ha of farm land and real estate around the area. The castle is home to a large garden as well as longhorn cattle and fallow deer.
I was welcomed to Buckinghamshire with a BBQ. The next day I was put to work with Matt on a dairy farm testing cattle for TB. After a big intense day we finished with going to the local pub for tea.
Tuesday, I got to put my fencing skills to the test with Gulley and Mick constructing a deer fence around the farm of a local lord with a castle. That evening World Cup fever picked up and after the spectacular win everyone was convinced it was “coming home” and football spirit was very high!
On Wednesday I spent the day with Robbie’s dad followed by a YFC soccer match that evening.
Thursday, I spent with Maddie and Kay who manage many different mobs of sheep. That afternoon I spend at the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone raceway.
Friday, I spent on a large grain farm helping fix machinery before harvest as well as checking out the deer farm and Christmas workshop. They sell Christmas trees during December and have other pet farm animals put on display during this period.
With my Study Tour coming to an end I look back and am thankful for the amazing, incredibly busy experience I had.