RABDF reveals Dairy Student of the Year Award

Katie Ackland grew up on her family's farm in Devon

A final year student from Harper Adams University has beat six other finalists and one of the highest number of entries to win this year’s RABDF Dairy Student of the Year Award, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers.

Agriculture with Farm Business Management student Katie Ackland from Devon, won the award after going through a rigorous application process, which included writing a 1,500-word essay on a case study and delivering a presentation to the judges over Zoom.

The competition run by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers is designed to reflect real life challenges seen on dairy farms and wider policy issues, as well as identifying some of the sectors rising stars and new entrants.

Ackland, who takes home £750 and a trophy, said on winning the award: “I am absolutely delighted to have won. From growing up on my family dairy farm in Devon, through to completing my placement year on a dairy farm in Kent, I have always loved working and being involved within the dairy sector. Winning this award will give me a great opportunity to be recognised within the industry.”

Runner-up was second year Animal Science student Jessica Langton from Nottingham University. She hails from a small dairy farm in the Notts/Derbyshire border and has bold ambitions to grow the herd as well as diversifying.

She says entering the competition has increased her confidence and allowed her to demonstrate her passion for the industry to the judges. “It’s been a great experience and will hopefully, help me on my career path in the industry.”

This year’s competition saw some of the highest number of entries from universities and colleges right across the UK. The calibre of the entrants was so high that seven individuals were shortlisted in the finals rather than five.

RABDF vice chair and competition judge Di Wastenage said: “I was really impressed with the quality of the finalists in this year’s competition. Students from six universities and colleges ensured it was very competitive and a really difficult job for the judging panel.”

Robert Craig, RABDF vice chair and judge added: “The optimism and enthusiasm conveyed during the individual presentations was great to see and confirms the industry’s in safe hands for the future.”

Judge Chloe Cross from Kite Consulting, who set the case study, said the students had a great technical understanding: “This year’s finalists showed great understanding and sympathy toward the issues posed for the farming example set, touching on the ambition and desires of the family rather than just pushing for a system that they know and have experienced.”

Judge Robin Hawkey from sponsors Mole Valley Farmers said the passion and commitment from all candidates was admirable and to be congratulated. “The entrants were of a very high standard, demonstrating good knowledge of the current industry, but also of the challenges the industry faces with ideas and suggestions for the way forward.”

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