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Duchy Student Wins National Award

Ruth Wills
Tuesday, 13 December, 2016 - 13:30

Ruth Wills from Liskeard, a student on Duchy College’s B Sc (Hons) Rural Business Management course was presented with the 2016 Farm Health Management Award at the Livestock Event at the NEC in Birmingham. Ruth won the category for students studying agriculture at universities and colleges across Britain. The icing on the cake was that Ross Symons, another Duchy College student on the same course from near Truro, was runner-up.

The competition is organised by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF), to raise the awareness of the importance of proactive farm health planning among younger members of the industry. The entrants had to prepare an essay demonstrating their understanding of proactive health planning. They were asked to identify the barriers to adopting such a strategy and how to overcome those issues to improve health and profitability. Students undertook the task as part of their course and Ruth and Ross were the two chosen to represent the College.

It was judged by a panel of a farmer, vet and John Sumner, Farm Health Planning project manager at the Livestock Event. “The finalists showed a high level of understanding of the issues for consideration and had plenty of ideas for improving the uptake of proactive health planning,” commented John. He was pleased to see entries from Duchy College, which has not entered the event since winning it in both 2010 and 2011.

“I was thrilled to win the award, and it was totally unexpected”, said Ruth. “Having studied Johne’s disease for my dissertation, it was a subject that really interested me, so I enjoyed creating a Farm Heath Management Plan, including the knowledge I had gained. It was important to me to really get the benefits across of proactive heath planning and management, as it is not just for the farm and farmer, it also benefits the wider economy, making farming more sustainable for the future. For anyone not sure if they should enter, just give it a go! You never know what could become of it.”

Ross said, “I liked that I was able to use my own farm in the essay and that it was entered in a national competition. It gave me a good sense of confidence that my own ideas that are being put into practice are highly regarded by the panel of judges.”

Paul Ward commented, “I was not so surprised that Ruth and Ross did so well, as their essays were of top quality. This reflects the expertise that the College has built up as a result of running successful knowledge exchange programmes such as ‘Healthy Livestock’ with farm vets and the livestock sector across the south west. Our staff have genuine experience of working to identify and overcome the barriers to the uptake of proactive health planning on farms. This is illustrated by the fact that the approaches piloted in the south west have now been adopted at national level”.

Dr Jurie Intachat, Programme Manager for the course and the Higher Education Team Lead for Rural Economy at the College, added, “This was an excellent opportunity for students to apply knowledge gained from their studies and develop innovative but realistic solutions. We aim to develop our students’ professional skills and to see that they have achieved this through such competitions is an honour.”