Queen’s University Belfast student Joshua Thompson was named this year’s Dairy Student Award winner at RABDF’s Dairy-Tech event earlier this month.  The runner up was Steffan Rees from Aberystwyth University.

The format of the 2019 competition saw the final round debate take place on the brand new skills studio at Dairy-Tech rather than at The Farmers Club in London as per previous years.

Competition organiser Rachel Bowcutt said the idea behind the reformat was to raise the platform of the debate, profiling the high quality entrants to a wider audience.

Five finalists were selected from the original entries to attend an interview in London where they gave a presentation on ‘the UK dairy industry in the next ten years’.  Candidates were marked by a panel of judges based on criteria such as structure, delivery and arguments from which the two semi-finalists were chosen.

Award winner Josh Thompson said he was delighted to have won this year’s competition, bringing the title back to Queen’s University Belfast for the first time.

“With the dairy industry facing ever-growing backlash from anti-dairy activists one of the reasons I entered was to give me the opportunity to stand up for the sector and show how we can address future problems.

“The whole experience has been great and I’m looking forward to seeing what future doors may open as a result of winning the award – I’d encourage anyone looking to progress in the sector to enter.”

Josh has a wealth of knowledge in the agricultural sector, gaining experience on dairy farms in both Wisconsin and New Zealand during his time at Queen’s University Belfast.

Winner Josh Thompson with judges (L-R) Peter Alvis, Robert Craig and Julie Edwards

Peter Alvis, RABDF vice-chairman and head judge said the standard of finalists was extremely high this year but Josh and Stefan both stood out with their innovative ideas and well-rounded arguments.

“Josh had a clear understanding of the challenges and opportunities set to face the industry in the coming years with great ideas of how to exploit these for the benefit of the sector. 

“RABDF is committed to encouraging new entrants through our training courses and awards and it’s great to have entrants take part each year from a variety of different backgrounds; some with no farming experience whatsoever.  This clearly shows the desire of high calibre young people to join the dairy industry is as strong as ever.”

The competition saw students invited to complete an essay based on a case study prepared by Kite Consulting. This featured a 300 dairy cow family unit, currently achieving marginal profitability and managed by a farmer seeking a long term plan to ensure the viability of the farm for his son when he retired.  Five finalists were shortlisted from the essay entries and invited to attend the final round interviews.

Julie Edwards from award sponsor Mole Valley Farmers, RABDF vice chairman Peter Alvis and RABDF council member Robert Craig were this year’s competition judges.