'I thought: How did I just beat those Scottish guys?' - Norfolk cattle farmer, 21, wins Aberdeen Angus prize
Archant Norfolk 2018
A 21-year-old Aberdeen Angus cattle farmer has claimed a national prize for Norfolk after beating strong competition from the breed's Scottish heartlands.
Megan Atkins, from Briston, near Holt, won the senior section in the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society’s youth development programme (YDP) competition in Shrewsbury after a “seriously intense” examination of her ring-craft, cattle dressing, stock judging and a panel interview.
And she was thrilled to win the sought-after title ahead of more experienced entrants from major Scottish estates, and to bring the trophy home to her family farm, where the small herd of up to 40 animals includes seven pedigree Aberdeen Angus.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” she said. “It didn’t sink in when they first announced it. I thought: How did I just beat those Scottish guys? It is the home of the Aberdeen Angus, and most of them have got top Angus herds.
“They go to big bull sales and do twice as many shows, so they have more experience and they are a bit older. So to just go over there and beat them with the little old Brae herd from Briston was really nice. We are no bigger than a smallholder, really.”
Megan said she first got into farming when she was eight or nine, and with the guidance of her “very proud” grandfather and herd owner Keith Catten, she bred her first calves when she was about 10.
“I love the cows,” she said. “I cannot live without them. I went away for three days and they were all I could think about on the way home.
“You do have ups and downs in farming, but suddenly you have a cracking calf born, or a win at a show, and it all evens out.”
Her YDP prize includes a travel scholarship which will fund a visit to learn from Aberdeen Angus herds anywhere in the world, and to report back with her findings.
“I would like to go to the USA,” she said. “The bull we used for one of our heifers is one of the top-rated bulls in the US, so I would love to see him and some of his other calves, because that heifer is the best we have bred.
“I would also like to go to Canada to see some of the feedlots over there. I want to see what bulls and blood lines they are using, and the feed conversion and feed efficiency which we need to focus more on in this country.”
Megan said despite the farming industry’s looming Brexit uncertainties, she was confident that a commitment to quality breeding would stand her future career in good stead.
“I think the industry is in a bit of a state,” she said. “It was one of the questions in the YDP panel interviews, about food shortages and Brexit, but I think we have got to be confident in what we breed.
“If we breed a good animal there will be a market for it. So I want to travel and see all these different animals and improve my herd.”
The former Reepham High School and Easton and Otley College student also works for N Davis and Son at Foxley on a commercial herd of 350 cattle.
Her animals are regular winners at county shows, with a particular favourite being the bull Brae Jethro Eric – who she calls Tiger – which won its class at the national Aberdeen Angus show in Westmorland, after also claiming a first prize at the Royal Norfolk Show.
This was the third time Megan had qualified for the YDP finals – a competition which attracts 300 participants from across the country.
She praised the team spirit and support of her fellow Norfolk finalists; Annabelle Howell, from Bintree, Robbie Moore from King’s Lynn, and Archie Jeary, also from Briston.