Texan study tour for Myerscough agriculture students

Thursday 15 Jun 2017

A group of Myerscough College agriculture students and staff have returned from a successful study tour to Texas.

Twenty-six further and higher education students from a range of courses including Level 3, foundation degree and full BSc honours degree programmes, plus three members of staff, flew to the States for an eight day trip. The tour was made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from the West Lancashire Freemasons Charity and also Appleton Potato Mart.

The opportunity to learn about and experience Texan agriculture - in particular beef production systems - was one not to be missed. Dr Mike McWhorter, of the Borlaug Institute based at the University of Texas A & M, one of the top ten Universities in USA with over 64,000 students, helped devise a comprehensive visit, with Anya Westland of Myerscough College.

The tour encompassed a variety of visits to research, commercial and farm businesses to look at breeding and finishing programmes and commercial development for Aberdeen Angus, American Brahman, Brangus and Ultra Black cattle. Students also learnt how important state exhibitions and shows are for young people showing sheep, cattle, goats and rabbits, where winning at these shows results in a $10,000 university scholarship.

There were also opportunities to meet researchers from Texas A&M who were developing use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) for weed identification, soil moisture and quality monitoring. A further visit was to Sexing Technologies to study the latest developments in sexed semen and embryo transfer technology - with particular reference to male sperm used in beef and dairy industries.

Students travelled around south Texas from College Station north of Houston to Austin then onto San Antonio and Corpus Christie and back to Houston. As a result the students observed a wide variety of agricultural land types, the importance of wildlife and disease control. It also gave them a chance to experience a variety of Texan and Hispanic cultures and the important state history with a visit to the Alamo.

Also during the trip, how to prepare the barbecue, your meat and cook the perfect steak was also on the menu, kindly hosted by the Texas Beef Council, where students learned the importance of marketing their products and industry to the consumer. The trip was completed with a fantastic experience at the Houston Space Centre and seeing how agriculture is involved in growing space lettuce and other food products for the mission to Mars.

Degree student, Amy Wilkinson, was one of the party and said: ‘’The passion and knowledge of the farmers and world recognised industry professionals that we had the chance to meet was incredible.

‘’With Texan agriculture getting so much support I would love to see this happen more in the UK.’’

Anya Westland, Senior Lecturer in Agriculture at Myerscough College, said: ‘’The southern Texas beef industry was surprisingly similar to the UK in many ways with small herd sizes on grass based extensive systems and a passion for breeding animals that the market wants.

‘’In response to consumer demand the drive towards ‘natural beef’  - produced without use of antibiotics, growth promoters and hormones -  was surprising and potential competition if imported into UK post Brexit.’’

Head of Agriculture at Myerscough College, Craig Thompson, explains more about how the trip came about: ‘’We made links with Dr Mike McWhorter following a visit to Texas by Ian Douglass, a Myerscough College governor.

‘’Dr McWhorter then called in to Myerscough when he was on a business trip to the UK and met the Principal, Ann Turner, and tutor, Anya Westland, and from there the idea of a study tour to Texas was founded.

‘’Texas was a new venue for our tour which has been to Canada for the last two years. Students have come back with memories of an experience that will live with them for the rest of their lives. They see and experience so much that they come back as changed young people. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime and something for which we are all grateful to our sponsors for so generously supporting.’’

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by Dave Salmon


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