A “Canadream” for Scottish Speechmakers

A “Canadream” for Scottish Speechmakers

In February of 2022 the Crossroads Young Farmers team of Scott Anderson, Fiona Cuthbertson, David Smith and Andrew Taylor, took first place at SAYFC’s national Senior Speechmaking competition. Following this we were informed of the amazing opportunity to travel to Canada in November to take part in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture speechmaking competition. On the 3rd of November we began our trip to Canada. Within the first day in Toronto, we had lost a passport, made a trip to the British consulate and spent more money than we’d like to admit figuring out the public transport system – thankfully it was all up from here! We were very lucky to have a hotel in the centre of the city, meaning everywhere we wanted to visit was within 1 hours walk. This certainly kept the fitness up, with us achieving an average of 20,000 steps per day.

During our time in Toronto, we spent multiple days at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, this year was the 100th anniversary of the show. With this being the largest indoor show in the world we enjoyed exploring all aspects. The first day we were there the beef cattle were being judged. The national Charolais show was taking place, along with the qualifiers for the young handler’s competition. It was amazing to see almost 100 competitors for this competition competing over 11 heats. The cattle were smaller compared to beef cattle in Scotland. Having later spoken to a breeder at the show this is because there is a big focus on management traits, for example easy calving and growth from pasture. The breeder in  question has 40 cows and does not intervene in any calvings. When we returned on the Wednesday the dairy cattle were in being prepared for the showing to begin the next day. There was at least 500 dairy cattle on site, a fantastic sight to behold. The cows were at the extreme end of what we would see in Scotland, being incredibly angular and large – many mature cows stood taller than us! What was also impressive was the amount of kit brought by the farms for the event – some of the show teams even had a kitchen set up next to their cows!

We also spent an afternoon watching the show jumping. We didn’t know much about what we were watching, but we were in awe of some of the Olympians we saw competing. The competition takes place in an ice hockey ring, meaning it is well set up with seat and TV screens to give a great view of the event.

Our second evening in Canada was spent at a reception dinner for The Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture (CYSA). Here we met the organisers of the event and foundation, as well as the other competitors in both the junior and senior competitions, and their families. We were very warmly welcomed, with the Canadians being full of questions about agriculture and young farmers in Scotland. This was a very insightful evening as we were able to discuss the competition and other events like those offered by SAYFC.

On the Saturday of the Winter Fair Scott and Fiona competed in the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture. The competition was individual, prepared speeches. We spoke on the topics of ‘Is local food sustainable?’ and ‘I knew I wanted a career in agriculture when…’. We enjoyed listening to the other speakers and their speeches enabled us to extend our knowledge of Canadian agriculture. Scott spoke his way to first place and was honoured to be presented with a trophy, which in the end he decided was easier left in Canada! We also had the opportunity to meet up with the Bankfoot Young Farmers team who had won SAYFC’s national speechmaking competition in 2020, we enjoyed getting to know them and they joined us in celebrating Scott’s big win!

After the formalities of the CYSA competition we began to explore Toronto further than just the Royal Winter Fair itself. One day we took a trip to Toronto Island and then to the top of the CN Tower for drinks at sunset. Another day we took a train to Niagara Falls. This was incredible to see and we were so fortunate that the weather was good while we were there.  We also became big fans of the Toronto Raptors basketball team and still continue to follow how they’re doing a month later.

After a week in Toronto, we took a flight to Calgary, and the average daily temperature went from around 15 degrees Celsius to -7 degrees Celsius. In Calgary we picked up our 27ft RV that we would spend the next 10 days exploring the Rockies in. Our first stop was Banff where we explored some of our favourite spots, Lake Louise and Lake Peyto. The views from these lakes were breath-taking and pictures do not do them justice at all. A heavy fall of snow the week before we arrived meant the scenery was even more stunning, however it had been long enough for the roads to be cleared for safe driving.  After a couple of days in Banff we made our way through the mountains to Kamloops, exploring hot springs, famous viewpoints and Canadian 5 pin bowling along the way. Finally, we drove to our last stop Whistler. Here we took the brave leap of doing a bungee jump and also enjoyed the sights of the famous Winter Olympic town. Although it was a quieter time with the ski season not yet started there was still a great atmosphere. Our experience in the RV was cosy but we loved the freedom it gave us to explore, as well as making our own food again. Despite the cold weather (the coldest we recorded was -17 Celsius) it was warm inside the RV. It was well kitted out with everything we needed and was easy to drive being an automatic, although remembering to drive on the right was a challenge sometimes! We all adopted our own roles for the 10 days, Andrew and David on driving, Fiona on cooking and Scott on toilet duty.

On our last day with the RV we visited three dairy farms below Vancouver. Before our trip we got in contact with James Paterson, a vet from Northern Ireland who now lives and practices in Canada. He kindly took us to some of his client’s farms. All three farms were dairy farms, the first, Rosegate, was milking 300 cows on robots and rearing all young stock on farm and inside. This farm was technically very efficient. We were very impressed by the youngstock shed, allowing calves to being the same group of 8 from 4 weeks old until 6 months. Heifers were also calved in separate groups and had their own robots which massively reduce bullying. On the farm we learned that land in the region is worth £100,000 per acre due to high demand for fruit, vegetables and tree nurseries. Like most farms in this area 5 cuts of grass silage are taken annually, along with maize silage and winter wheat wholecrop that is direct drilled into maize stubbles. High rainfall of over 6 feet per year means that crops grow well. However in Autumn 2021 the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain fell in 3 days causing massive flooding. We had a great discussion with James and the farmer about vaccination policy, the use of fat supplements, quota, milk price and current and future environmental regulations. The second farm we visited milked 300 cows with a 48 unit rapid exit parlour and was also very interesting to see around. Lastly we visited Gracemar, who were milking 1200 cows with a robotic rotary. We took a tour to see the parlour, their flushing system and mechanics shop, which as you can imagine were all on a massive scale. We were interested to find out that they sold all their calves at 10 days only and imported 2nd and 3rd lactation milkers from over the border in the USA as this was a much cheaper system than rearing their own calves and getting heifers used to the rotary. The farm milked 3 times per day, with only 2 people per shift – one person collecting cows and cleaning cubicles and another ‘milking’ cows – checking cows are milked out, administering any drugs required etc. We all thoroughly enjoyed our day visiting each of these farms and felt that we took a lot from it in terms of our understanding of Canadian agriculture as well as how this applies to agriculture in Scotland.

The last part of our trip was spent in Vancouver after we dropped off our RV. On the whole we all liked and would recommend Vancouver over Toronto. Although we had loved our time there, Vancouver was much quieter and had a more relaxed environment which appealed to us. We spent lots of time exploring Vancouver, we cycled round Stanley Park, visited Capilano Suspension Bridge, went to the top of The Vancouver Lookout, visited Grandville Island and saw some of the famous sights within the city centre such as The Gastown and Chinatown. After five days in Vancouver it was time for our trip to end, but not before a long journey home with a layover in Amsterdam.

After an amazing three weeks we were back to reality with a bump, back to work and back to our jam-packed Young Farmers calendar. Our Canadian adventure, or Canadream as we often put it, was an experience of a lifetime. From simply taking park in a Young Farmers competition in Ayrshire, we were given the amazing opportunity to compete internationally and travel around another country. This is a testament to the wealth of incredible opportunities that Young Farmers can offer and we couldn’t be more thankful to have experienced it. Without the support of the numerous funds that support SAYFC members may of these opportunities would not be possible. We would like to thank The International Trust, YFA and NFU for their support with our trip, it is deeply appreciated.