Sharing ideas without fear of ridicule

Last weekend saw the third reunion of my Challenge of Rural Leadership course up in Elgin, Scotland. We were fortunate to be hosted by one of the group, who runs the Pitgaveny Estate, and were shown around a variety of enterprises – a personal favourite being the huge carrot harvesters.

We also visited an impressive organic pig and poultry farmer up in Lossiemouth who, after providing a typical Scottish welcome, loaded us into the stock trailer for a trip around the unit. It may have been rather chilly (understatement), but the pigs looked super. I even spied some solar powered ESF feeders (no guesses as to whose they were!)

I feel very lucky to be part of this fantastic group and, while we do spend an inordinate amount of time, challenging and arguing, we trust each other implicitly and will always be able to share ideas without fear of (too much) ridicule. Next year we’re visiting another course member in Slovakia. Ice swimming anyone?

No sooner had I returned from Scotland, I was off again to Coesfeld in Germany to visit the Westfleisch abattoir as part of the AHDB Pork carcase classification review. We had come to see the Autofom, which works by taking ultrasound measurements of the carcase to accurately determine primal quality and therefore value.

I chuckled when I realised that I’d last been to this plant with almost the same group in 2001 to see its first iteration. This newer version is supposed to be more accurate and certainly beats the UK’s favoured Intrascope (which apparently in most EU countries is only found in museums). The real debate, however, is whether Autofom 3 could replace the current P2/deadweight payment system or simply be used by processors to derive more value from the carcase.

I like the idea that producers could profit from providing processors with the type of pig they really want, and processors benefit from providing consumers with superior pork, but this requires everyone in the chain to agree what they want. The system works at Westfleisch because it is a farmer co-op so it is in their interest to ensure that everyone benefits.

Back home now to earn some brownie points from him indoors after continually disappearing and leaving him with our rather enthusiastic four-year-old…
The more observant of you will have noticed that voting is open for the NPA elections. Please go and vote – it only takes a few minutes and will ensure that we have a clear mandate from you as to who should be driving NPA policy.

Finally, I am very happy to report that Lizzie will be returning to the NPA at the end of February. She’ll be part-time for now, so don’t all pile in at once, but we are very much looking forward to having her back.

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About The Author

Dr Zoë Davies is chief executive of the NPA. For more information visit: