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Stackyard News Apr 05

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Grassland management innovator receives RABDF Princess Royal Award

Princess Royal and Jerry RiderJerry Rider has been presented with the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers' Princess Royal Award 2004, by Her Royal Highness at Buckingham Palace. The honour was made for his outstanding services to the industry following assessment by three independent judges.

Mr Rider who has retired from the family's 243ha farm at Horton, near Devizes in Wiltshire has throughout his 50 year career pioneered scientific and practical developments in grassland production and management and he has taken a lead on technology transfer. He introduced successfully to his own farms the New Zealand management concept of taking more milk from grazed grass and eventually rolled it out nationally. Supported by the British Grassland Society, and with the help of Genus and Mr Rider's close association with Livestock Improvement Corporation NZ, he introduced a team of consulting officers for the Grass '99 project. Its successor, Pasture to Profit, was funded by the Milk Development Council.

"Hundreds of farmers have been challenged by these projects," he says. "The New Zealand consultants have encouraged them to take a fresh look at their businesses by introducing management regimes which simply place greater reliance on grazed grass resulting in improved financial performance," he says.

Mr Rider's initial enthusiasm for improved grassland management, was inspired by the late Prof Mac Cooper, while he was studying agriculture at Wye College (University of London) during the 1950s. He had the opportunity to put science into practice after graduating and taking up a farm management position, and in the 1970s on his own farms after securing tenancies initially in Cheshire and shortly afterwards, Wiltshire. While farming in Cheshire, he helped to found Deeside Dairy Farmers, a farmer led management and buying co-operative, and he became its first chairman.

Since then, Mr Rider's involvement in the British Grassland Society and various other farming groups have provided him with an opportunity to share new technical knowledge and experience. Introducing innovation continues at Horton, which is now farmed by his son, Jonathan who introduced 'once-a-day' milking seven years ago as part of his low-cost production regime.

Chairman of RABDF's judging panel, John Alvis commented: "Jerry's drive and enthusiasm has inspired not only fellow dairy farmers, but also researchers, advisors and commerce. Furthermore, his willingness to share his knowledge and management experience has been appreciated by a wide range of audiences from local societies and discussion groups, to Government research committees and research centres in the UK and overseas."

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