Back to school in Belgium

The Aussie contingent to the Young Breeders School in Belgium comprised (from left) Angus Fraser, Jess Eagles, Kieran Coburn, Kyella McKenna, Rebekah Love and group leader Kelly Bleijendaal.

Young Aussie dairy farmers Kieran Coburn, Jess Eagles, Angus Fraser, Rebekah Love and Kyella McKenna were treated to the experience of a lifetime, recently attending the Young Breeders School in Battice, Belgium through Holstein Australia.

An annual five-day international event involving hands-on and class-based sessions, the school is based on many aspects of showing cattle from showmanship and clipping through to marketing and herd management.

It was established in 1999 with the aim to teach young breeders about cattle preparation and showmanship.

Holstein Australia sent its first Australian team to the school back in 2019.

Jess Eagles in action at the Young Breeders School.

For fourth generation dairy farmer Jess Eagles, the trip was an amazing experience — which culminated in her placing third in her showmanship class and placing 23 out of 140 participants overall.

Angus Fraser placed 15th.

“I came away from the trip feeling accomplished which is a really nice feeling,” Jess, from Moto in NSW, said.

Not for the faint-hearted, the trip consisted of some pretty long days, late nights and a lot of hard work.

“We weren’t given the luxury of picking our own animal — we were assigned a heifer and away we went, obviously if you didn’t have a handy heifer your job was a bit harder,” Jess said.

Two days were spent competing in the ring.

Jess said there were some different rules in the ring they had to operate under, which included once the last person entered, parading backwards around the ring. Leg placement was also a bit different.

“I was pretty happy with the way I performed considering the different rules, some of which made more sense when you were looking for specific things — the competitors from Canada and England had a bit of a head start over us because they already knew the rules.”

She said she also learnt a lot from the mentors who helped out at the school.

“The quality of mentors were amazing and they came from around the world.

“I would say to anyone who goes on this trip in the future to practice your clipping skills because the mentors know what they are looking for and they can be pretty harsh in their commentary.”

While there were many lessons, Jess said meeting like-minded dairy people from around the world was simply a fantastic opportunity.

“There were bits and pieces to take away especially the different approaches to fitting and clipping.”

The trip also included a look at the countryside and educational farm tour through the Netherlands.

“Our first couple of days were spent touring where we saw a commercial stud and a cucumber farm which was quite interesting,” Jess said.

“The dairy industry is shrinking over there but it is a tight knit community where everyone helps each other out, I guess that has something to do with being a small country as well.”

This was Jess’ first trip overseas and the memory of the long plane trip is something she won’t forget in a hurry.

“We were squished in the plane on the way over and it seemed to take forever,” she laughed.

Jess has grown up showing cows and even though her family stopped dairying commercially last year, they continue to breed a small herd of show cows — she will continue to be involved in the dairy industry outside her day job working with the local vet.