North of Scotland College of Agriculture

The Journal of

Aberdeen University Agricultural

Graduates’ Association

The Former Students of the

North of Scotland College of Agriculture

and

The Graduates and Diplomates of

The Scottish Agricultural College

(Aberdeen)

Acknowledgements

Preparing this volume of Proceedings has been a tricky business and time is never on the side of the production team. The Committee of AUAGA is most grateful to:

Aberdeen University Development Trust for their original pump priming donation of £1,200 - 11 years ago now!

Owen McPherson for his magnificent efforts over many late nights in preparing and collating the material into its final form. Once again he has demonstrated his great willingness to put his ‘hand to the plough’ and his amazing ability to learn new skills to get the Proceedings out almost on time - very much against the odds.

Those colleagues who contributed summaries of the students’ research projects.

The many members who submitted such interesting material.

Annetta Young for her cover design which has received high commendation from many of our members.

Isobel James, Sandra Edwards, Adam Wardrop, Linda Birnie, Bill Slee, Alison Powell, Kellie Rance, Bob Naylor, Ian Edwards, Collette Wilson, Adam Lawson, Pat Edward, Michael Lomax, Tom Stephen, Hamish Shiach and all other Committee members for their considerable help.

Our Address

Department of Agriculture

University of Aberdeen

MacRobert Building

581 King Street

Aberdeen, AB24 5UA

Tel 01224 274122

FAX 01224 - 273732

You can also send Email to o.mcpherson@abdn.ac.uk

or you can look us up on the Internet - our URL is http://www.abdn.ac.uk/agriculture

AUAGA Office Bearers and Committee Members

(Appointed at the Annual General Meeting in May 1999.)

Office Bearers

Mr Tom Stephen Mr Hamish Shiach, Treasurer

Professor Peter English , Secretary Mrs Isobel James, Assistant Secretary

Committee Members

Mr Alisdair Cox Mr James Dick Dr Sandra Edwards

Mr Brian Ferguson Dr Alison M Innes Professor Michael A Lomax

Mr Owen McPherson Mr James Petty Dr Kellie Rance

Miss Mary Singleton Dr Bill Slee Mr James Suttie

Mr Adam Wardrop Dr Iain A Wright

Student Representatives

Adam Lawson BSc 4 Colette Wilson BSc 4 Phillipa Davies MSc (Animal Nutrition)

Juan Pablo Russi MSc (Animal Nutrition) Faye Pellew MSc (Pig Production) David Reid MSc (Animal Production)

Rez Prathalingam (PhD)

An AUAGA Committee meeting in progress with Tom Stephen (Chairman) on the extreme right and Isobel James (Secretary) on the extreme left. Others (L to R) Owen McPherson, Juan Pablo Russi, Faye Pellew, Adam Lawson, Colette Wilson, Adam Wardrop, Sandra Edwards, Kellie Rance and Peter English.

AUAGA Proceedings. Volume 11. 1999 (Editors: Peter English, Adam Wardrop and

Owen McPherson). ISSN 1350-6471

Contents Page

Acknowledgements

The AUAGA Committee

A message from the Chairman 1

Features. Personalities 1. Emma Penny 2. John McIntosh 2

3. David Machin 4. Bill Mathewson

Our Financial Position 10

Graduation Tea Parties for our new graduates 11

1999 Graduates and Prizewinners 12

The Postgraduate Agriculture and Forestry Society 14

The Agricultural Society 15

Current BSc (Agris), MA. and BSc CEMs and Postgraduates at work 17

BSc 4 and MSc students continue to enjoy ANM’s Barn and Bushel Restaurant 18

The Thursday Evening Vocational Training Sessions 19

January 1999 Study Tour 19

Recent Weddings (and baby news) 20

The 1999 Burns Supper 21

Department of Agriculture Review 1999 22

Strengthening links with developing countries and New Courses 23

The Fourth Raeburn Lecture 25

The Sir Maitland Mackie Memorial Lecture and Quincentenary Scholarship Award 27

Research specialisations of staff,postgraduate opportunities and Postgraduate taught courses 28

The Aberdeen University Centre for Organic Agriculture 30

Obituaries. George (GAT) Watson and Fachie MacGillivray 31

Awards RSPCA/British Society of Animal Science Research Award 33

Young Agriculturalist Journal of the Year Award 34

The national ‘Barley-to-Beer’ competition winner 34

David Yackiminie’s dual awards 35

The John Fotheringham Memorial Trust 36

Special features

1. Deep and meaningless….. Linda Birnie 37

2. James Dick’s meanderings and achievements since his student days. 39

3. Agriculture and the environment – why farmers should take the initiative! Douglas MacMillan 40

Commendations on AUAGA Proceedings. Let us have your criticisms, suggestions, your pictures

and stories from the past. An appeal for increased membership of AUAGA 40

Graduate Years 2. Five years on, and where are the class of 1990 - 94? Kellie Rance 41

Aberdonians off the main track 1. Agnes Wilson’s visit to Sweden 43

2. New Zealand: Land of milk and honey? 3. The Study Visit of Morvern Harper to NZ

4. Chile 1998 - 1999. - Keith Hewitt 5. Paraguayan Agriculture

6. Majid Ibraheem reports from Botswana 7. Ethiopian Notes - Mike Daw

8. Iain Wright’s Central Asia Activities 9. Peter and Vernon on their bicycles

Summaries of students’ research projects 52

Cattle

Meat Quality

Parasites

Pigs

Plant Science

Poultry

Red Deer

Sheep

Stockpeople/

Animal Carers

Seed Science News 77

The crisis in agriculture. The views of the BSc, MA, MSc and PhD students on how best to address 80

the challenges and ensure a future.

The current pig crisis - Consumers must help in the interests of animal welfare,

food safety, and the whole rural economy. Peter English

Gleanings from the years 88

Farewells. Janet Egdell, Linda Birnie and Lloyd Gudgeon 94

Address to the AUAGA AGM by David Jack 97

The Sandy Mackay Memorial Award 99

Staff Training in the Dairy Herd 100

The 1999 MSc Study Tour to the Highlands and West Coast 101

BSc 4 French Study Tour 1999 103

Students Gala Day 1943. Charlie Gair. 104

Picture Parade. The Loch Ness ‘Study’ Tour. Graduation Days - July and November 1999 105

The Agri Ceilidh. Dec 1999. January Study Tour 1999 and the Floor 5 ‘Coffee Room’

MSc Oral Exam Days - the aftermath

The Office ladies, the eclipse and other bits and pieces

Christmas Lunch 1998

AUAGA Members lost -please help us to find them 111

School of Agriculture Awards List 112

AUAGA membership list at 1st December 1999 114

AUAGA open to Associate and Company Membership 117

A message from the Chairman

As I near the end of the fourth year of my three-year term of office as Chairman of your Association I am conscious that this will be the last time I will be writing the Chairman’s message. During my period of office I have received enormous pleasure from watching AUAGA grow in size, maturity and influence. By dint of a great deal of hard work by many people, the objectives of the Association formulated by the original committee more than twelve years ago have, in the main, been fulfilled. Certainly we do our utmost to maintain links with Departmental staff and I am delighted to say we enjoy the friendliest of relations with all staff. I hope it can also be said that we have played our part in the fulfilment of another important aim, “to foster a corporate spirit encompassing past, present and future students”. As we reach the end of a year and of a century and some say the end of a millennium (although the purists will tell us we are a year too early), it may be that it is time to consider new ways to further promote AUAGA. Any ideas?

Each year Professor Lomax and his staff kindly invite your association to be represented at the post-graduation tea party held in the department. As you can imagine, this is an extremely happy event with proud graduates celebrating their success with equally proud parents looking on. Mrs Isobel James and I attended this year and we were both struck by the rapport which clearly exists between staff and the new graduates. It is obvious that these young people, coming from many countries, had thoroughly enjoyed their time at University and that they have been well prepared to cope with the uncertainties of employment in today’s agricultural industry. I have no doubt they will succeed. I make no apology for returning to the vexed question of class reunions! As you no doubt read in “Gaudeamus”, Rachel Charnock, the University’s Alumnus Officer, is targeting next year the graduating years 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1975 and she hopes to encourage those graduating in these years to make a particular effort to organise reunions during the Anniversary Reunion Weekend which is 23-25 June 2000. Are these your graduating years? If so, what about it? It only needs one graduate from a class to take the initiative and many more will follow,. Your Association hopes to have sufficient response to be able to have “Agri” tables at the dinner during this week end and with any luck we might have enough for “year tables”. Please do not feel constrained by the years selected, all “Agris” will be more than welcome whatever your year of graduation.

I am very grateful for the support of all committee members who have taken time out of busy lives to attend committee meetings and to play their part in the affairs of AUAGA. In particular I must mention a few who have over the years played a big part in our development. Mrs Isobel James has maintained the data base and handled the administration with great skill and charm and Hamish Shiach has kept us afloat financially as well as keeping tabs on members’ contributions. The editorial team headed by our Secretary, Professor Peter English continues to delight us all by producing “Proceedings”, a publication which improves in quality and interest each year and which plays such an important part in fulfilling our objective of keeping you all in touch with former classmates and the department. Finally and by no means least, all our heartfelt thanks are due to Owen McPherson. I do not think anybody fully realises how much work Owen does on behalf of the Association; he oversees the compilation and publication of “Proceedings” and it is due in no small measure to his efforts that this excellent publication is ready on time for despatch Owen, many thanks, what would we do without you!

With best wishes to you all for Christmas and the coming year. I hope the 21st century will bring some respite to the rural sector both at home and abroad.

T G Stephen

(Chairman)

Our explosion and late Proceedings

Proceedings Volumes 1 to 10 were completed and despatched before Christmas. Volume 11 has not made this important deadline. However, we think that we have a good excuse. An explosion occurred in the main generating room on the ground floor on Monday, 6 December as electricians were trying to take precautions to prepare for the millenium. However, something went wrong, there was an explosion, the electrician was standing in the right place – outwith the main ‘line of fire’. He suffered from smoke inhalation and slight burns but after a precautionary night in hospital he was found to be OK. The power supply did not recover so quickly – we were banned from our rooms all week because of the security risk and, of course, computers were out of commission. The compilation of Proceedings started seriously on 13 December with Owen and Peter joined by an excellent pair of hands and cool head in Adam Wardrop. Things would go well for a while until power was shut off at intervals without much warning and the MacRobert Building had to be vacated at short notice. Despite these disruptions, Proceedings made stuttering progress and it had almost come to fruition before access to the Building was banned again on Friday, 24 December when the finishing touches were due to be applied. We were all relieved to see it between two covers in early January and being despatched to you all. Sorry for being late but perhaps you’ll excuse us in the circumstances!

Personalities

Emma Penny

A

Emma Penny

fter six years of writing about other people, their farms and businesses for Crops magazine and Farmers Weekly, being asked to write about myself should be an easy task, but it’s not, and if I’d been editing these proceedings, I would have been summarily sacked about 12 months ago.

It’s hard to believe that’s it’s ten years since I walked through the doors of 581 King Street, and those years have certainly been interesting – I never for a minute imagined I would end up as livestock editor at Farmers Weekly. But, I suppose being brought up on a farm 25 miles north of Aberdeen, at Shannas, Mintlaw, was a good start for both Aberdeen University, and a career in agricultural journalism.

My parents run about 150 suckler cows and a herd of pedigree Limousin cattle at Shannas, as well as growing some crops, most of which are fed back to the stock. I was also keen on horses, which meant my parents had to be too, as they had to pay for them and the assorted tack they required. I am sure that it was a relief when I went to university and the horse was sold – the stable was promptly turned into a bull pen to ensure there could be no return!

For much of secondary school – and like many agri students – I really wanted to be a vet. Chemistry and biology were little problem, but Higher physics proved to be my downfall, and there was no way that I’d be able to go to vet school with a C grade. This meant a rethink on options, and agriculture seemed like a sensible choice – and I thought I could always go on to vet school afterwards. And so it was that I started a BSc in agriculture in October 1989, along with a class of other hopefuls. I can remember sitting in a lecture theatre in the very bowels of 581 King Street, being introduced to the course, and being given a sheet of paper with everyone’s picture on it – few of us look exactly the same today!

First term passed in a blur of socialising, painful chemistry, biology and physics tutorials, and attempting to buy books from second years which required a shrewd knowledge of how much they were likely to have paid for them, and then trying to knock another couple of pounds off – which wasn’t always easy. There were few agris in Adam Smith, except for my next door neighbour Lorna, who was a BSc 3 when I started. Other first year agris at Hillhead were in short supply apart from Alistair Adams, Audrey Munro and Anne MacPherson.

Mercifully, I managed to escape some of the science tutorials after having done some Certificate of Sixth Year Studies exams at school, but I was still duty bound to attend Soil Science in the Meston building, and could never quite get the hang of what I was supposed to be doing – or understand why the lecturers could get so excited about what seemed like a very dull subject. First year also meant economics with Gethyn Burgess in the agri building’s assembly hall. I could never quite understand what was going on, but I can, to this day, draw a very good supply and demand curve. A field trip to Tarradale was a welcome break – and a good end to first year, although the passengers on our minibus did have reservations about Janet Roden’s minibus driving when we aquaplaned to Oldmeldrum.

Second year proved to be more like proper agriculture – less chemistry, biology and physics - and consisted of yet more agri ceilidhs, which were still a good walk home to Carnegie Court at Hillhead. By this time, I had decided that I would far rather study crop science for my Honours subject, and so by the end of second year managed to get a summer job in the crop science department working for Ian Bingham. More crop science was to come in third year, and a select bunch we were – only Jed Higgs, Alistair Drye and I chose it as an Honours option – everyone else chose general agriculture or animal science. This meant that any absences after a good Thursday night ceilidh were certainly noticed, so being in a small class had its drawbacks.

By this time I had moved into a flat in Linksfield Road with Julia Thow. It was quite possibly the coldest flat I have ever lived in – and being students, we weren’t keen on using electricity. Keeping warm, therefore, meant spending time in the agri library - until we were thrown out for talking too much - or the King Street Mill. The annual trip to France was another highlight, and was enjoyed to the hilt, despite one of our party going missing for an evening – and all the next morning – a punishment being doled out for those of us who fell asleep when visiting Credit Agricole and my shock at finding out that steak tartare was raw beef. Fourth year meant producing a thesis, and I was fortunate that Alison Powell had strong links with Cornell University, and, with the aid of a grant from the Sutherland Bequest, I spent three months in the US. I assisted at a Cornell field station at Geneva in upstate New York, spending two months researching damping off in snap beans and cucumbers, and helping to find out whether a biological treatment would help prevent disease.

After Cornell, I took off round the States on a Delta Airpass, and had a wonderful time visiting many places including Ohio State Fair, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, Texas, Florida, Washington DC, Boston and New York. The whole trip is an experience I will never forget – and for someone who had never had to catch a bus to Aberdeen before it was a real eye-opener. Fourth year seemed to pass in a blur of panicking about writing my thesis, revising for exams – which never seemed to be my strong point until the very last minute – and socialising. The end of fourth year and graduation day seemed to come about very quickly indeed, and I think we were all sad that it had to come to an end.

Despite the realisation that the most enjoyable four years of my life had just flown by, there was some consolation on graduation day – a job advertised in Farmers Weekly for a technical writer for Crops magazine. I had managed to persuade my lecturers that taking a week off to attend a course run by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists just a month before the finals was a good move, and so it proved to be. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, which comprised of two days lectures and three days work experience, and was sure that journalism was the career for me – combining something which was sociable, good fun, finding out interesting facts and writing seemed to me to be the perfect match. Attending the course proved to be the break into journalism I needed, as no-one was more surprised than me that I was even asked for an interview. After a trip to London – the first time I had been there – an interview lasting an hour and a half and few days nervously waiting by the phone, the editor telephoned to say the job was mine if I would like it.

Moving to London was something I had never considered, and it took a lot of getting used to – not least driving on the M25, which ranks as one of the most frightening experiences I have ever had. Learning to rely on a map was another thing I hadn’t thought about.

Joining Crops proved to be a massive learning curve. Not only did I have to learn to write, but I also had to learn about what really went on on-farm, and come to terms with the fact that I really didn’t know very much at all. Admitting to your interviewees that you don’t know what they are talking about can be difficult when you are out to prove you can do a job, but I soon learned that it was better to ask than to be clueless when you went back to the office and the pressure was really on. Crops is fortnightly, and is sent to the UK’s largest arable farmers. Writing in-depth articles about weed control, the latest agrochemical and slug control – and making them interesting and entertaining – can prove to be a little tricky at times, and could take a lot of thought. One of the strangest tasks associated with being a journalist is interviewing your old lecturers, particularly asking them to justify what they have just told you – something you would rarely, if ever, have done as a student.

After three years at Crops, I decided it was time to move on, and the position of deputy livestock editor at Farmers Weekly came up. Few agricultural journalists swap from one technical area to another, and many people thought the move a strange choice, but I’ve never been happier. Making the change meant starting to gen up on technical matters all over again, but at least this time I had the confidence to admit I didn’t know things, and being able to ask the right questions and write articles already definitely helped. I found livestock farmers much easier to interview than their arable counterparts. I suspect this is because keeping livestock involves working 365 days a year, whereas you can be a successful arable producer with less personal input. Two years on from moving to the livestock desk, and I was appointed livestock editor. This wasn’t as smooth as it might sound. Learning to manage people proved to be a stumbling block which took me some time – and a lot of stress - to overcome. Couple that with panicking about whether you are going to have enough copy to fill the allocated pages, whether everyone will meet deadlines, whether it's’ all legally watertight and correct, whether the pictures for each article will arrive on time, and whether the phone will ever stop ringing, and you can appreciate the stress involved. But a year and a half on, and the bumps have ironed themselves out. There’s still a lot to do, but the three members of the Farmers Weekly livestock team are really supportive, and are keen to take responsibility.

All of us appreciate the hard times livestock producers are currently going through. Everyone on the desk comes from a farm, or has worked as a consultant in the industry – and Marianne Curtis has the added benefit of having an MSc in animal nutrition from Aberdeen. Despite our backgrounds, we all find it difficult to know what to write to help producers at present. We can’t continue to go over the same advice time after time, and we also have to avoid being patronising or unrealistic so stories can often take a lot of thought to write. We are often asked where our ideas come from, and they’re often from readers, conferences, advisors in the industry, scientists, or perhaps it’s just something that has cropped up in conversation. Mostly, we’ve too many ideas and too much copy, but at some times of the year it can be more of a struggle, and that’s’ when having good industry contacts really comes into its own.

As an Aberdeen agri, I really can’t complain about having poor contacts. Several of my classmates are now involved in research, and Vicki Glasgow, who is now with North Eastern Farmers, provided a lead story from this year’s British Society for Animal Science conference at Scarborough. Anna Sinclair – now married to David McClelland and mother of Grace – is another classmate to have featured in Farmers Weekly’s livestock pages after BSAS. Just how many Aberdeen agris are involved in animal science became really apparent at this year’s BSAS conference. A lunchtime reunion organised by Jes Scaife almost filled one of the bars, and it was great to see so many people with an Aberdeen connection.

John Donaldson – who gained his PhD in New Zealand and is now teaching at Harper Adams University College – was there from the year above us, as was his classmate Phil Holder, who is another PhD, and now works for Intermol. Phil also made it to a barbeque in Shropshire this summer at the house John and Tom Middlemass share. Sarah Coe, Sharon McCombes, John Murrie and Kenny McLean also made it. Anne Rae – another BSc member from that year – is involved in management at the Scottish Executive’s Thainstone office. I’ve also managed to catch up with others in my year including Julia Thow – now running a stables near Oldmeldrum, Colin Anderson – now a regional agricultural manager for the Clydesdale Bank, James Petty – now working for Hayes, McCubbin MacFarlane in Bucksburn, Alistair Cox, who is marketing manager for Grampian Country Food Group, and Anne MacPherson, who is doing very well with her family’s Simmental cattle. Agris from the year below are also doing well; Neil Fraser has moved from being an advisor in SAC’s Ayr office to being an economist at Craibstone. Derek Skinner is studying for an MSc in Information Management at Robert Gordon’s, while Sara Hodgson is off to New Zealand again in January, and Elspeth Trotter is now married and resident in Australia.

It’s always great to catch up with Aberdeen agris – you can be guaranteed of good fun and plenty of laughter. Ten years on from starting at King Street, and more than six since we finished, perhaps it’s time the graduates of 1993 were considering having a reunion?

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