Agriculture is increasingly being seen as a viable career path, but enhancing your professional advancement can be particularly challenging in such a volatile, changing industry, and when so many routes can be taken.

It is essential that tools are in place to educate the next generation on what other inspiring and innovative job opportunities there are on offer within the sector. There are many youngsters coming through the industry and taking on different roles.

Getting involved and finding out about the variety of jobs available in agriculture can be challenging, but The Scottish Farmer spoke to Young Farmers’ members from across the country to see what inspired them to chose their current career paths and to showcase what is out there for everyone to achieve.

Being a veterinary surgeon can be a very difficult career to pursue both academically and physically, but it is one that John Hamilton, Darvel, Ayrshire, has achieved after studying at Glasgow University for five years.

“Veterinary medicine offers a fantastic opportunity to get involved in farming, whether coming from an agricultural background or not. I was lucky enough to enjoy growing up on a beef and sheep farm in Ayrshire, however I chose to pursue a career in veterinary medicine as I was attracted to the variety and challenges that the job promised,” said John, who now works at Ark Vet Centre, based in Lockerbie.

“This has also allowed me to work with different agricultural set-ups and enterprises, seeing a side of agriculture away from the family farm.

“There is a good mix of both dairy, beef and sheep work along with the occasional equine and small animal calls.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year in practice, every day has been different, and each call presents its own unique problems to solve.

“An attractive aspect of taking a job with Ark was the experience of the senior vets and I have found discussing cases with colleagues important in my own development.

“In terms of ongoing training, we are expected to complete ‘Continued Practical Development’ each year to ensure we are equipped with a good depth of knowledge and are up to date on emerging treatment options.

“This is combined with a support system run by the RCVS, the governing body of the veterinary industry, designed to ensure new graduates become well-rounded practitioners,” added John.

Sales nutritionist, Lorna Shaw, Lochgelly, Fife, also encouraged anyone to get involved in the ‘rewarding’ agriculture industry if they can, with nutrition always being the route Lorna wanted to pursue.

“Growing up on the family farm and being around livestock, I had always been fascinated in what was going into the feed to achieve different results – so it was the logical career path for me,” said Lorna, who has now been working for Davidsons Animal Feeds for one year, after spending two years with Trouw Nutrition down south and gaining an honours degree in agriculture at SRUC, in Edinburgh.

“As a nutritionist we get to produce our own rations for customers and are given the opportunity to make bespoke meals or blends for different farmers to complement their silage.

“Acquiring the opportunities to change diets can be rewarding and witnessing the results when people produce the best in the show and sale rings are when it pays off,” she said.

“The vital thing to remember is one feed doesn’t fit all, it has to suit the farmer’s system. To be in agriculture you need to be keen and show that you are interested, don’t let anything hold you back.

“If you do get a knock back, don’t take it to heart, it happens to everyone, you just need to take the criticism on board and come back stronger.

“It can be a tough industry at times, but it is a rewarding one,” concluded Lorna.

Evaluating livestock for commercial and pedigree purposes as well as going on to sell them is the career path of auctioneer, Andrew Weir, Stirling.

“I have always had an interest in livestock, starting with Young Farmers’ Calf Rally competitions that gave me the showing bug, which then grew into summer and fat stock shows. This led me to my own small pedigree Limousin herd, whilst becoming an auctioneer,” said Andrew.

“When I was younger, I would take the cattle to the market and from there I was fascinated at evaluating each beast,” added Andrew, who has worked with United Auctions, Stirling for four years, whilst studying ‘Livestock Market Operations and Management’ through Harper Adams University on block release.

The course consisted of four years, with just two weeks in class with six assignments to do throughout the year before exams in July. The course also provided a route to membership of Livestock Auctioneers Association (LAA) and the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraiser (IASS) .

“UA’s have been very supportive – someone will always give a second opinion. They have also given me opportunities and new challenges and help purse my career further.

“My job has built my confidence in gradually selling livestock, starting on-farm before moving to sheep on a weekly basis. I have now chosen to go down the route of both cattle and sheep to further develop my skills.

“‘I would recommend the job to anyone. Hours are challenging but at the end of the day, it’s a way of life, not just a job!’” concluded Andrew.

Becoming self-employed can be a big challenge for some and can result in a variety of work in agriculture, but someone that is settling in well is Christina MacDonald, Newhouse, North Lanarkshire, who works with AB Europe during breeding seasons.

“When I became self-employed, I was up for a new challenge in the industry. An opportunity arose at AB Europe for an AI technician, so I jumped at the chance and applied. I am now entering into my fourth season with the company and looking forward to being back on the road with the teams travelling the length and breadth of the country for the breeding season,” said Christina.

“Along the way, I have met so many inspiring farmers and also got to work with some of the country’s top bloodlines in the sheep industry. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to work overseas in foreign countries to widen my skill set. AB Europe has provided me with any training I have required, and I am very grateful for everything I have learnt so far.

“For anyone thinking about joining the industry it is not for the faint hearted and you must be willing to do long hours as the job is seasonal.

“However, the job is very rewarding, travelling around meeting farmers and their families and it can be very satisfying to see the offspring I help to produce doing well at shows and sales in years to come,” added Christina.

Looking for something a little different, unique and creative is part of being behind the camera for livestock photographer, Louise Mcarthur, Stirling.

“I had graduated with a degree in Art and Design and Catherine MacGregor was looking for someone with a creative mind and a good eye for stock, rather than technically good with a camera. She believes you can’t teach that, but you can easily learn how to work a camera,” explained Louise, who now has now been working with Catherine for almost three years.

“My Dad and Catherine’s Dad had both been past competitors and trainers for Young Farmers’ stock judging, with my Dad training Catherine when she was competing for the Stockman of the Year competition at the Royal Highland Show.

“I am also a keen stock judger and I think that this has given me the extra knowledge of so many beef and sheep breeds, as they look for different traits in all breeds and fashions often change,” added Louise, who said that photographing a range of breeds had inspired her to purchase her own stock, including Bluefaced Leicesters and more recently her first pedigree Charolais heifer.

“For the first year or two, I was mainly helping at events such as the Stirling Bull Sales, working alongside Catherine and Catherine Laurenson, which allowed me time to practice and get helpful advice and tips from them. After two years of training, I was let loose to become one of the three photographers at MacGregor Photography.

“I really enjoy working for MacGregor Photography, attending a variety of events throughout the country and meeting lots of new people,” said Louise.

The ongoing urge to work in an industry with the environment, was the career path that Jillian Kennedy, Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross, pursued in recent years.

“Being brought up on the family farm, I had always wanted to engage in a career that was still rurally involved but I never knew exactly what it was I wanted to do.

“But, I have found the perfect job for me in forestry, being able to see different landscapes that you would never normally, as well as taking responsibilities and meeting different people from clients to contractors.

“It has been a real adventure and being able to work outside rather than being stuck indoors has suited me perfectly,” said Jillian, who studied Environment Geography, at Stirling University, before starting on a two-year graduate programme with Scottish Woodlands.

“One of my friends got me involved and I have never looked back. Despite not having a degree in forestry, I had the agricultural background and interests, while my environmental interest provided a level of knowledge that I could work on moving into forestry.

“Their training programme has been inspiring and has allowed me to complete a variety of internal and external courses as well as working with my line manager who has a great deal of experience, which in turn has allowed me to learn on the job and develop my skills.”

Jillian is involved in a variety of tasks and no daily routine is the same. From ordering trees and checking on planting, fencing and ground works, to mapping work, contracts and risk assessments, there really isn’t anything she doesn’t get involved with.

“I enjoy working on the large estates as you get to see the bigger picture. There is so much potential for the forestry industry, with government climate change targets playing a massive role in the industry.

“Forestry is seen as a good investment and with carbon credits coming in, it really could boost in the foreseeable future. I am still passionate about agriculture, so I like to see the two working hand in hand.

“My advice to anyone coming into this industry is not to stress if you don’t have a forestry degree, as long as you are willing to learn on the job and take in the information your employers are giving you. If you have an interest just go for it,” said Jillian.