Whitsome student winner of first Nick Bird Award

Douglas Fleming receives The Nick Bird Award, an engraved perpetual trophy and a cheque for �500, from Mrs Katie Bird on graduating from Harper Adams University.
Douglas Fleming receives The Nick Bird Award, an engraved perpetual trophy and a cheque for �500, from Mrs Katie Bird on graduating from Harper Adams University.

Whitsome agricultural engineering student Doug Fleming is the first winner of The Nick Bird Award at Harper Adams University.

Doug gained the award by coming up with a simple, commercially-viable solution to the problem of bovine respiratory disease (BRD) in cattle.

The Nick Bird Award was set up by Reading-based Farmex in recognition of the work carried out by Nick Bird, a director of the company who died earlier this year. His 17 years working in the field of real-time monitoring of pig production systems had a significant impact on the industry.

The award is for an outstanding piece of written work that involves recorded observations of an agricultural process, data analysis and interpretation with demonstrable added value for farmers and it is open to final year students at HAU.

BRD, a multifactorial disease that attacks the lungs of young calves, is estimated to cost the British dairy industry £60 million every year. Doug, a BSc student, took an engineering approach to this problem and set about designing a prototype sensing system that could alert farmers to a potential outbreak. The system was integrated into automatic milk feeders and the final design was successfully validated on a commercial farm.

The award, an engraved perpetual trophy and a cheque for £500, was presented to Doug by Mrs Katie Bird, at the HAU graduation ceremony.

Award winner Doug lives on the 850-acre mixed arable and beef family farm in Whitsome and says he will be putting the money towards a trip to New Zealand before taking up a graduate position with Claas UK.

He added: “Receiving the award was a great honour and surprise and it’s great to have recognition for all my hard work on the project.”