“Over 50 percent of the apprentices for livestock farming in Germany are women!”

Ines Rathke, Project Manager, EuroTier

She joined the DLG – the German Agricultural Society – just last year, but she can look back on a lifetime of experience in the agricultural sector. Women in Ag had a talk with Ines Rathke, Division Manager Animal Husbandry, Farm & Energy at DLG and Project Manager for  of Euro-Tier, a leading international trade fair for animal production.

Ines, tell us about yourself!

My name is Ines Rathke,  I am in my mid-thirties and  from the Berlin area in Germany. I grew up  in a livestock environment in the countryside, wheremy family breeds horses in Brandenburg, just outside of Berlin.  I was involved very early on and bred my first pony when I was 8 years old. Today, I work as Division Manager Animal Husbandry, Farm & Energy at the German Agricultural Society DLG as well as Project Manager for EuroTier, a world-leading trade fair for animal production technologies and for EnergyDecentral, a leading trade fair for renewable energy. Both trade fairs are held together in Hanover, Germany, every two years.

How about your studies?           

Since I grew up in the environment, it was only natural for me to go on to study agriculture as this is a profession where I am at home and which I love. I moved to Berlin for my Bachelor degree but then picked Göttingen University for my Master’s as it offers great teaching in livestockand I wanted to major in animal sciences.

How did you come to join the DLG?

I joined the DLG, which is short for the German Agricultural Society, last year to take on the responsibility for  the EuroTier trade fairas well as their international satellites exhibitions in China and the Middle East. When this opportunity came, I knew that I really wanted to do it because it would mean I would be able to combine my passion and my profession.

Before that I organized “spoga horse”, the leading trade fair for equestrian sports which is held in Cologne, +  and had been working both in Hong Kong and in the UK as Operations Manager for the retraining and rehoming of retired racehorses. I always kept close to the farming and crop-production industry and felt my experience could come to good use in the DLG.

I liked the fact that the DLG is a farming organisation with 30,000 members, most of whom are practical farmers. The aim of the organisation is to advance knowledge among farmers, for example by offering exhibitions and events but also through practical and professional working groups. There is still lots to learn within the livestock sector as it is continuously evolving and there are a stream of new solutions developed all the time. I get to see all that first hand as a Project Manager of EuroTier, which is a major plus for me.

The best thing about my job is the close relationship with both the farmers, who are the visitors, and the companies offering products and solutions. It feels a bit like being a matchmaker for lots of people, getting them to talk and nurturing long-lasting relationships that are both successful and beneficial. We are essentially bringing people together. This enables us as organisers to produce an offering that really adds value to their farming business.

Tell us more about EuroTier!

EuroTier is the name of the exhibition and literally means “Euro livestock”. This of course refers to the topic of the exhibition which is international livestock. The trade fair, which takes place in Hanover, Germany every two years, focuses on providing some 160,000 international livestock farmers and experts with information on the latest technology, equipment and solutions for their farm. The products and services are presented by over 2,600 international companies across all livestock sectors – pig, poultry, cattle and dairy including feed but also renewable energy products for farmers like biogas plants and other energy sources like wood and solar relevant to the farm.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, most exhibitions were cancelled. EuroTier decided to go digital. How did that go?

Farmers need information and inspiration, especially during this pandemic. This is also the remit of the DLG which is basically to offer farmers knowledge, advice and support . We already had all the tools since we had organised many online events already. Our club “the Young DLG” were already offering online webinars to young student- and farmer members.

However, bringing a large exhibition, like EuroTier, online had never been done before on that scale. Over 1,200 companies signed up to exhibit online over the four-day event, which took place in February 2021. We used our role in the agricultural sector as a network-driven non-profit organisation with in-house agricultural professionals to put an international technical program together. Our aim was to offer that for which the DLG is famous: Knowledge!

Our technical program comprised over 300 live events that focused on highly specialist topics like investigating animal health in detail as well as specific topics of each species. We also set up a professional TV studio at the DLG Headquarters in Frankfurt to host live-streamed events that included Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture, among many others. Over 41,000 farmers and farming experts attended the online event and the feedback was phenomenal. We definitely learnt a lot from the digital platform, notably that we can reach people across the globe, who would not normally travel to see the exhibition.

But let us be clear: you cannot replicate the personal experience an exhibition gives you. We were not trying to copy an exhibition but our aim was to offer an additional channel for information. We do plan to continue to offer digital events that will serve as complements to our exhibitions. Everything is set up for it – our platform is there, our studio continues to exist, and above all: our partners within the industry support our initiative.

How many visitors of EuroTier are usually women? Did the fact that this year’s edition was digital affect that number?

The livestock sector in Germany has a high proportion of women, especially as livestock farmers. It is interesting to note that recent figures show that over 50 percent of the apprentices for livestock farming in Germany are women. That is very high and is a good indication for the future since these are young people.

We do not count the exact number of women visiting EuroTier but from the feedback we get, I would say that around 20-30 percent of the visitors are female. Incidentally, the average age of the EuroTier visitor is 37 years young! This young age profile shows that farming will continue to be an important profession of the future.

Do you notice differences in perception between men and women in agriculture and at the fair?

I do notice an overall difference when I compare visitors at livestock shows with arable shows. People working with animals are often more tuned into needs that require soft skills to calm down an animal or herd, detect disease but also understand how to maintain a “happy herd”. Like humans, each animal is different with its own personality. Observation and experience are necessary, but also flexibility since often each problem is not exactly the same. So to conclude: people who choose to become livestock farmers are people with a range of soft skills and a high emotional IQ. Like other industries, women are highly involved in “caring” jobs, with many parallels to the healthcare and educational sectors.

Are women really “softer”?

I would say, women with their maternal instincts, have a strong desire to look after and raise living beings in general. They are the “looking after and bringing up” types where in classic role models men are “providers” and these days perhaps more technically oriented.

Does EuroTier do something special for women in agriculture?

We did special sessions in our technical programme at “EuroTier digital”, our online event, focusing on women’s contributions in the industry. Family is often a reason for women to pause or stop their own development, but with women working in agriculture we don’t see that trend as highly indicated as in many other industries. I look forward to show-casing more success-stories in the future of EuroTier as I strongly believe that there is still much more potential in keeping women on their career-paths, especially in the farming industry.

What can we expect for the next fair?

We’ll be back to Hanover fair grounds in Germany  from 15-18 November 2022 and look forward to show solutions towards more animal and environmental-friendly farming whilst being able to run profitable businesses. A big focus point will be innovations, new and young business as well as niche productions focussing on smaller markets and often with an emotional approach i.e. game, beekeeping of horse stabling.

 


 

Ines Rathke joined the DLG in 2020 and is the Project Manager for the EuroTier exhibitionBefore focusing on agriculture with the DLG, she was the director of the renown international trade fair for equestrian sports “spoga horse”. Prior to that, Ines worked as Head of Retraining at the British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre, a charity for retraining and rehoming ex-racehorses in the UK. She moved to the UK from Hong Kong, where she had been leading the operational stable management for the Hong Kong Jockey Club for three years before that. Ines has a Master of Science (M.Sc) in agriculture, majoring in animal science at the University of Göttingen and worked as a consultant for various livestock feed companies in Germany.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article appeared in Women in Ag Magazine 2021-02. Click here to read the magazine

Pictures: EuroTier/DLG

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