Asda is bidding to attract a new generation of farmers to beef and lamb production by sponsoring a series of academies through leading farming colleges.

The retailer is also encouraging beef farmers to remain part of the supply chain by offering free bull ­semen to younger farmers.

Both initiatives are the result of ideas generated at Asda's BeefLink and LambLink supplier meetings following concerns from farmers regarding the lack of young people coming into the industry.

Asda is now calling for farmers to open their gates to agriculture students.

The first farm academy placements announced this week at the Great Yorkshire Show will go to six students at Askham Bryan in Yorkshire this summer, and participating BeefLink and LambLink farmers will receive a grant from Asda for the training costs. Farms are also being sought to provide placements via Walford College in Shrewsbury and Barony College in Dumfries.

"The academy is aimed at giving 16 to 24-year-olds an opportunity to work with quality producers," said Jim Viggars, Asda senior meat buying manager.

BeefLink farmers aged under 35 can now apply for free semen from premium Japanese wagyu beef cattle.

Wagyu semen used on crossbred heifers had ­already produced great ­results for one BeefLink member, said Viggars, and Asda had promised to purchase the resulting calves.