BY JOHN SEXTON
ON Wednesday of last week, the five Irish Angus cattle that have been reared in a sustainable way on the Condon farm in Farran, Ballinascarthy, were slaughtered at ABP, Bandon.
This was part of a nationwide Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools Competition, sponsored by the ABP and Kepak groups, for which they reared five Angus-cross calves up to the age of 24 months. The calves were delivered to them at five months old by the ABP group after the National Ploughing Championships in September 2014.
The five cattle were out-wintered on kale and ration until the start of the grazing season and gained an average daily weight of 1.1 kg, which was monitored very closely by the four Sacred Heart students, Laura Clancy, Aoife Dullea, Meabhdh Sexton and Clionadh Condon, on whose family-farm the calves were reared. As well as looking after the health and feeding of the calves as they grew into weanlings, the girls had to get them weighed every six weeks and record their growth with the advancing weeks.
They were one of five groups countrwide taking part in the competition, under the supervision of their business teacher, Ms Brid Hennessy. When we asked the girls why they entered the competition, their answer was: ‘Coming from a farming background, we wish to further develop our agriculture experience in order to gain insight into what a career in agri and farming might require.’
They regarded it as a great learning experience, which will provide lifelong knowledge gained through the competition, with discipline and responsibility learned from looking after the calves. With the important role that agriculture is playing in developing the economy, secondary schools who participate in this type of competition are to be commended. Charles Smith, director and general manager of the Irish Angus Producer Group, which has organised the competition, said that: ‘Rearing cattle from a calf through to slaughter is the best way for students to learn the care and consideration that goes into producing meat of the highest quality.’ In early December, a written project of the girls’ learning experience is due to be submitted and, in January, the girls will give a presentation to a panel of five judges. The overall winners will be announced next March and the winning group will receive a prize fund of up to €12,000. Both Ms Ann Marie Brosnan (principal) and Mr Brendan Walsh (deputy principal) of Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty, were highly impressed by the initiative and enterprise of these young girls.