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Minister for Agriculture reviews West Cork students' calf-rearing project

January 22nd, 2017 11:50 AM

By Southern Star Team

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed (left), who met with St Brogan's College, Bandon, students Mark Shorten and Conor Lehane at the Shorten family farm at Enniskeane to discuss the out-wintering aspect of their project for the Certified Irish Angus schools' calf-rearing comp

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MINISTER for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, visited the Shorten farm near Enniskeane to see how two students from St Brogan’s College in Bandon were getting on with their Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools’ Competition calf-rearing project.

Students from a number of schools countrywide are given Angus calves to rear over an 18-month period in this project run by the Irish Angus Producers Group, along with their processing partners ABP Food Group and Kepak Group. The Bandon students are Mark Shorten and Conor Lehane, working under the guidance of teacher Josephine Kelleher. Recalling how they got involved, Mark told The Southern Star this week that ‘Charles Smith, the general manager of the Irish Angus Producers Group, approached Conor and I at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition 2016 where we had a project. He asked us would we enter this competition.

‘The first step of this competition was to enter a three-minute video on the Irish Angus Producers Group, the Irish Angus breed, ABP Food Group,  Kepak Group and the role of agricultural science in our school,’ said Mark. ‘We were then selected to attend an interview in Mitchelstown. In this interview, we discussed the video we had produced and the interviewing panel got to know us. 

In March, 20 schools were invited to attend an exhibition event in Croke Park where they had to showcase their entries. Five schools were then picked to attend the National Ploughing Championships and St Brogan’s were delighted to be one of these schools who were presented with their five Irish Angus calves. 

‘While rearing these calves, we also have to complete a project,’ said Mark. ‘The theme we were given was “Certified Irish Angus Beef from the Dairy Herd.” We are looking to come up with a system to match Irish Angus bulls to dairy cows. 

‘We also will be comparing wintering techniques of Irish Angus cattle being out-reared and reared indoors. Our third aspect is to look at rearing Irish Angus calves alongside Friesian heifers, he explained.

So far, they feel this competition is very interesting, as both Conor and Mark are very involved in farming and it is also a great challenge for them: ‘As well as learning about farming we also have developed the ability to present information to groups of people, which will benefit us in the future,’ said Mark.

‘The support we have received so far from our school, the town of Bandon and West Cork in general has been incredible. Bandon Co-op have supplied our calves with 16% protein beef cubes and Animal Health Laboratories Ireland have been testing dung samples for our Irish Angus calves, which we weigh every month. 

‘Because of the support we have got, we have decided to donate the slaughter price of one of our Irish Angus calves to a well deserving West Cork charity,’ he added. 

Explaining how the ministerial visit last week came about, Mark said: ‘Back in September when we were making a plan, Conor and I, with the help of our agricultural science teacher, Ms Josephine Kelleher, decided to invite Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed to see our Irish Angus calves and discuss our project with him.’

They were delighted with the visit and Minister Creed showed great interest in their project and complimented the two boys, who are the only farmers’ sons in their class at St Brogan’s, on the work they are doing in rearing the calves. Also present for the Minister’s visit was Finbarr Sheehy of ABP, Bandon.

Looking ahead, Mark Shorten said: ‘We plan to have the calves finished for slaughter in November 2017. Our final judging will take place in January 2018. 

‘The winners of the Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools Competition 2016 will then be announced in March 2018 at an exhibition in Croke Park.’

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