WE opted to enter the
ABP Angus Youth Challenge in Novem-ber 2018 with a short video on agriculture, a decision that opened the door to a once in a lifetime opportunity.
In total there were four stages to the challenge taking place over the course of two years. The final, consisting of rearing and managing five of our very own Aberdeen Angus calves while promoting our chosen theme, Women in Agriculture.
Initially over 60 schools entered the competition with teams of between two and five pupils from the age of 14 to 16. Entry is by producing a video demonstrating an understanding of the ABP Food Group, plans for the promotion of ABP, knowledge of the Aberdeen Angus breed and aspects of rural and farming life.
The second stage featured the top 16 teams travelling to Loughry College, Cookstown, for a short-listing interview. This entailed being questioned regarding the ideas presented in our video by a panel of five well-respected figures from the agricultural sector, who also enjoyed meeting us in person.
From this interview 13 schools made it through to the semi finals, again held at Loughry College. This time it involved creating a stand outlining our ideas and plans.
On the 3rd April last year came the exciting news that we had got through to the final stage and were to be presented with our calves by Paul Clark of UTV at the 2019 Balmoral Show.
Over the next 18 months we were to rear these calves alongside researching Women in Agriculture, our chosen and very topical theme. During the following months came many new experiences, including a study tour to Birmingham with ABP taking in visits to a processing plant, beef unit and retail outlet. Above all, those taking part were able to meet and chat with well respected figures along the farm to fork journey.
Each team has to come up with an idea for a theme to research throughout the competition, alongside rearing their calves.
With us both being girls we decided to choose Women in Agriculture, which involved re-
searching how maternal ability improves animal welfare, pro-moting opportunities for women in agriculture and agribusiness, removing discrimination against female farmers and showcasing women’s involvement in the farm to fork journey.
Taking part enthusiastically in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge competition has provided us with amazing opportunities to interview various well known figures in the agricultural sector, such as Anna Truesdale, Zita McNaugher, Eimear McGovern and Rory Best, to name only a few.
In November 2019 came the opportunity to attend the NFU
Women in Agriculture Confer-ence at the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena, a much enjoyed opportunity to talk to, as well as listen to, many inspiring women in agriculture.
Since the calves arrived on the farm at five months old in May 2019 we closely monitored their daily liveweight gain and feed conversions as well as following the Blade farming health plan laid out by ABP.
Our school, The Wallace High School in Lisburn, was fully behind us from the start even though they were initially surprised that two girls were taking part in what may seem, at first glance, to be a male dominated competition.
To get the whole school involved, explain our theme and promote the ABP Angus producer group, we ran a naming competition for the calves to raise money for the charity Fields of Life. This successfully raised over £200.
At the same time we assigned a calf to each house in the Grammar School as well as the Preparatory Department, to create a unique way of gaining house points. This involved placing the calves first, second and third based on the weight they each gained over a period of time.
In June last year the calves visited Sports Day, thus allowing the whole school to see them and enabled us to promote our theme along with answering questions from fellow pupils, parents and teachers.
Through rearing the calves we have broadened our knowledge and learnt new skills as well as gaining experience, which will all pay dividends as both of us plan to pursue careers in the agricultural industry.
Taking part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge competition has tied in with our academic studies. For example we pre-pared a cash flow forecast for this calf enterprise using what we had learned in GCSE Business Studies.
We also created an Instagram account to let our school community and the general public see updates on the calves progress along with updates on the ‘Women in Agriculture’ theme and events attended throughout the competition. (@whsangusyc)
The competition has given us many skills, which we can take forward to our next level of education. Both of us aim to pursue careers in the agricultural sector with Emma wanting to study Agricultural Technology at Queen’s University Belfast and Samantha looking to go down the veterinary route.
Through working with the Angus calves over the past year we have discovered they are a quiet and easy to handle breed. Above all we have enjoyed the different challenges faced both on and off the farm.
Taking that ABP Angus Youth Challenge farm to fork route over almost two years, win or loose, is a competition where taking part makes us all winners.