At an awards ceremony in Croke Park today, Mark Shorten and Conor Lehane from St. Brogan’s College, Bandon, Co. Cork were announced as the overall winners of the 2018 Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools Competition. Organised by Irish Angus Producer Group, and ABP, the initiative challenges students to rear five Irish Angus Cross calves for 18 months until their slaughter as part of their Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science project.
The competition aims to encourage second level students to gain an understanding about the care and attention that is required to produce and market the highest quality beef for consumers.
Mark and Conor hail from the heart of dairy and beef farming in Bandon and both of their families have strong roots in the local community. The pair investigated the benefits of Irish Angus cross Friesian calves for a mixed dairy and beef farm and presented their findings at every opportunity at local co-ops, marts and events. They used their involvement in the campaign to give back to their community by hosting an event to raise funds for local charity, Cancer Connect, and donating a significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of their calves to the West Cork Rapid Response Unit and to their school for use in supporting students with mental health issues.
Charles Smith, General Manager, Irish Angus Producer Group said, “From the outset, it was clear that Mark and Conor were two robust young farmers with a keen interest in dairy and beef farming. What became apparent over the course of the competition however was that they were also two exceptional students and mature young men who are outstanding ambassadors for themselves, their farms and their schools. They demonstrated a passion and enthusiasm for the project but also exhibited a generosity of spirit through their charitable work and willingness to help other competitors throughout the process.”
The runners up in the competition were a group from Athlone Community College, who explored how farm standards, including health and safety and farm organisation, influence the performance of the animals on the farm. Other finalists included CBS, The Green, Tralee, Kerry, Rice College, Wesport, Co. Mayo and Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co. Cork.
Outstanding Individual Award
Ciaran Calvey from Rice College, Westport was presented with an ‘Outstanding Individual’ award for demonstrating a passion for farming and an outstanding personal commitment to the project and the rearing of the animals.
The Certified Irish Angus Beef Schools Competition aims to allow students to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to a real life setting. Each of the finalists receives the financial benefit involved in the selling of the animals to the processors on completion of the project which amounted to an average €6,550. The winning students also receive an additional grant of €2,000 for their further education.
The organisers are currently in the process of selecting five new schools from a shortlist of 28, who presented their project ideas at the Croke Park event today. The judges included representatives from Bord Bia, The Irish Farmers Journal, ABP, Kepak, National Ploughing Association, Tesco Ireland and a number of full-time farmers.
The five schools who have demonstrated the best understanding of the project will be announced in April and will be presented with their calves at the National Ploughing Championships in September 2018.