Pupils from Cookstown High School and Newtownhamilton High School have been named joint winners of the 2022 ABP Angus Youth Challenge in Northern Ireland.

The ABP Angus Youth Challenge finale took place on 28 October, with a restructuring of the competition leading to eight schools participating in the finale? and joint winners. Over 83 teenagers travelled from across Northern Ireland to represent their school in the final stage of the competition. This programme teaches the next generation about Ireland’s food production, submerging students into an immersive “farm-to-fork” learning experience. Students compete via video submissions and exhibitions for a place on a finalist programme, where finalists win a small herd of calves to rear through to beef.

Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan said, “The ABP Angus Youth Challenge gives a voice to young people who are interested in and want to make a difference to Northern Ireland’s agrifood sector. They are the future of our industry. We want to engage with them on their ideas. This exhibition offers them a showcase for their ideas and an opportunity to share their views with many of the leading organisations within our sector.”

The competition was first launched in 2017, offering an inspiring opportunity for teams to gain experience and learn about employment opportunities. In 2021 a new condensed format was launched fitting into year 11 GCSE curriculum. By 2021, 30% of all finalists were actively attending an agriculture- related course.

Project details

The Cookstown High School team impressed the judges with their passion for agriculture. During the challenge, John-Mark McCrea, William Hamilton and Ben Smyton, who are in Year 12 [Transition Year], focused on ‘Sustainable Agriculture Delivering for the Community.’ All three boys are passionate about agriculture. They wanted to bridge the knowledge gap between farmers who rear high-quality, grass-fed cattle and the consumer’s understanding of sustainable beef production. During their project they were able to demonstrate a near zero waste system where all of the fertilizer requirements on their host farm was met by cattle and pig slurry produced on the farm and any waste/leftover silage was sold to an anaerobic digestion unit to be turned into bio-methane.

Meanwhile Aimee McCombe, Ellen Bailie and Sophie McKnight from Newtownhamilton High School explored ‘Sustainable Beef Consumption and the Young Consumer.’ With the support of their Home Economics teacher, the Year 11 [Junior Cycle –Third Year] trio looked at the nutritional value of beef, in particular its vitamin content. They explored young people’s understanding of the vitamins and they discovered that the majority of people don’t know the value of vitamin B12 in red meat. The team went on to educate and inform their school and community through a wide range of events.

Education is key

The ABP Angus Youth Challenge is delivered by ABP in partnership with the Certified Irish Angus Producer Group. General Manager Charles Smith tells Irish Country Living about the importance of this competition among the students.

“Young people bring an energy and an enthusiasm to everything they do. It is hugely beneficial to have students with an interest in food and a passion for farming involved in certified Irish Angus beef production. Where the backgrounds and interests of the students vary, the experience of bringing Angus calves all the way through the production process, from farm to processing, results in the students obtaining an in depth understanding of all aspects of quality beef production and its nutritional value.”

Students from non-farming backgrounds get the opportunity to experience all elements of beef production, which gives a valuable understanding of the care and attention that goes into producing this special product. Charles explains, “In a time of social media influence, the opportunity of rearing calves allows the students to be informed on facts such as animal welfare and sustainability of production, in turn giving a greater understanding of the challenges facing farmers in the future and also allowing non-farming students the opportunity to work with their new found farming friends to address the needs and concerns of the consumer of the future”. Likewise, the students from farming backgrounds get a unique insight into the needs of the consumer. Through participating in the school project, students collaborate and learn about Ireland’s agri- food industry by “working, discussing and debating these issues together to create a positive pathway for future beef production to deliver quality nutritious beef in a manner that benefits all of society”.

Applications open

The Certified Irish Angus sister competition in the Republic of Ireland is open for entries and the closing date for submissions is 18 November. If you wish to apply or want more information, visit https://www.certifiedirishangus.ie/schools/

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