Dalriada School team though to agricultural challenge finals

Three pupils from Dalriada School in Ballymoney have been awarded a mini-herd of Angus cross calves to rear as part of their involvement in an agri-skills development competition with the meat processor, ABP.

The ABP Angus Youth Challenge aims to bridge the skills gap between school and gaining employment in the agri-food sector.

Lois McCurdy (aged 15), and Victoria Currie and Ivanna Strawbridge, both aged 16, will all now play a part in looking after the calves which will be reared on Victoria’s farm outside Ballymoney.

They are one of four finalist teams who received calves at a presentation ceremony held at Balmoral Park recently. The schools they will now have to compete against as finalists are: Cookstown High School, Friends School Lisburn and St Kevin’s College, Lisnaskea.

Dalriada School pupils Victoria Currie and Lois McCurdy receive their Angus cross calves to rear and are pictured with Martin McKendry, CAFRE College Director, George Mullan, ABP Managing Director, mentor Rachel Megarrell from CAFRE and Charles Smith, NI Angus Producer Group. Missing from the team is Ivanna Strawbridge

Each team was presented with their finalist trophies and calves by Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan and Charles Smith, General Manager of the Northern Irish Angus Producers Group.

Commenting on the occasion, George Mullan said, “Young people have missed out on so much because of the pandemic. ABP is committed to offering opportunities for personal and educational development through the ABP Angus Youth Challenge. We have been delighted by the positive impact the competition is having on their work-life and interpersonal skills.”

Martin McKendry, CAFRE College Director, was a special guest at the presentation ceremony.

He said, “CAFRE is delighted to support the ABP Angus Youth Challenge through the involvement of our local Advisers working collaboratively with the participating schools.

The project provides an excellent platform for young people to get a real insight into the Northern Ireland agri-food supply chain and the potential careers available. It is also extremely pleasing to see many of the recent participants within the project progressing from school onto courses within CAFRE.”

The finalists will now embark on a farm-to-fork skills development programme with ABP.

They will rear their calves through to beef and sell them to ABP, sharing in the net reward after sale. They have also been assigned special projects to work on over the next 18 months.

These will challenge them to explore innovative and forward-thinking ways to support the sustainable development of beef production in Northern Ireland. The team from Dalriada’s project will explore the theme: “Opportunities for farming in the future”.

Speaking about her expectations of the competition and how it will benefit her, team member Victoria Currie, said, “I hope the competition will give me a better understanding of the beef industry in production, processing, marketing and financial viability. We are also an all-female group who hope to promote women in agriculture.”

Mentoring them throughout will be Rachel Megarrell, beef and sheep advisor from the College of Agriculture Food Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).