Our Lady’s girls raise five calves to win Irish Angus competition

FOUR students from Our Lady’s School in Terenure defied their city slicker image in a national agricultural contest, by winning the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition.

Sixth year students Eithne Murray, Tara Frehill, Emily Browne, and Shauna Jager, reared five Irish Angus Cross calves on a farm in Blessington, from September 2015, through to their slaughter in November 2016.

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The four students were the only girl group of the five schools who qualified for the final, and defied the odds in spite of being based in an urban setting, with no farming heritage or previous farming experience.

As part of their winning project, they reared their calves on a farm in Manor Kilbride, and also conducted research and increased market awareness of Certified Irish Angus Beef.

Our Lady’s School Principal Pauline Meany praised the girls for the “business-like” manner in which they went about the huge 18-month undertaking, under the guidance of their Agricultural-science teacher Stephanie Flannery.

Ms Meany said: “The girls themselves grew in confidence as the project went along. They entered the competition in Transition Year, did research, a presentation and qualified for the final. Ag-Science is quite popular outside Dublin – these are our first Ag-Science students. They were the only all-girls project, up against four schools from Kilkenny, Longford, Cork and Limerick.”

She continued: “They went to the Ploughing Championships, collected calves, and found a farmer in Blessington. The high point for many was the naming of the calves in the school grounds. Miriam O’Callaghan was present, a parish priest from Blessington blessed the calves. It was great fun. All the kids were fascinated by the calves.”

Exposure to an industry outside their comfort zone was another major learning curve, according to Ms Meany.

“One of the first things the girls did, was go to a meat processing plant. They understood from the start. The calves were brought to mart in January, and after all goods were paid off, the farmer gave them a few bob. Some of them are now thinking about pursuing Ag-science in third level.”

The girls project focused on creating awareness of the brand and social media, which they succeeded in doing, as well as targeting groups at Scifest in Tallaght IT and Bushy Park farmers market.

Charles Smith, General Manager of the Irish Angus Producer Group said: “From the outset the girls from Our Lady’s School demonstrated the ability to take on a challenge and achieve success. The location of their school within such an urban setting brought an added air of excitement and enthusiasm for the project.

“Even though they are the first class in their school to ever study Agricultural Science for Leaving Certificate, the group exhibited a great appreciation for agriculture and an understanding of the benefits of Certified Irish Angus Beef for the consumer.”

The winning school was announced at an awards ceremony in Croke Park which featured prominent Irish agricultural figures, and Our Lady’s girls receiving a cheque of €2,000 for their further education.

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