Proud to be (Easter) show offs

Public schools from across the State are competing at the 2023 Royal Easter Show which opens tomorrow.

Image: Mucking in: The Maclean High School team

Rising at 4.30am to muck out cattle stalls may not appeal to most, but for 19 students from Maclean High School there is nowhere else they would rather be.

The school on the NSW North Coast is competing at its first ever Royal Easter Show, with entries in both the Beef Cattle Schools Paraders Competition and the School Steer and Carcase Championship.

“We’re thrilled to be involved with the Royal Easter Show. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work to get here,” teacher Christopher Kirkland said.

“We’ve got a core group of 10 students from Year 11 and there’s another nine students from years 9 and 10 that will be exhibiting cattle for other studs.”

Before the show, the team fundraised more than $20,000 to cover the cost of travel, cattle transport accommodation, food and the $3000 entry fee.

“Being here is mostly about the experience,” Mr Kirkland said.

“The cattle program at our school is all about establishing good life values in our students. Things like hard work, getting up early in the morning, being courteous and polite to others and generally being good people.

“The support from our parent base and also businesses, organisations and clubs around Maclean has been phenomenal.”

Jan Young, Head Teacher, Science, Mathematics and Agriculture at Murrumburrah High School, has been taking school students to compete at the Royal Easter Show for 22 years.

This year Ms Young is joined by Year 12 students Ellie Ward and April Drew and Year 11 student Bonnie Abnett, with the team sleeping in swags above the stables housing the five head of cattle they are caring for and parading.

Their charges – four Galloway steers and one Fleckvieh steer – will be judged in the middleweight category for cattle up to 500 kilograms. Judges will note characteristics such as meat yield, eye muscle, fat content and weight for age.

Ms Young said the students, who arrived in Sydney with the cattle on Monday, found the show atmosphere “quite eye-opening”.

“They are meeting lots of industry professionals, lots of other schools competing, and realising just how good they are,” she said.

Murrumburrah High School has a Farm Club where students from Year 7 to 12 learn about and work with cattle, sheep and poultry.

“We always see the students growing in confidence through the show and so many go on to agricultural professions.”

Image: Going one better: Yanco Agricultural High School hopes to win with its exhibit this year.

‘Culmination of a busy year’

Narooma High School on the state’s Far South Coast has brought a dozen cattle from its Limousin stud to Sydney.

Executive Principal Fiona Jackson said 11 students were attending the Royal Easter Show, which was the culmination of a busy year for the school.

“Our students and cattle have attended agricultural shows around the district, including Cobargo, Nimmitabel, Cooma and the Royal Canberra Show,” she said.

“A third of the students at our school study agriculture. This year we’ve brought 12 of our cattle to Sydney, including two steers that were bred through our stud.

“We have 10 students involved in parading cattle and one who has qualified for the cattle judging competition.”

Yanco Agricultural High School near Leeton has 27 students attending, along with 16 head of cattle and 18 chickens.

“We have entries in the pure-bred cattle stud division, the beef carcase competition, the schools layer chicken competition, the school broiler competition and we are also entered in the school display,” Principal Marni Milne said.

“Last year we were fortunate to be awarded second place overall in the school display section. We’re hoping to go one better this year.”

All 120 Year 7 students at Sydney’s James Ruse Agricultural High School will attend the show’s opening day on April 6 to cheer along the school’s poultry competition entrants and two state judging finalists.

“We have two students in the Young Judges Competition. Echo Xu in the Angora Goat section and Jiahn Lee in the Grains section,” Relieving Principal Carina Dennis said.

Image: Fowl play: Adam Jordan with one of his show entries

Student driven

Tarrawanna Public School in Wollongong is packing fresh produce from the school garden – bananas, lemons, limes, tomatoes and lemon myrtle – for its entry on Thursday in the school garden competition.

Sarah Martin, Assistant Principal, Curriculum and Instruction, said it was the first year the school had entered a competition at the Royal Easter Show after establishing a garden four years ago.

“We have also entered our tomato relish, which has been made by the students using all of our tomatoes and herbs,” she said.

“Our students work very hard to maintain our garden as it is student-driven. The three students going to the Easter show are excited to explore the agriculture display and learn more about fresh produce.”

Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education – Richmond Agricultural College Principal, Kris Beazley, said students would be entering the schools’ poultry competition at the show.

Year 9 student Adam Jordan has been helping prepare the centre’s chickens for exhibition.

“Once a week we handle the birds. You want to get them used to being handled so they’re calm for the judges,” he said. “Pen training is also very important.”

Adam breeds chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys and will also exhibit independently at the show.

He said poultry judges would be looking for certain characteristics among the exhibited birds.

“The key things are muscle tone, weight and the look of the bird,” Adam said.

Plumpton High School, in Sydney’s west, will be competing in the meat bird categories with chickens raised at school by the Year 9/10 agriculture students.

Agriculture teacher Hayden Gerrie said the birds were raised in a brooder compartment for three weeks and then transferred to an indoor coop with an outdoors run.

“These birds were handled delicately by these students and were constantly checked for growth factors including muscle sizing, feathers, and leg sizing,” he said.

The students also trialled a new feeding system and collected and recorded data to present at the Royal Easter Show.

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