Schools comp winners: Irish Angus is ‘the all-rounder’

A lot more goes into producing premium Irish Angus beef than first meets the eye – this was one of the key findings of the winners of the 2020 Certified Irish Angus School’s Competition – Royal School Cavan.

The winning team – comprising Rachel Alexander, Barry Stratford, Sophie Reilly, Lloyd Hastings and Kelvin McNally – highlighted the key points they learned from their experience at the award ceremony in Croke Park earlier today, Wednesday, March 4.

“We looked into the benefits of the Irish Angus breed to the part-time farmer and to the dairy farmer,” Sophie explained.

We really investigated how the Irish Angus breed was an all-round breed, particularly for the part-time farmer, with them being easy-calving and polled – it reduces maintenance on the farms.

Kelvin added: “We learned a lot about the industry as well, from farm right through to fork. We didn’t know how many jobs there were or how many people were involved in the process of taking them to the consumer.”

Turning to another point, Rachel said: “Mental health and wellness among farmers is a big issue – it’s a big deal, because a farm can be a very isolated [place] and you mightn’t get out, and if you have a cow calving at the weekend, at night time, you’re not going to be out socialising or anything.

We did a ‘Walk in my Wellies’ campaign where we raised money for Pieta House.

Sophie also commented on the personal skills the students honed during their project: “Our confidence – the big thing in the competition is our confidence and our ability to speak to people; our communication skills have come on tremendously since we stood here two years ago.”

L-R: Certified Irish Angus Producers Group chairman Tim Dunne; Kelvin McNally; Sophie Reilly; Rachel Alexander; Ireland Womens Hockey Team captain Katie Mullan; Lloyd Hastings; and Barry Stratford

Barry pointed to “the importance of the Angus breed in bringing good-quality meat to the market”, given the expansion of the dairy herd.

Finally, Lloyd said the breed is “the most sustainable way to go, because they are a low-input, high-output kind of an animal”.

This, the students added, was proven in the fact that they were able to outwinter their calves “even on marginal land”.

“They are a lighter animal than the continentals would be – they didn’t poach the ground as much – and that meant that we were able to leave them out for the winter,” Rachel concluded.