A RECORD number of entries in this year's Norman Lethbridge Award resulted in two equal winners of the prestigious Angus award being presented before the commencement of the Angus Feature Show bull judging today.
Shante Palmer from Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College, Berkley Vale, and Darcy Howard of Chevalier College, Bowral, made their way to the top of the quality entries that were assessed by a subcommittee comprised of Christine Erby, Mark Lucas, Simon Hennings and Richard Buck.
Established in 2002, the Norman Lethbridge Award was named by the NSW Angus State Committee in honour of its past secretary from 1983 to 1994, and well-known stock and station agent the late Norman Lethbridge.
Sponsored by Booroomooka Angus, Bingara, and Forres Angus, Dungog, the annual award is open to students or cadets aged 16 to 25 years studying agriculture, livestock auctioneering or stock and station agency within 200 kilometres of Sydney.
Eighteen-year-old Shante Palmer was nominated by her agriculture teacher, Simone Neville, who recognised Ms Palmer's passion for animals right from the get-go.
"I was introduced to agriculture in year 9, when we were able to select it as a subject, and feel in love with it instantly. Since it has been a big passion of mine, especially since I have always been an animal lover," Ms Palmer said.
She said the best part of school would have been the Tuggerah Lakes Secondary College (TLSC) show team, a group Ms Palmer had been involved in since 2015 when she was in year 9.
"From working with animals and being part of the school's show team, it introduced me to a whole new society of people that shared the same interests as me - it is a lot about the people you meet and network with along the way," she said.
Her success with showing and judging livestock, in particular in meat judging, was evident when she was named the equal winner of the individual beef judging and a member of the runner-ups beef judging team competition at the 2018 Upper Hunter Beef Bonanza (UHBB) at Scone.
"I had good years in 2016 and 2018 with Australian ICMJ (Intercollegiate Meat Judging) beef judging award age champion and champion individual at Wingham Beef Bonanza and UHBB," she said.
Since finishing school last year, Ms Palmer has been spending some time at the school helping with the show team before she plans to head up to the Northern Territory to work on a station to get more experience and make more connections within the industry.
"Following that I would like to go to university and studying either agricultural science or microbiology to either work in the ag industry or genetics side of things," she said.
"From there I hope to be involved in the meat industry to work towards producing the best meat, considering genetics, or on-farm to breed and produce cattle.
"I would also love to get back to showing cattle with the school and eventually independently when I can get to the stage of having my own livestock."
Year 12 student Darcy Howard has studied agriculture since year nine and has been part of the Chevalier College show team for six years.
He has been involved in community events at the school, including the Harbison care program, and assists at Bong Bong Races and Bowral Show. He was also named the 2019 Wingecarribee Young Citizen of the Year.
Mr Howard has always done well at both cattle and sheep shows. He was overall champion judge at the 2018 Unischool Steer Challenge, reserve champion school parader at Sydney Royal 2018, second in the Merino judging at Canberra Royal 2019 and will contest the junior meat sheep and beef cattle judging at this year's Sydney Royal Show.
He also brought the drought to the public's attention with a poem he wrote, which was covered by 10 Daily (and picked up by ABC Radio and Studio 10).
Agriculture teacher at Chevalier College, Hayley Mahoney, had high praise for the community-minded student.
"He loves all things agriculture - he lives and breathes it," she said. "He is a genuine, all round, mature, gentleman."
Runners-up in this year's Norman Lethbridge Award were Haylee Hastings of Kingswood High School and Gena Petrickas of Colo High School, North Richmond.
The Gary Roberts Encouragement Award, sponsored by Gary Roberts of Potts Point, went to Rosie Webb of The Scots School, Bathurst.