St Joseph's High School, Aberdeen, returned from Wingham Beef Week with a bag of ribbons, including grand champion led beef animal with their Angus/Limousin steer.
The 492kg steer, who placed first in its middleweight class, was bred by Scott Brooker, Rouchel, and led by St Joseph's student Claudia Atfield. It presented with a rib fat at 8 millimetres and rump fat at 16mm.
Reserve champion led steer on the hoof and the winner of the heavyweight class, was a Limousin cross Charolais/Angus, bred by Neil Nelson, Gleneil, Singleton, and presented at 614kg with rib and rump fats of 10mm and 23mm. The steer was also prepared by St Joseph's, Aberdeen, and led by student Sarah Clydsdale.
Champion lightweight was a 310kg Limousin/Murray Grey heifer, bred by Tom and Julie Morton, Westbrook, Singleton and prepared by Glenliam Farm, Glen William. Reserve lightweight went to a 363 kg Murray Grey exhibited by Lachlan James.
Champion light middleweight was a 421kg Limousin/Shorthorn heifer, bred by Col and Lorna McGilchrist, Wallabadah and prepared by Swim Creek Show Steers, Merriwa. Reserve light middleweight was a Murray Grey bred by Heath Birchall, Duri, and prepared by Wallawong Premium Beef, Gunnedah.
Heavy middleweight champion went to St Joseph's High School for their eventual grand champion, while the school claimed the reserve ribbon with a 508kg black Limousin, with 8mm and 6mm rib and rump fats. The school also won reserve heavy middleweight with a 508kg black Limousin with rib and rump fats of 8mm and 16mm. He was led by Logan Moon.
The heavyweight division was particularly close, with judge Donna Robson, Flemington Limousins, Batlow, admitting she sent good steers out of the ring following her final lineup.
In the end the champion ribbon went to a Limousin cross Charolais/Angus bred by Neil Nelson, Gleneil, Singleton, led and prepared by Sarah Clydsdale along with other agricultural student at St Joseph's High School, Aberdeen. This steer, 614kg, with 10mm and 23mm rib and rump fats, went on to be sashed reserve grand champion led steer. Reserve heavyweight went to Lachlan James, Gunnedah, for one of his own Murray Greys, a 696kg steer with 11mm and 18mm rib and rump fat.
The school steer challenge involved donated steers from Weebollabolla Shorthorn stud, Moree, with high protein wheat-based feed from Manildra Stockfeeds.
Champion school steer was prepared for show by St Mary's College, Gunnedah, and led by Bradley Miller. Reserve was prepared by Oxley High School, Tamworth.
Wingham High wins led carcase competition
Wingham High School won its own Wingham Beef Week carcase competition scoring 95.15 points out of 100 by Meat Standards Australia, for a 544kg Angus with a carcase weight of 306kg.
The heavy middleweight steer with a perfect score for saleable meat, 19.5 out of 20 for market specifications and 40.65 out of 45 for eating quality, placed fourth in its class on the hoof.
Second placed carcase was a Charolais exhibited by St Catherine's Catholic College, Singleton, earning 94.98pts with a slightly higher ossification score pulling down its eating quality score to 39.98 out of 45, while gaining perfect scores for market specs and saleable yield. This steer also placed fourth in its hoof class.
Third-placed carcase champion, a Simmental prepared by Taree High School, was awarded 94.96pts, scoring 40.96 for eating quality with perfect saleable yield and 19 out of 20 for market specifications.
Fourth place also went to Taree High for a Murray Grey on 94.59pts with 40.09pts for eating quality.
Quirindi High claimed fifth place on 94.38pts while sixth spot went to reserve lightweight winner, a Murray Grey from Wallawong Premium Beef, Gunnedah, on 93.58pts.
Wingham Beef Exports are this year celebrating a quarter century with Japanese owners Nippon Ham Foods. Administration manager Chris Black said there were 38 people employed when NH Foods took over in 1994. Today there were 380 people on one shift, killing 550 head a day with a licence to kill 800hd/day.
The average carcase of recent weeks has been around 300kg, which has been good considering the season and time of year, although Mr Black said grain fed steers coming from their sister company Wyallah Beef certainly upped the average, with some steers dressing at 400kg.
The drought and turn-off of cattle created an eight week wait in the period after Christmas.
"We have held our grid price through that," Mr Black said.
Unled carcase results
Darryl Johnston, Gloucester River, won the recent Wingham Beef Week carcase competition with his unled steer on 95.34 points, narrowly beating the led steer winner, bred and prepared by Wingham High School.
Mr Johnston's 654kg steer, with a dressing percentage of 57.65 per cent, scored perfectly for market specifications and providing saleable meat yield while scoring 40.34/45 for eating quality.
Second placed carcase in the unled division at Wingham went to Robin and Kyle Thomas, Hillville, on 94.83pts, with a steer at 421kg liveweight, dressing at 53.44pc with perfect scoring for saleable meat yield, 19/20 for market specifications and 40.83pts for eating quality.
Third place went to Calrossy Anglican School, Tamworth, with a 552kg steer on best points for ossification, dressing at 58.7pc with perfect saleable meat yield and 18.5/20 for market specifications and 40.87pts for eating quality.
Lachlan James, Gunnedah, finished fourth place on 93.17pts with a Murray Grey cross steer, 421kg, dressing at 60.1pc with perfect saleable meat yield and 9/20pts for market specification, while eating quality scored 39.17.
Calrossy Anglican School finished fifth on 92.81pts with a steer, 546kg dressing at 59.52pc and scoring perfect for saleable meat yield, 18.5/20 for market specifications and 39.91 for eating quality. The unled open champion steer, on the hoof, also the light middleweight winner, was a 421kg Murray Grey cross exhibited by Lachlan James, Gunnedah, which went on to place fourth as a carcase. Heavy middleweight went to New England Girls School with a 502kg Limousin steer that became the unled reserve open champion. A lack of rib fat caused points reduction as a carcase. Lightweight champion on the hoof also went to Mr James with a 302kg Murray Grey that garnered 87.1pts as a carcase. Heavyweight champion went to Mr James with a 622kg Murray Grey cross on 91.62pts as a carcase.
Mr Beef an all-'rounder
Kempsey High School year 12 student Darby Prior was awarded champion all-rounder at this year's Wingham Beef Week, chosen from 28 schools and more than 500 young people.
The award captures the essence of the week in beef, which educates and inspires young people to continue in the world of agriculture.
Darby's mother Melissa, who runs 450 breeders near Bellbrook on the Upper Macleay, said the well-liked young student had stepped into a man's shoes four years ago after his father passed away from cancer.
"This is well deserved," she said.
"We are very proud for him."
According to Kempsey High School agricultural teacher, Gavin Saul, Darby was quite literally second in charge at the school farm and was a humble young man who worked tirelessly to make sure fellow students got opportunities.
"The respect this agriculture team has for Darby is unbelievable," Mr Saul said.
The teacher responsible for the all-rounder award, Charlie Cassels, Wingham High, said the interview process was good for the students, and while not confrontational, would help prepare them for similar interviews once they left school.
Ultimate parader of the led steer section, which also involved all-day judging, was awarded to Calrossy student Lara Dejong, Manilla, who expertly led a black Limousin bred by Col McGilchrist, Wallabada.
Parader judge Bede McAlpine, Toowoomba, Qld, said Ms Dejong had the ability to be more in tune with her animal than any of the others.
The highest ranking school team in the ICMJ competition, run through Meat Standards Australia and Demi Lollbeck, MLA, went to Kempsey High School, with Liam Whalen, Tom Harwood, Alex Scofield and Ruby Weismantle accepting the ribbons. Runner-up was Chatham High School.
Individual awards as part of the meat grading competition went to Holly Newsome, not a part of any school, with runner-up going to Ruby Weismantle, Kempsey High.
Wingham experience on the rise
A record number of agricultural students paraded cattle around the Wingham showgrounds this year with the population of swag-camping young handlers reaching 522, up by a third on last year.
Led steer and heifer numbers doubled to 202 animals, with several top-ranking schools preferring to prepare steers for the Manning Valley event this year over Sydney, resulting in a tough competition.
Visiting competitors praised the local community for being so welcoming, with Calrossy Anglican School, Tamworth, allowed to camp in the St Mathew's parish church hall, thereby saving accommodation money for children off drought-stricken properties.
"The season has been tough and the kids are hurting but we're putting on a brave face," school agricultural teacher Bronwyn Nielsen said. "If nothing else being here shows the support everyone has given us."
Wingham Beef Week foundation committee member Bruce Scrivener, from Bonnie Brook Angus at Yarrowitch, won champion carcase in a separate MSA competition run by Wingham Beef Exports - announced during the week. He reflected how one teacher in particular sought out his advice on preparing a led steer for competition.
Her name was Lisa Bright, St Joseph's College, Aberdeen, who first came to Wingham 20 years ago, and this year led the most successful school team.
"I told her to start with correct material in the first place, otherwise you won't get over the line," he said. "Calves need to stand square from the outset. They need to be full behind the shoulders. They need to be steady when they walk and behave quietly."
Ms Bright recalled her optimism after that first steer show all those years ago, telling her students "we can do this".
However, the real reason the school kept returning to Wingham was the educational value of the experience, from selection and preparation to carcase grading.