THE offer of some Simmental steers for showing five years ago has led to a NSW high school reaching new heights with its cattle show team.
Wellington High School has added some notable ribbons to the trophy cabinet in recent years including champion led steer at the 2018 National All Breeds Heifer Show in Dubbo with a Simmental-Angus cross.
This year it won reserve champion heavy weight purebred carcase at the Sydney Royal. This was also the highest scoring Simmental carcase, a feat the school has repeated twice in the past three years.
Add to these achievements numerous places and championships at local shows, plus consistent high results at the Upper Hunter Beef Bonanza Hoof and Hook Competition, and it's clear the decision to delve into Simmentals and their crosses is paying off.
Wellington High School agriculture teacher and show team coordinator, Rob Dimmick, said it all began when Sixpence Park Simmentals' Linda Martin, Tenterfield offered some steers to show.
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"Since then there has been a few trips north to inspect their cattle and Linda has also been instrumental in sourcing some Simmental-cross cattle from her clients for us to show," Mr Dimmck said.
"In recent years we have had success with the Sixpence Park purebred steers and Simmental-cross steers, sired by Sixpence Park bulls, bred by Helen Crotty, also from Tenterfield."
Rather than being a specialist subject, the show cattle are woven into the curriculum of Wellington High School, starting with a mandatory technology subject in years seven and eight where students are shown a paddock to plate model.
In years nine and 10, students can elect to undertake the Agricultural Technology course where they increase the amount of cattle handling along with learning about other plant and animal enterprises.
"Being in a country town of about 5000 people, there are very few students who don't see the impact of agriculture in their lives," Mr Dimmick said.
"However, we do also provide that link for students who may have farming in their family, but have not had that opportunity due to living in town, to connect with their past."
When it comes to showing cattle, the Wellington High School team usually attracts about 15 students to most shows, with about 30 students per year attending at least one show.
Students from all years are encouraged to join the team, which attends about five one-day shows and usually four longer shows, with the Sydney Royal being the longest.
In addition to showing steers, the team also prepares and shows stud cattle of various breeds for a handful of breeders.
Mr Dimmick said each student has his or her own personal journey with the cattle team and the animals they are responsible for.
"It is a great opportunity for students who struggle in other areas of study to find their niche," he said.
"Our team is made up of farm kids and town kids, but they all work together for a common purpose. Often our town kids become the most dedicated.
"They learn about teamwork, discipline and responsibility through working with the cattle.
"They also gain an appreciation of the beef industry and the wider agricultural sector as a genuine career option."
Cattle, as do most animals, have a unique way of teaching students and have the ability to provide students with satisfaction and reward, disappointment and sadness and challenge students to find ways to cope with all of this.
But it's not just the students drawing benefits.
"Personally, I get a great deal of satisfaction selecting and preparing the cattle into the right article for the consumer," Mr Dimmick said.
"Above all this though are the opportunities that the students get to experience something they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do.
"Cattle, as do most animals, have a unique way of teaching students and have the ability to provide students with satisfaction and reward, disappointment and sadness and challenge students to find ways to cope with all of this."
While of clear value to the school, maintaining a livestock program presents its own challenges, particularly in dry times.
As with many Western NSW areas, Wellington is drought stricken which means, among other things, the cost of fodder has risen significantly and therefore impacting on returns from the cattle.
Mr Dimmick said sourcing cattle in the right condition to feed on and the unpredictability of the "crystal ball" when selecting cattle that have obviously done it tough, add extra hurdles to the program.
"Despite this, I see it as our responsibility to support our regular suppliers and give them something to look forward to by preparing an animal they bred for a major show," he said.