Starting as a small event in 2017 with only three schools, the highly successful South Coast Beef School Steer Spectacular is growing in popularity, with more schools set to attend from a wider area than ever before from May 7-8, 2024.
Along with local schools and regular attendees, students from 22 schools, including Boorowa, Jindabyne, Cootamundra, and Yass, will attend the two-day event this year at Nowra Showground.
The successful introduction of a class for commercial farm-raised unled steers in 2023 showed organisers that more beef producers from across the region were keen to receive feedback on their breeding program and the suitability of their cattle to satisfy the changing trends in the beef market.
"We expect the 2024 event to be our biggest event ever, breaking our historical attendance records," South Coast Beef executive officer Rob Stafford said.
"We appreciate having great new facilities at Nowra Showground to accommodate the schools and their steers."
Bomaderry High School was named school steer spectacular champion school in 2023.
The school's team of 15 to 20 students, led by teachers Renee Lidgard and Bronwyn Hilaire, aim to take five steers to this year's school spectacular - two South Devon steers bred by Lee Pippard, Tannoch South Devons, Gerringong, two Angus steers bred by Dr Toby Greenacre, Jaspers Brush, and one Speckle Park steer bred by Andrew and Alison Havadjia, Cambewarra.
"Hopefully, we can do it again; we are fortunate to have very good relationships with local producers who support the school," Mrs Hilaire said.
The two South Devons had a successful first outing recently at Nowra Show.
"We have had them here at the school for about four weeks," Mrs Lidgard said.
"We went really well; one of the steers won first place, and the other was in fourth place for the led steer or heifer class up to 340 kilograms."
Mrs Lidgard explained that the steers were on rations of 4 kilograms each per day of dried distiller's grain pellets from Manildra, plus oaten chaff and free access to hay to allow them to achieve their optimum weight in time for the school spectacular.
Bomaderry High School has a renowned agriculture program that has been successful for many years.
"It comes down to the staff we have, the strong community connections, together with the great kids we have; we are very fortunate to have a great ag program here," school principal Ian Morris said.
"It is going ahead in leaps and bounds in terms of the innovation happening with the iFarm we have and the connections that keep growing.
"Our ag program has been around for a long time, and all we have done is tweak a few things.
"We ensure that every student who comes to Bomaderry High School in Year 7 partakes in agriculture as a standalone subject. I think that helps not just increase numbers, but these are great life skills the kids are learning too, so that's the important thing."
Installed in 2023, the iFarm has been operational for nine months.
It is an interactive agricultural science research station designed specifically for Australian schools and teaches students about sustainable farming practices and the technologies required to produce food and fibre.
"It is an intelligent greenhouse, with a wind turbine, solar power, and a computerised watering system," Mrs Hilaire said.
"It enables our students to carry out plant and fertiliser trials and has the computer capability to liaise with rural and remote schools in western NSW, so we can do simultaneous trials using the computer system.
"It ticks a lot of boxes: agriculture and innovation and new technology."
The South Coast Beef Producers Association is still accepting school and non-school entries for the Open Steer Challenge (entries close March 28) and the Commercial Steer/Heifer Challenge (entries close April 24).
Email email@example.com to submit your entries.