More than 60 teenagers from 14 schools across Northern Ireland are set to compete in this year’s semi-final of the ABP Angus Youth Challenge, an agri-food skills development initiative for teenagers.

Judging of the semi-finalists will take place online next week due to Covid 19 restrictions.

Teams must present their ideas and displays on camera to convince a panel of independent judges of their knowledge of premium Northern Irish Angus beef production and their interest in aspects of the local beef supply chain.

Judges include represents from across the farming, agri-food and education sectors, including Queen’s University Belfast; Southern Regional College; the Ulster Farmers' Union; the Livestock and Meat Commission; the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association; Ulster Bank; DAERA; CAFRE, and Business in the Community NI.

Four teams will be selected to progress on to the next stage – an 18-month skills development programme.

Under the guidance of ABP and the NI Angus Producer Group the finalists will be rewarded with a hands-on experience of rearing Angus cross calves and profiting from their sale to ABP; whilst gaining employability skills and knowledge of the beef industry.

They will rear their calves to ABP’s sustainable Blade Farming protocols which prioritise efficiency and carcass quality at an earlier finishing age.

The proceeds of the sale of each team’s calves to ABP will be awarded to each group. One overall winning team will also receive a £1,000 cash prize for their school.

This year’s semi-finalists are aged between 14-16 years old and represent:

  • Ballymena Academy;
  • Ballycastle High School;
  • Banbridge Academy;
  • Belfast Royal Academy;
  • Castle Tower Special School, Ballymena;
  • Cookstown High School;
  • Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle;
  • Dalriada Ballymoney;
  • Dromore High School;
  • Gaelcholáiste Dhoire, Dungiven;
  • Magherafelt High School;
  • Omagh Academy;
  • Royal School Armagh; and
  • Saintfield High.

George Mullan, managing director of ABP in Northern Ireland, said: “ABP is committed to playing its part in developing the next generation for a sustainable of the local agri-food sector.

The ABP Angus Youth Challenge aims to help bridge the gap between school and employment. We’re delighted so many schools can take part during these challenging times. ABP appreciates the support of the principals and teachers to the competition.

"I would also like to thank the judges and the organisations they represent. It is a clear signal of the benefits the competition brings to young people.”

The schools currently engaged in the 2019-2021 finalist programme are Aughnacloy College, Fivemiletown College, the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Wallace High School.

The 2021 competition will also open to new entrants on October 5, 2020.