A trio of Co. Antrim schoolboys from St. Louis Grammar in Ballymena have become the overall winners of the Northern Ireland 'ABP Angus Youth Challenge'.

The agri-food competition was developed to help bridge the gap between school and employment. The boys learned of their success via a YouTube video news bulletin commissioned by the meat processor ABP and the Northern Ireland Angus Producer Group.

This was in response to the impact the coronavirus has had on the ability to hold a live event. The bulletin included a dedication to all the finalists from the Ireland Ladies Hockey Captain, Katie Mullan, on how growing up on a farm has taught her valuable life lessons to help her succeed in the face of challenges.

Family farming to drive sustainability

The boys entered the ABP Angus Youth Challenge in 2017 and made it on to the finalists’ skills development programme in April 2018.

Since then they have been competing against three other finalist teams from Belfast Royal Academy, Enniskillen Royal Grammar and Rainey Endowed Magherafelt to become the overall winners and the recipient of a cheque for £1,000 for their school.

This has seen the members of the St. Louis' team rear five Aberdeen Angus cross calves through to beef; sell them to ABP for financial reward and complete a research assignment. The boys’ theme was to demonstrate the value of family farming to drive sustainability.

The runner-up in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge is the team from Enniskillen Royal Grammar whose research assignment was on how the Aberdeen Angus breed can enhance the sustainability of farming in Co. Fermanagh. The team managed to raise over £4,000 for Northern Ireland Air Ambulance as part of their project.

Two participants in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge programme were singled out by the judges for Outstanding Individual Achievement Awards.

Year 13 pupil Kelly Stewart and the team from Rainey Endowed focused on the role and contribution of women on Northern Ireland farms for their project. According to the judges, "over the past two years, Kelly proved herself to be a fitting ambassador for young women in agriculture".

Lorcan Convery and the team from Belfast Royal Academy explored a ‘city farming’ model of investment for beef production. Lorcan who is in Year 14 impressed the judges with his "firm grasp of marketing and business at such a young age".

'Proud legacy'

Congratulating the winners on their success, the managing director of ABP, George Mullan, said:

“Our first set of ABP Angus Youth Challenge award winners complete the 2018-2020 programme with a proud legacy. They have set the bar very high for those who are following in their footsteps. ABP introduced this initiative to help bridge the gap between school and employment.

Already we are seeing participants taking the next steps towards working in agri-food and the benefitting from taking part.

Charles Smith, general manager of the Northern Ireland Aberdeen Angus Group, commented: “The overall winning team’s detailed record-keeping demonstrated a deep level of understanding of the full cost of production.

"They showed entrepreneurial flair and an understanding of how the family farming model can address the needs of today’s consumer including animal welfare. Well done to all the award winners and our sincerest thanks to the schools and their families for supporting them.”