Miriam O’Callaghan hands bovine passports to Angus beef competition finalists

Six finalist teams also met Chinese officials on knowledge transfer visit at Certified Irish Angus exhibition centre at Ploughing, writes Stephen Cadogan.

Miriam O’Callaghan hands bovine passports to Angus beef competition finalists

Six finalist teams also met Chinese officials on knowledge transfer visit at Certified Irish Angus exhibition centre at Ploughing, writes Stephen Cadogan.

“If I could make it about calves, that would be great,” said RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, as she rushed away from the Ploughing to work on that night’s Prime Time TV show, after she presided over the calf presentation to finalist students in the Certified Irish Angus Beef School Competition.

The Angus calves didn’t make it to the Prime Time show, but they had been stars of the Late Late Show the previous Friday, along with the five girls from St Josephs Mercy Secondary School, Navan, Co Meath.

St Josephs; Roscommon Community College; the Royal School, Cavan; St Ita’s Special School, Drogheda; Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna; and Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, have been selected in the annual national competition built around rearing Angus calves over the next 18 months.

The six finalist teams were handed the bovine passports for their calves by Miriam O’Callaghan at the Ploughing on Thursday.

Miriam O’Callaghan with Sean Trundle, John Cunniffe, and Keelan Gallagher, from Roscommon Community College, finalists in the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition.
Miriam O’Callaghan with Sean Trundle, John Cunniffe, and Keelan Gallagher, from Roscommon Community College, finalists in the Certified Irish Angus Beef schools competition.

It was one of the events rescheduled after Storm Ali closed down the Ploughing Wednesday.

Much of the unusually high national profile of this agricultural competition can be attributed to its association with Miriam O’Callaghan, the host since 1996 of RTÉ TV’s current affairs flagship Prime Time. Last week was her fifth time to preside over the competition at the Ploughing Championships and Charles Smith, General Manager of the Irish Angus Producer Group, revealed that Miriam doesn’t charge them for her role in the competition.

Why is she so fond of the farmers?

“I am of farming stock,” revealed the RTÉ star, explaining why she is such an avid supporter of the competition. “I spent my whole childhood on the farm,” she reveals of her time growing up on a smallholding at Callaghans Cross, Currow, near Castleisland in Co Kerry.

She says all her cousins in Co Kerry are farmers.

Maybe another reason she gives her valuable time for free to the Angus competition is an association with Ploughing Championships supremo Anna May McHugh, who also officiated at the schools competition event last week.

Anna May said, “I always brag that her mother is from the same village as myself.”

Miriam responded, “And she’s like you, an amazing woman.”

It was also a chance for the finalist students to shine.

The competition is designed to encourage them to gain an understanding about the considerable care and attention that is required to produce and market the highest quality beef.

In addition to rearing the calves, the school teams will complete a project focussing on an aspect of farming and the food chain.

In this way, they can apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom in a real-life farming setting.

Each team will receive the financial benefit involved in selling their Angus animals to processors at the end of the project. The winning students also receive €2,000 for their further education.

Their experience last week at the Certified Irish Angus exhibition centre in the Ploughing included meeting Chinese government officials, guests of Bord Bia in Ireland for a two-week trade and knowledge transfer visit. Their visit coincides with the first 25-tonne container of Irish beef being distributed in China, a major export breakthrough following China opening its markets to Irish beef last April, after years of negotiations.

The 2018 Certified Irish Angus Beef School Competition winners were Mark Shorten and Conor Lehane from St Brogan’s College, Bandon, Co Cork. And in 2014, Clionadh Condon, Laura Clancy, Aoife Dullea and Meadhbh Sexton from Sacred Heart Secondary Secondary, Clonakilty, Co Cork were the first winners of the competition.

The current finalists from Co Cork, Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, already have the unique distinction of being a second-time-in-a-row finalist.

Coláiste Treasa’s Marie Moylan, Gillian Casey and Aine O’Connor have “the benefits of Angus cattle for family farming” as their competition project. As part of this, they conducted a survey in their school which revealed 75% of Coláiste Treasa students are from farms.

The calves are being reared on Aine’s family’s farm at Kilbrin, but the girls will meet up every month to work with them. All three girls told Miriam they want to be agricultural science teachers.

They got a special mention last week from Charles Smith for making the effort to go and watch the ploughing competitions Wednesday, when the rest of the event was called off.

The girls got a big cheer from the large Co Cork contingent, led by Angus Producer Group Chairman Tim Dunne, Mitchelstown, and John Appelbe, president of the Irish Angus Cattle Society, which hosted the schools competition last week. Tim Dunne said the young people involved were a force to be reckoned with, and praised their parents and teachers for their guidance of the participants.

There were thanks also last week for Kepak and ABP Ireland, joint sponsors of the competition, and Tesco Ireland, an Irish Angus supporter for 21 years.

Last but not least, Dovea Genetics were thanked for rearing the calves and caring for them, and delivering them nationwide in good health, first to the Late Late Show, and then to the Ploughing, where Dovea staff had to risk their own health in order to check the calves were OK during Storm Ali.

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