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Mount Annan students perfect their heifer-raising skills

Students from Mount Annan Christian College have gone to the top of the heifer-raising class after winning a new regional competition.

Five schools and one home-schooled student took part in the inaugural Legendairy heifer-raising competition at the Camden Show on Friday and Saturday, 11 and 12 March.

The success of the competition could lead to its expansion across New South Wales.

Organiser Luke Micallef said the school-based competition had reinvigorated the Camden show’s dairy exhibit.

“There were just under 100 head of cattle which was a big increase on the past few years,” Mr Micallef said.

“There’s no doubt the school competition helped to boost numbers,” he said. “The milking class was about normal but there was a big increase in the heifer classes and in the first Jersey class.”

The dedication shown by Mount Annan students in raising their heifer was recognised by judge, Jim Strong from Albion Park.

“The judge felt the Mount Annan student parading the heifer had the best knowledge and the school’s students in general had gained most from the experience,” Mr Micallef said.

The winning heifer was an Ayrshire supplied by the Hayter family from Werombi.

The schools had been raising their heifers for the past month and students had gone beyond the call of duty to ensure they were well presented.

“Some schools entered two heifers and some students were at the showgrounds till 11 o’clock at night getting the heifers ready,” Mr Micallef said. “They really put in an amazing effort.”

All schools involved want to return next year and other schools have shown interest.

“Fingers crossed it can grow from here,” Mr Micallef said.

Mount Annan Christian College agriculture teacher Jenny Caines said the competition was a great learning experience for students.

“We raised two heifers for about three weeks,” she said. “They were a bit skittish to start, so we put them on leads and taught them how to walk.”

The students also hand fed the heifers, clipped them, and washed them on hot days.

“They did a really good job making them look good and getting them used to being handled,” Mrs Caines said.

A core group of six students were involved in raising the heifer and others helped at different times.

“Some students were quite comfortable but others weren’t used to being around cows so it helped them to get over any fears,” Mrs Caines said.

The heifer was led by Cassandra Herdman who impressed the judges and her school.

“Cassie’s not from a farming background but she’s a beautifully calm animal handler,” Mrs Caines said.

The school hopes to expand on the program next year.

“We would like to build on it,” Mrs Caines said. “It’s something industry-based and knowing about animals is a great learning experience for students.”

The school competition was designed to give students exposure to the dairy industry and experience in handling animals as well as improve participation in the dairy section of the show.

It was supported by Dairy Australia’s Legendairy communications initiative to raise the profile and reputation of the dairy industry.

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