School students get a taste of country life as part of the UniSchools Steer Challenge


Western Sydney University's annual UniSchools Steer Challenge has officially begun, with school kids from across Sydney putting their animal husbandry skills to the test as they set about hand raising their very own Poll Hereford steer.

Organised by the University's School of Science and Health (opens in a new window) and the Office of Widening Participation (opens in a new window), the steer-raising challenge brings together students from 14 high schools to compete both as individuals and school teams.

Each school receives their own Poll Hereford that the students then feed, handle and care for over the next 100 days. 

Adjunct Fellow with the School of Science and Health, Mr Stephen Blunden, says providing a practical and theoretical side to the reality of beef production is why high schools take up this challenge.

"The UniSchools Steer Challenge has been running for over 16 years now, and we continue to be impressed with the enthusiasm and pride that the students have for the competition and for taking care of their steers," says Mr Blunden.

"Importantly, it is also a chance for the students – many who have grown up in suburbia and an increasingly urbanised environment – to be hands-on with agriculture and better understand what it takes to raise a farm animal for production."

Approximately 120 participating students recently came together at the University's Hawkesbury campus to receive their Poll Hereford, and receive advice on everything from feeding, nutrition and animal welfare, to fitting, grooming and how to appraise their steer. 

Mr Blunden says the University is pleased to have the support of industry to help with the competition.

He says this year the Conqueror Milling Company in Cootamundra has not only donated a tonne of K2 pellets for the challenge, but also generously offered the University further feed at a discounted price.

"Our donors involvement is vital to the success of the competition. Their kind donations are what make the UniSchools Steer Challenge possible each year," says Mr Blunden.

The competition ends with students presenting their allotted steers for show at the Hawkesbury Showground in September 2016.

Schools competing this year are:

Arndell Anglican College

Bede Polding College

Caroline Chisholm College

Colo High

Crestwood High

Elizabeth Macarthur High

Hurlstone Agricultural High

McCarthy Catholic College

Macarthur Anglican School

Mount Annan Christian School

Oakhill College

Richmond TAFE

Richmond High

Xavier College


19 May 2016

Tanya Patterson - Media Officer

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