UniSchools program immerses students in the beauty of livestock agriculture

The annual UniSchools Steer Challenge for Sydney high school students commenced on Friday 3 May at Hawkesbury as more than 90 students from years 7 to 12 were herded onto the farm at Western Sydney University’s Hawkesbury campus.

Now in its 19th year, the UniSchools Steer Challenge program offers students in-depth insights into the journey of taking a Simmental cross Poll Hereford steer back to their schools and raising it to maturity for more than three months. In August the students will present their steers at Hawkesbury show ground to compete in a number of competitions individually and as teams for their school, after which the carcass will be judged and sold into the high-quality Sydney beef market.

The students came from 11 high schools with novice students being introduced to important aspects of raising an animal, across practices including parading, grooming, judging, handling safety and flight distance, carcass traits in the live animal with a scanner, and a nutritional workshop. Senior students had the opportunity to look at factors impacting on meat quality, taste test and the boning out of a carcass into its primal cuts.

"To live alongside and immerse students in nurturing a living animal gives students the ultimate understanding of how our farmers raise animals and produce beef products", said Stephen Blunden, Adjunct Fellow at Western Sydney University.

"I've seen over and over again just how transformative this program is and how it shapes students to continue into agricultural studies at Western. Its practical and theoretical knowledge shows students what opportunity in agriculture looks like.”

For third-year Animal Science student Alana Wade, the joy of UniSchools means she is now leading the University’s show team by entering a first year University student team to compete and returning the knowledge she has gained to future students while completing her degree.

"I know that I will have a career in agriculture, whether it is in the livestock sector or perhaps elsewhere in the industry," Alana said.

"Most of all, my aim is to show young Australians the beauty of raising live animals and advocating for young women in the booming Aussie agriculture industry", she said.

The UniSchools participating schools are:

  • Arndell Anglican College
  • Bede Polding
  • Caroline Chisholm College
  • Chevalier College
  • Colo High
  • Elizabeth Macarthur High
  • Knox Grammar
  • McCarthy Catholic College
  • Macarthur Anglican School
  • St Columba’s Catholic College
  • Xavier College

Additionally, the Western Sydney University's Livestock Show Teams first year students are participating in the challenge.


7 May 2019

David Thompson, Research Communications & Media Officer

Photos by Hugo Munoz.