Students tested at Ekka
A GROUP of Warwick teens has swapped conventional school classrooms for life lessons in the main ring at Queensland's largest show, the Ekka, this week.
The students are part of Warwick State High School show team and, for the next five days, they along with a swag of other Southern Downs locals will exhibit livestock and compete in a range of events at the Brisbane RNA.
While WSHS has enjoyed an enviable run at Ekka level, for teacher Amanda Cox, it is as much about the life experience as the broad ribbons.
"I have been taking students to the Ekka for years and it has proved a great experience for them in ways beyond winning," Mrs Cox said.
"They have to step outside their comfort zone, it boosts their confidence and it brings a real sense of achievement."
She said spending a week competing on the state stage, alongside some of Queensland agriculture's major players, also broadened the students' knowledge and understanding of the rural industry.
"It is competitive but it's also a way to meet and develop some important contacts in the rural industry," she said.
"So, it can be a pretty important starting point for those students, who want to develop their skills or plan a career in agriculture."
This year the school will also take six head of cattle (including three Drought- masters from the school's own stud), eight Texel stud sheep and a handful of Angora goats.
These animals will be feed, watered, washed, dried and groomed by the students
before being exhibited in the Ekka's main arena.
WSHS senior student Nick Cairns agreed taking lessons from the classroom to the arena was "really enjoyable".
"I think doing things like junior judging really improves your confidence," Nick explained.
"Before being part of the show team, I would never have spoken in public.
"So it's more than just learning about animals."
Cattleman and regular show-going glory seeker John Brandon is also east bound with a selection of his best Senepol livestock again this year. The personable local first took cattle to the Ekka in 1977 and hasn't missed a year since.
"That first year we won senior champion bull with one of our Murray Greys," Mr Brandon said. "There is only one way to go when you start at the top."
Although the Yangan producer laughs about being on a downward spiral ever since, the truth is he has had his share of broad ribbon wins.
"I am taking what I think are some really good cattle down this week," he said.
"I think they would be competitive in any company.
"Unfortunately I have heard cattle entries are down this year as a result of the drought affecting most of the state.
"But even with numbers down I am sure quality will be right up there."
The week started in a busy way for Southern Downs school students with the junior judging and handler's classes yesterday.
Livestock stud classes will be judged on Thursday and Friday.
If you are from the Warwick area and do well in Brisbane this week let us know - firstname.lastname@example.org or 4660 1312.