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The Challenge of the Carcase Competition

09 Aug 2007

Agricultural skills of students and staff at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) will be under the spotlight at this year's Royal Melbourne Show.

The Carcase Competition at the show offers NMIT the opportunity to display its expertise in the arena and take home some blue ribbons as well.

NMIT has been participating in the competition since 1994, and this year 10 Diploma of Agriculture students (First Year) will compete in the two sections of the competition - 'on the hoof' and 'on the hook'.

They will enter 8 steers in the competition - Angus, Charolais, Limousin, Red Poll and a Simmental Cross. Four of the steers are school bred and prepared and are 16 months old; the other two were bought by NMIT and vary in age from 10-22 months.

NMIT is contesting in four categories - Class 1: 180-220 kgs; Class 2: 221-260 kgs; Class 3: 261-300 kgs and Class 4: 301-400 kgs.

In the 'on the hoof' contest, the cattle are assessed alive, with the steers led around a ring where they're judged on muscularity, carcass quality and overall presentation. The students are also judged on their ringcraft and cattle handling ability.

The 'on the hook' contest is on the animal carcase. The steers go to the abattoirs after the on the hoof section where they are slaughtered. Three days later, the carcase is judged on its meat colour, fat colour, its intramuscular fat (marbling), muscularity, fat cover and weight suitability.

NMIT Agriculture Program Coordinator Phil Tripp said he and students had to work out how many kilos each steer needed to make each class for the Show.

'It's difficult to get the right weight as different breeds have different maturity patterns. Some put on more muscle and fat at a faster rate, while some of the slower maturing animals grow up to be bigger and are more profitable as a long-term proposition.

'We have to tailor the rations for each individual breed.'

Phil said sophisticated technology of ultrasound scanning was used at NMIT every two weeks to give eye muscle area and fat depth of the steers as they were prepared for the Show. Feed was then tailored according to how each animal developed.

The preparation time took four months, and the on the hook competition was the most prestigious in the competition.

'As a carcase, you get an exact picture of how good your genetics and nutritional preparation are,' Phil said. 'It's not hit and miss, we assess the animals weekly as it's a commercial market out there and you have to meet the correct specifications.'

Since 1994, NMIT has been asked to showcase different breeds from various stud breeders at the Show because it's good for promotion and highlights the attributes of particular breeds, Phil said.

NMIT leases a 320 hectare property at Yan Yean where they run 400 head of cattle.

In 2006, the institute was very successful at the Show winning Highest Scoring School bred animal champion and reserve led export animal and Champion handler of the show. This was awarded to Erin Smith who this year is completing her final year of her Diploma of Agriculture at NMIT

Phil said feedback from the Show and the competition enabled breeders to see if they were going in the right direction with their breeding endeavours.

Inquiries to Agriculture and Animal Science Department Ph: (03) 9269-1042


Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on (03) 92691579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.