11 November, 2023
School’s Calf Day tradition steeped in history
A UNIQUE event which is hosted annually by the Millaa Millaa State School is possibly the only one of its kind in Australia.
The school’s Calf Day has been an enduring tradition in the community now for 93 years.
It is a day where numerous people from the small rural community work together to promote the awareness and appreciation of the local dairy and beef industries in an educational format.
Generations of students have their own special memories of bringing calves to Calf Day which is testimony to the significance of the event.
Held every year, the school’s Calf Day can be accurately dated back to 1930.
In 1977 (and prior to this date), only Grade 6-7 students were allowed to enter calves and students did not need to complete a project book on their calves in order to participate.
In the 1970s, Project Club Calf judge Mr Malcolm Claridge came from Brisbane every year to judge the students’ calves at the Millaa Millaa State School. Years 1-5 were later allowed to join the Year 6-7 students in being able to participate.
The Calf Day took a new turn when in 2003 pre-schoolers were allowed to participate as well.
For a long period of time, calves shown were predominantly dairy calves with the occasional beef calf being shown.
The first ever buffalo calf (dairy buffalo) was shown in 2004.
Past students Colin Daley, his son Owen and Sarah-Jane Cameron have been judges at the event.
Owen first judged when he was 17 years old and Sarah-Jane was the first ever woman to judge at a Calf Day.
In the past, many students from non-farming backgrounds have participated by going to nearby dairy farms to train a calf to take to Calf Day.
In 2011, a Centenary Calf Day Spectacular was hosted by the school to commemorate the town’s 100th birthday.
A total of 40 dairy and beef calves were brought by students from four Atherton Tableland primary schools which included Millaa Millaa State School, Malanda State School, St Teresa’s College and Butchers Creek State School.
This was the greatest number of calves ever judged on the school grounds since the commencement of the Calf Day.
The event was so large that it was necessary for three judges, instead of the usual one required, to officiate on the day.
The Centenary Calf Day Spectacular of 2011 was deemed by organisers to be a truly remarkable event that proved beyond doubt that the spirit of the Millaa Millaa pioneers lives on in the small rural community.
Organisers described the event as being “like the Brisbane Exhibition coming to Millaa Millaa”.
This year’s judge, Colin Daley, has been judging the school’s Calf Day for over 30 years. Colin and his wife Shelley won the Australian Holstein Cow of the Year twice.
He is the president of the Holstein Association North Queensland (NQ) sub-branch and is also the president of the Combined All Breeds Dairy committee.
Mr Daley has judged at many Royal Shows around Australia including having judged at Brisbane three times as well as at Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.
A junior, intermediate and senior section was judged with a perpetual trophy being awarded to Abigail Daley for the Overall Champion Calf.
There was also a Students Choice award for the most popular calf which was determined from the results of a vote from all the students at the school,
This year, three dairy breeds were represented which included black and white Holsteins, Jerseys and Guernseys.
Students were judged on their written project about their calf as well as an interview to ascertain their knowledge of their calf and dairy knowledge.
They were also judged on how they prepared and presented their animal which included feeding, training, grooming, clipping, washing and the leading of their calf on the day.
Mr Daley said he was impressed by the time and effort that was put in by the students prior to exhibiting their animals at the Calf Day.
“In the senior section, the standard was incredibly high with both students scoring over 80 points,” he said.
“This was particularly pleasing to see. The calves were all magnificent.
“I was very impressed by the detail and neatness of handwriting of some of the students’ calf projects.
“I would like to thank the students, the school and the Parents and Citizens Association or encouraging this event to continue and I would like to encourage students to participate in next year’s Calf Day.”
Calves can be arranged for students who are interested in participating and come from non-farming backgrounds.