Border Leicester sheep and their lambs reared by students at Hydebank Wood College in Belfast were among the livestock on show at the recent Balmoral Show.
The two ewes and their three off-spring are part of an agri-initiative at the Northern Ireland Prison Service facility which houses young offenders and female prisoners.
Students serving time are taught livestock and husbandry skills in a rehabilitation project which also aims to create working opportunities when they return to the community.
Ricky Graham, Vocational Training Officer at Hydebank said: “The sheep were introduced into Hydebank in September last year. When the students learn basic livestock and husbandry skills, they are tasked to look after the sheep. On a daily basis they would feed them, ensure they had water, check their welfare and move them to new paddocks if they needed to be. They’ve even been involved in building pens for the sheep.
“The breeding was a natural progression. The ewes were covered by two rams in October and in March this year they produced three lambs – much to the delight of the students and staff alike.
“Showing them at Balmoral has been just a fantastic experience and probably the highlight of the whole project,” added Ricky, who is also a part-time sheep farmer.
Hydebank Wood College Governor David Eagleson said: “This has been a hugely successful project which has helped build great self-esteem among the students and we hope as they prepare for a return to the community, it will also steer them away from a life of crime, into meaningful employment and perhaps a better future.
“Rehabilitation and resettlement are to the forefront of the Prison Service work. By giving those who come into our care opportunities such as this we are helping reduce reoffending and making Northern Ireland a much safer place.”