Damien Thomson, Ruby Canning and Rebecca George all recently attended the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association (ARCBA) Young Breed Leaders Workshop, held in Armidale, NSW, from the 28th to the 30th of October.   

Mr Thomson, Miss Canning and Rebecca George were all selected for the Angus Youth ARCBA Scholarship, supplied by the Angus Foundation, which allowed them to attend the two- and half-day workshop. 

The workshop saw around 40 people representing 16 different cattle breeds come together to discuss topics including; management training and simulation of a board environment; the digital technologies of the future at the “Smart Farm”; case studies with successful breeders using the latest genetic technologies; a Project design exercise and legal responsibilities for Directors of incorporated Breed Societies. 

The first day kicked off with networking and surveying of attendees regarding the breed societies and to establish some background information regarding the group.   

The first session of the day covered the question ‘Will breed societies be viable in 20 years’ time?’, with attendees working together in a group reflecting a breed society board situation.   

Following this the group headed to the University of New England (UNE) Smart Farm where they spent the afternoon listening to protestations from lecturer Jamie Barwick regarding research being undertaken at UNE.  The group also heard from Catriona Millen from Southern Beef Technology Services with a session regarding the scientific process behind genomics and how genomic testing in cattle works.   

Day one rounded out with a chat from Hannah Bourke from Neogen regarding genomic services.  

Miss George, whom hails from Nevertire, NSW, and currently studies a Bachelor of Agriculture/Bachelor of Business majoring in International Business at the University of New England, said the following in regard to this information session.  

 “I found this session particularly useful as it took us back to the basics of the science behind genomics and allowed us to really understand this to be able to use genomics better within the industry,” said Miss George. 

Day two began with an early morning visit to Bald Blair Angus where the attendees heard presentations from owners Sam and Kirsty White.  Mr White discussed the technologies in use at Bald Blair, whilst informing what they do in terms of their mating and cattle selection decisions.  Mrs White followed this with a discussion regarding their approach to marketing and Bald Blair’s utilisation of social media.   

Miss Canning, a sixth-generation beef cattle producer and co-owner of Mavstar Simmentals, Red Angus and Photography based in Mortlake VIC, took a lot from the session at Bald Blair. 

 “Sam White’s presentation was filled with love and passion for the seedstock industry and their family operation, and it was evident that their business embraces and utilises modern technology,” said Miss Canning. 

“The importance of long-term relationships, and understanding customer needs, along with the key values of country, cattle and community were highlighted throughout the presentation.”   

The trip also saw presentations from Charlie Perry from ‘Trent Bridge’ Wagyu stud, regarding the use of genetic technologies to create a competitive advantage with marbling and Alf Collins Snr who spoke in regard to how he has significantly improved the fertility of his Brahman herd, CBV Brahmans, in Queensland through strict cattle selection. 

Mr Thomson, Berremangra, NSW, has a background in the agricultural industry through his family commercial and seedstock Angus operations, where he is involved within the management of the herds. 

Mr Thomson, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, said the following in regard to presentation Mr Collins.  

“Alf spoke to us of his cattle breeding journey in northern Australia which has a tight focus on fertility. Alf was with us for the majority of the workshop meaning we got to hear his thoughts on other topics discussed and throw questions his way over the three days,” said Mr Thomson.   

Miss Canning said the following in regard to Mr Collins’s presentation. 

“Alf reiterated that “there are no magic bullets” and to make change, there needs to focus upon the fundamentals which can be controlled and managed.” 

The afternoon saw a session presented by Brett Tindal from The Land on ‘getting your message across’, which discussed the effectiveness of different types of advertising and how internet advertising works to the benefit of producers.  

“I found this session to be very valuable as marketing has changed a lot since smartphones have become more popular,” Miss George said.  

“I think understanding who you are marketing to and the most appropriate way to carry that out is extremely important to producers.” 

Michael Crowley from Meat and Livestock Australia gave a presentation regarding the 2025 vision of the red meat value supply chain management and particularly the link between genetics and the breeder from the beginning to the end of the chain.  

“The flow chart of whole farm systems, the value chain approach and linking genetics to consumer outcomes put into perspective the ability to include genomics as an important aspect of beef production and profitability,” said Miss Canning.  

Angus Australia CEO Peter Parnell, spoke on the role of Angus Australia in the early development of branded beef and how that role has transformed into breed verification services for Angus branded beef.  

“We had further discussion amongst the whole group about the role of breed branded beef and breed societies in supply chain management,” Mr Thomson said.   

“Branded beef was an area that I had not previously had any experience or knowledge in, so I found this afternoon of discussion particularly beneficial.” 

These conversations led to a group discussion on how to create generational change in the registered cattle industry to create more opportunity for young breeders. Each group presented ways to encourage more young people to get involved with breeding, breed and show societies and how to give them opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills for the future. 

Lastly the groups were given hypothetical scenarios of commercial or seedstock beef enterprises and in those groups put together a strategic plan for that scenario using everything that they had learnt from the session over the previous two days.  

The final day of proceedings saw Cameron Crowley from Moin & Associates, Armidale present information regarding the legal requirements of board members in breed societies.  

Mr Thomson believes that the workshop provided a great experience for him that he can go on to apply within his own beef enterprise. 

“I was able to develop my own knowledge that I can now take back home to the family stud. In particular the growing influence of genomics and how it will be applied to modern breeding,” Mr Thomson. 

“Also, the importance in focussing on outcomes and using them to make informed decisions.  I made connections with people that I would not have otherwise met and I gained a greater perspective of opportunities, challenges and developments of other breeds and in different areas of Australia.” 

Miss George believed that not only was the content covered of benefit to her, but the networking opportunities brought by the event that offered further development within the industry.  

“The 2019 ARCBA Young Breed Leaders Workshop was a valuable three days that allowed me to further both my knowledge and networks in the beef industry,” said Miss George. 

“I really enjoyed collaborating with other young breeders from different breeds on topics that affect the broader industry.”  

Miss Canning said the following regarding her experience at the workshop. 

“I departed the workshop feeling open minded and inspired about the future of our beef industry, and I enjoyed the time getting to meet and share ideas with other individuals, and other fellow Angus Youth scholars.” 

“The contacts and knowledge that I have gained from the workshop will be incredibly beneficial and applicable for my future within the Australian beef industry.”