A resonating cheer went up when Darby McLaren was named the 2022 recipient of the Merridale Aspiring Breeder Award at the NH Foods Australia Angus Youth National Roundup in October. 

Attending his first Roundup after hearing about it from his mates, Darby was selected by award sponsor Peter Collins of Merridale Angus, having displayed the characteristics fitting of the recipient of the award over the course of the four-day event. 

First introduced in 2015, the Merridale Aspiring Breeder Award was established by the Collins family in recognition of an Angus Youth member who does not already have an Angus stud or the financial backing to start their own immediately but has a strong desire to breed their own Angus cattle. The recipient receives a registered Angus heifer kindly donated by the Collins family. 

When asked on what prompted the establishment of this opportunity for a young industry member, Mr Collins said, “When our children were going through the Roundup program, we found that there were a lot of children who were looking for ballot heifers, for example we supplied 15 at Bendigo one year. 

“I felt there was a really good opportunity that if Merridale could provide a young person a chance to own a heifer it could be the making of someone going into agriculture or becoming a farmer.” 

Mr Collins highlights that when looking for their recipient each year, he seeks someone who actively shows their potential but may not have been afforded the same opportunities as many others around them.  

“It’s for an aspiring breeder, but it’s probably not for those kids who’ve got all the opportunity in the world, whose dad has 500 cows,” said Mr Collins. 

“It’s more or less for the young person who has two or three cows at home, or their grandparents had cows, or they may not have the ability to buy an animal for themselves.  If we can give them that one leg up, then maybe we can help them have a stud of their own and to inspire them to become Angus breeders. 

“We are looking for someone who is really passionate about Angus cattle, someone who is a good person – they don’t have to have the best boots or the best clothes – but someone that might just need that leg up.” 

When it came to the selection of Darby as recipient of this year’s award, Mr Collins saw not only his potential, but his enthusiasm throughout the event to help others around him. 

“His manner, his politeness, he was willing to help the little ones and the big ones, to meet all Angus Australia officials and was always involved.  We had some really good contestants, but he really stood out because he had all those really great qualities,” said Mr Collins. 

Darby was forthcoming in how chuffed he was with his selection for the award and recognised the importance of people like the Collins family in their support for the Angus Youth program.   

“It doesn’t feel real honestly, I’m a bit over the moon.  I’m very keen and pleased with this opportunity Peter has given me and I will be sure to pay it forward and help out more youth,” said Darby. 

“I’d love to help out some more of the younger kids as well that haven’t been as fortunate as I have, as this has really given me the opportunity to grow bigger and help the next youth generation.” 

He also already has big plans for his heifer in the future. 

“She’s going to be a show heifer. I am going to take her around to all the shows and show her off,” he said. 

“Then I will do an AI program. I wouldn’t mind flushing her as well to put a few in my own commercial cows to get a few more calves on the ground and set up my own stud.  It’s really going to help me set up my own stud and get me out there. 

“I am very, very grateful for people like Peter who go out and help the youth.  It doesn’t happen every day that you win a heifer, and it gives you a great opportunity to really succeed and push yourself.  It’s all giving back, and it all works around in a circle.”  

His presentation of the Merridale Aspiring Breeder Award capped off a successful Roundup for Darby, who also took home Intermediate Reserve Champion Parader, a top five finish in the Herdsperson Competition and shared Champion Team honours with his fellow team members.  

– Cheyne Twist, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer 

Feature Image: Merridale Winner – Darby McClaren is presented the Merridale Aspiring Breeder Award by Peter Collins, Merridale Angus at the NH Foods Australia Angus Youth National Roundup 

Images: Showcase by Branded Ag