Fiona McWilliam gives credit to Angus Youth for positively influencing her development in the beef cattle industry. We caught up with her to see where she is now!
“The opportunities I was given allowed me to gain self-confidence and develop my skills and knowledge not only within the industry, but it also helped me grow in all aspects of my life.”
What is your earliest memory participating in Angus Youth activities?
My dad took up the manager’s position at Tibooburra Angus in 1988, I was 11 and from there I began my involvement with the Angus breed. Being in Victoria there were a few of us in the area and we formed the group J.A.G – Junior Angus Group. Corey Ireland and Marg Will were among the key juniors that helped formed the group. We were the beginning of what would become AYD – Angus Youth Development many years on. I followed Dad to all the country shows, Melbourne Royal and the Angus National at Wodonga, competing in the paraders and junior events. One of the earliest J.A.G activities was a road trip to several Vic studs including Beartooth International and Peechelba feedlots. We hired a mini bus and toured around with some key industry leaders meeting us along the way. I think I was approximately 14/15 years old.
What activity/event stands out to you the most (eg Roundup, leadership clinic, scholarships etc)?
Competing at Roundup, becoming an Angus Ambassador and winning the first scholarship to New Zealand (Trans-Tasman) at Roundup definitely stands out amongst the best events. Also having the opportunity to coordinate the Roundups was a highlight. But winning the Victoria judging school and representing Victoria at the National Judging finals at the National Show and Sale in Wodonga as the youngest competitor ever (15yrs) will also remain high in my memories.
In terms of opportunities that you received for being part of Angus Youth, how did your involvement positively influence your development in the beef cattle industry?
The opportunities I was given allowed me to gain self-confidence and develop my skills and knowledge not only within the industry, but it also helped me grow in all aspects of my life. The opportunity to travel and meet cattle people in New Zealand led me to further travel around the world meeting cattle people, showing cattle and see how different countries utilise their environments to produce the same thing – great beef. However, I think having the opportunities to compete and then coordinate the Roundups and be part of the original foundations of forming AYD gave me the skills to further develop my career coordinating other agricultural events such as working for the RAS.
What were the key learnings you developed as a member of Angus Youth, through the program and then the additional scholarship experiences that you had?
Having the confidence to meet and get to know new people from all backgrounds and ages and being able to learn the skills to speak confidently in public. Gaining knowledge and continually learning about all aspects of the cattle industry, not just the Angus breed.
How are you involved in the beef cattle industry now/where are you now?
I am now based just outside of Camden (Sth West of Sydney) and have a Hereford stud with my partner Nathan Stevens and 6yr old son Kody Stevens. I have coached the Cattle Team at Pymble Ladies College for the past 4 years, showing Angus steers at Sydney Royal and the Upper Hunter Beef Bonanza. I love teaching the girls (mainly city girls) all aspects of the preparation of feeding and showing the steers with great success for the steers and girls. Some girls have now gone on to compete at Roundup and in the Angus Youth events at Sydney this year. I continue to work and show cattle; for ourselves and also for others. I took a team of five Angus to the Sydney feature show this year.
I have always had some involvement with beef cattle regardless of where I am or have been, including showing cattle in England & Scotland while working and travelling across the UK for 4 years. I’m part of several committees coordinating youth shows and regional breed groups and in running our local show. I have judged at several junior shows and love being involved in these events.
Why would you encourage others to become involved in the Angus Youth Program?
Without any doubt the friendships alone make being involved in any youth program worthwhile. 30 years on I still have strong friendships developed way back in the J.A.G years. Sharing a common interest with a group of people of varying ages and backgrounds will set anyone up with good groundings to become a great leader in any field.
The Angus Youth program will teach you about yourself and others in an industry that is always evolving and growing itself. The opportunities given by the Angus Youth Program are second to none. Having received the trip to New Zealand as well as becoming a youth ambassador gave me confidence within myself to pursue a life in an industry that I was not just born into but wanted to be part of.