Where are they now? – John Sunderman

We caught up with former Angus Youth member John Sunderman to see what he is up to now, and how Angus Youth affected his development in the industry.

Make sure you check out the gallery of where are they now images featuring the former Angus Youth members featured in the bulletin series so far!

What is your earliest memory of/participating in Angus Youth activities?

When I first came home from school to work on the farm there was very little in the way of Angus Youth activities, the first one I came across was at Leongatha. They ran an Angus Feature Show and at the conclusion of the show they had a junior judging competition, which I happened to win, I was probably the only entry. However, this did get me interested in judging cattle but there really was no avenues to gain more knowledge, only what you learnt from talking to other breeders.

It was not that long after this that the Angus Society Board and the National Show and Sale Committee decided to offer a scholarship to the University of Illinois for the winner of the National Judging Competition. These forward looking members had wondered that as we continued to use overseas judges that could place cattle well, entertain the audience and explain their decisions to onlookers so that all could understand these decisions, why couldn’t we have Australian judges do the same. Each State was to run a field day and judging competition with the winner and runner-up to represent their state at the National Show and Sale. The Victorian day was held at Harry and Rob Williams Victoree Stud at Benalla. Graeme Collins and I were lucky enough to be selected to represent Victoria.

What activity/event stands out to you the most (eg Angus Classic and Herdsman Competition, scholarships etc)?

I think the first judging competition was probably a bit over whelming for everyone as no one had really been in any competitions like this before. We were taken out to the Scott family’s farm at Henty and given paper and pen to describe and place the pens of bulls, cows and heifers the Scott family had yarded for us. Don Currie, who was the judge at the National Show that year, also did the Judging Competition. He came around and talked to us all separately and you had to give him your opinion on the animals you were looking at. The next day at the conclusion of the national judging he had selected four contestants to judge four bulls in the ring at the Wodonga Showgrounds. I must have got some of the placings right because he chose me as the winner and I was off to Illinois. It was one of the great days I had with Angus cattle as we had exhibited the champion bull at the Show and Sale, and I had a lot of fond thoughts for Don Currie after that.

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 time at the University was fantastic as anyone who has done it will tell you, and when I came home there were endless opportunities to judge, talk at field days and meet with groups to try and impart some of what I had learned. Over the next few years I had judged at six Royal Shows, many local shows, Dalgety Beef Herd of the Year many times, and spoke at numerous field days. Winning of the scholarship gave me many opportunities to be involved in experiences that otherwise I would not have had a chance of doing.

What were the key learnings you developed through these experiences?

One of the main things I have learnt from going into these competitions is that the experience will help you right throughout your life. It will help you explain yourself so people can understand what you mean, it will give you confidence that you can undertake any activity and be successful, and above all it showed me not to be frightened to have a go and have confidence in your ability. It also instilled me with resilience as you can’t win all the time and you have to have the ability to take things as they come. In the last few years with the drought this has come in more than handy.

How are you involved in the beef cattle industry now/where are you now?

My brother and I still run the Pinora Angus Stud at Heyfield in Victoria, which the family have run for over 60 years. We also run a dairy farm and a Poll Dorset sheep stud, so we are occupied. I was lucky that my father was so involved with the Angus Society that it came naturally to me to want to be involved and help the breed. I steward in the Angus section at the Royal Melbourne Show and I am currently the Chair of the Victorian State Committee, which due to the dreaded virus has been an easy task.

Why would you encourage others to become involved in the Angus Youth Program?

I would encourage anyone to become involved in the Angus Youth Program, it is much better and improved from when I first started. The opportunities they provide can be life changing, a trip to America, a trip to New Zealand, meeting new people who will become lifelong friends or opening up new business opportunities. The reasons to become involved are endless, why would you not want to be part of it.

Feature Image: John Sunderman