The Tocal Beef Cattle Assessment Course Wrap Up!

November 20, 2019 3:41 pm

The prestigious Tocal Beef Cattle Assessment Course is celebrating its 40th year in 2019, with the Angus Foundation supplying scholarships for five Angus Youth members to attend. 

Alkira Riley, Amber Clarke, Tom Loane, Skye Baxter and Myles Wellman were all selected by Angus Youth for the scholarships and took part in the course from September 30th – October 2nd 2019.

Read their wrap up reports from the event below:

Alkira Riley

Thanks to Angus Youth Australia for selecting me as a scholarship recipient for the 2019 Tocal Cattle Assessment Course. The course took place from the 30th September – 2nd October. This was not something I could have done otherwise. I really enjoyed the course and it was so refreshing and exciting to be surrounded by like minded people who loved talking about cattle as much as myself.

I learnt a lot from the course that I have taken on board and have already started implementing and using in my own practices. I found the first part of the course; which mainly focused around selecting cattle for different markets, highly relevant for my everyday work as a trainee livestock agent. I found that although I was on the right track with my skills, the course fine tuned these and now I feel I can confidently assess and select cattle for chosen markets, and I can understand why an animal is more or less preferable.

The second part of the course was aimed at selecting cattle for breeding and stud purposes. Which is an area I was very interested in, to improve my own Angus stud decisions. We were asked to look and describe the physical attributes of each animal in a group as well as their genetic merit and EBV data and then make an informed decision on the overall value of an animal and why it should be used in preference to others in different situations. It was very interesting to hear and see different ideas and preferences from a variety of different people. Although tricky at times to put thoughts into words, I really enjoyed the discussions that were had after we’d made our selections, as we all had to justify and describe our reasoning to the group for why we liked or didn’t like particular cattle or traits.

I found this quote ‘Breed cows for your country, select bulls for your market’ a very simple, yet an effective way of looking at a breeding operation. Farmers need to be producing cows which can cope and are best suited to the land and terrain they are on, and then the bulls you select need to complement the cows and produce offspring that can be turned off and be as profitable as possibly for the chosen market that’s being targeted.

Overall, I really enjoyed the course. It was much more intensive and thorough then I originally expected. I learnt so much in such a short period of time, the course was very hands on, and we were able to put all theory that was learnt into practise which helped consolidate it. As well as walking away with improved cattle assessing skills, I also met a large variety of like-minded people and it was fascinating to hear everyone else’s stories and reasons to why they are in the industry. Would highly recommend the course to anyone wanting to develop their cattle assessment skills and general cattle knowledge.

Thank you very much to Angus Australia for giving me this opportunity.

Amber Clarke

With the support of Angus Australia, I was very fortunate to attend the live assessment course held at Tocal. It was the best course I have attended. The educators were very well organised, experienced and knowledgeable as well as being very approachable.

By attending the course, I had hoped to gain a professional approach to assessing cattle for my own family commercial enterprise and professionally as an agriculture teacher’s assistant. At St Pauls College we offer keen students to be part of a cattle show team, where we prepare cattle for our local shows as well as larger programs such as Wingham beef week and the recent scone beef bonanza. Junior judging is a large part of these programs and the knowledge gained from this course has allowed me to improve the quality of education regarding this area of learning.

A summary of the main points I took away from this course include:

  • Understanding the different markets, including domestic and export
  • Understanding how structure, including frame, can determine potential markets
  • Determining muscle and fat ratios and areas to examine in order to determine yield
  • Selecting suitable bulls and females focusing on longevity and productivity
  • Terms to justify opinions
  • A confidence in myself to select cattle and justify

This course really has been a life changing experience for me. I judge cattle everyday but now I find myself judging them differently and on a more professional level. I am more confident in making choices to better suit our enterprise at home and at the school farm. It has also made me grow as a person through learning as well as through meeting new people with the same level of passion. I am excited to share what I have learnt from this course and eager to find more opportunities to learn. I cannot thank Angus Youth Australia enough for supporting my journey of learning through experience.

Tom Loane

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Tocal Beef Cattle Assessment Course, gaining an insight into the intricacies of live cattle judging and making prompt decisions when comparing beasts. These decisions were based on selecting the right traits in cattle depending on factors such as your target market, environment and breeder age.

I found the content to be very interesting and enjoyed the balance of practical and theory sessions, allowing you to go out and observe what was addressed in the classroom immediately. The course covered a variety of topics which ranged from structural conformation, EBV’s, culling breeders and selecting for appropriate markets. The coaches were very forthcoming in advice and suggestions, while also encouraging people to explain and back their decisions even if they didn’t agree!

The repetition of judging really allowed you to gain an understanding of what traits to select for or what not to select for. This may have included selecting early maturing steers for a domestic supermarket job or later maturing for a long-fed feedlot program. Learning how to correctly determine and identify fat and muscle traits was also very beneficial. By looking at key indicators on whether an animal is carrying more fat or muscle can allow a quick judgement to be made and can also be the difference in making a profit or not.

Not only was the content taught over the two days very thought-provoking, interacting with other participants provided a great insight into the different operations and industry segments that they are involved in.

Overall, the knowledge obtained, and networks made were invaluable for my career in the beef industry. My interest in selecting and assessing cattle has certainly grown and I would like to thank Angus Australia for providing such a great learning opportunity.

Skye Baxter

Being selected by Angus Youth Australia and winning a scholarship to the Tocal beef cattle assessment course was unreal. Over the three day stay, I learnt so much more than what I thought I would covering a wide range of topics including production for the different markets, using performance figure, identifying fat and muscle in cattle, female selection and bull selection, culling cattle etc. This was both in the classroom out in the paddocks.

It definitely gave me a new perspective on what to look for in cattle when looking for the right bull to put over heifers and cows when choosing a certain production market. I will defiantly be taking what I have learnt for the three days there and helping to teach the youth in the cattle industry as it was so helpful to myself and it would definitely be helpful to them.

Overall it was an amazing learning experience for my self. Not only did the lectures do an amazing job at teaching us but so did the owner of the cattle that were brought to do demonstrations with. I would defiantly recommend this to anyone in the beef cattle industry as it is a worthwhile three days where you learn so much and enjoy the company of everyone else as well. Thank you so much Angus youth for awarding me with the scholarship it was an amazing learning experience. I can not wait for the one next year.

Myles Wellman 

Over the course of the 3 days, I developed my understanding of how to assess the fat and muscle of kill cattle as well as knowing what the different markets are and what cattle are suited to each of these markets. We also went into breeder cattle which i knew more about, I learnt more about how to properly assess each of them but mainly how to compare them in groups. I really enjoyed how over the course of the two days when we were with the cattle, that we had to remember the individual characteristics and got asked questions about them.

The EBV talk was very interesting and I learnt more about how they measure EBVs and how they use this to compare the different bulls in each herd. Overall the course was a great learning experience where I gained an incredible amount of experience and knowledge over the course of the three days.