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How Droughtmaster’s ‘Next Gen’ are building the breed of the future

31 Oct 2023

The new executive committee members of Droughtmaster Australia’s youth development program ‘Next Gen’ are wasting no time honing their networking and leadership skills as activity bends towards maximising the opportunities of Beef 24 in Rockhampton next year.

At the time of writing, committee president Lauren Finger, treasurer Mikaela Gauci and secretary Sarah Holloway were preparing to give those skills an early warm-up in Brisbane for the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders’ Association Young Beef Leaders Workshop.

“It’s an opportunity to further engage with the industry and other like-minded young people who want to develop their skills and see the industry prosper in the future,” explained Mikaela ahead of the event.

“We’re ensuring we seize every opportunity we can to learn and develop so we can continue to share this information with young Droughtmaster members.”

While admitting the Covid years were tough, limiting the opportunities for social interaction, which made it especially hard on young people, Mikaela is thankful the pandemic and its associated public health measures allowed in some respects for the development of their popular webinars, which continue to this day.

“Droughtmaster has a strong membership all over the country, so to get people connecting and learning over video makes a lot of sense,” she said.

Plans are afoot to host another series of webinars in 2024, with consideration also being given to hosting an in-person event.

Established in 2018, Next Gen continues to provide a steady workload for its executive team, who in the case of Mikaela and Sarah sustain careers outside agriculture while developing their fledgling Droughtmaster studs.

The executive team has recently completed assessing applications for the Young Beef Producers Forum held in Roma on November 16 and 17.

Each year, Next Gen supports a handful of young Droughtmaster members to attend the enormously popular event with financial assistance for travel and accommodation from funds raised during the year.

“It’s possibly our biggest undertaking outside Beef,” Sarah said.

“Each year we see the engagement with what we do continue to grow because of the support we provide to our young members who really want to make YBPF.

“It is a clear sign of the active support we provide to enhance the skills of our members and we’re delighted to be able to send three young Droughtmaster members to this year’s event.”

According to Droughtmaster Australia CEO Simon Gleeson, the capacity to develop cattle handling skills among young people is naturally strengthened by the very nature of the breed, which makes them a popular choice across diverse geography and markets throughout Australia and increasingly overseas.

“Droughtmaster cattle are used in many school agricultural curriculums across the country due to their quiet temperament,” Simon said.

“School show teams can learn the practicalities of animal husbandry while also presenting Droughtmaster cattle at agricultural shows.

“We are fortunate that we have a society where members have kindly donated cattle to schools over the years for these purposes.”

Droughtmaster’s forward-looking philosophy is perhaps best illustrated by its unique and, at the time of its inception, groundbreaking futurity that has been held in February since 1986.

Now well into its fourth decade, the futurity aims to provide a platform for Droughtmaster breeders to showcase their rising sires and matrons, and to finesse the skills of young people still learning the art of handling and preparing show cattle.

The three women now leading Next Gen are testament to the success of Droughtmaster Australia’s approach to youth development, aligning with its recent award-winning business strategy that has re-energised its membership and revitalised the brand among key beef industry stakeholders and the wider public.

The recipient of a Droughtmaster Foundation education bursary at the last Beef in 2021, Sarah, from Gatton in the Lockyer Valley, appreciates the value of financial support to develop in the business.

Her Carmine Droughtmaster stud has just completed its second year of operation, starting with a small number of heifers.

Mikaela is almost a veteran by comparison, starting her MG Droughtmaster stud in Sarina eight years ago when she was 15.

Both women and their president from Taroom, who established La-Shae Droughtmaster stud in 2013, are looking forward to spearheading new promotional campaigns to attract more young people to the breed when Beef 24 kicks off next May.

“Last Beef we launched a whole new merchandise range of shirts and hats and trucker caps, which we may do again but also go bigger with what we’re planning,” Sarah said.

“Exciting things are coming and we’re only just beginning.”