Two B.C. families have been honoured for 50 consecutive years of membership in the Canadian Angus Association. Congratulations go out to the Hughes family of Tafika Angus and John Urquhart of Bramblebrook Ventures.
Wayne, Gillian and Bryce Hughes own and operate Tafika Angus. Wayne and Gillian, in partnership with their son Bryce and his wife Jody, play integral roles in the day-to-day operations of the farm. Located near Lumby, B.C., at the edge of the Monashee Mountains, Tafika Angus is home to approximately 250 purebred Black Angus females. The herd has been heavily influenced by an extensive A.I. program. The Hugheses will host the 18th annual Angus Advantage Bull Sale at the B.C. Livestock Co-op Yards in March.
John Urquhart bought his first 30 female Black Angus cattle from Alex Turner of Turner Meadows on Vancouver Island. In 1972, Red Angus were added. The last of the red cattle were sold in August leaving Urquhart with a small herd of Black Angus cows to look after. Urquhart was active in the B.C. Angus Association for 12 years as a director and also served as vice-president. He is the current president of the Fraser Valley Angus Club. He was a member of the RCMP for 23 years. Following his retirement from the force he was the coroner in Chilliwack for 14 years. Urquhart and his wife Betty, who died in 1995, were host to many Angus events throughout the Fraser valley. For many years a Chilliwack Fair did not happen without a brunch at the Urquharts. Today with his wife Barbara, Urquhart is still a great host.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Canadian Angus Association’s senior director of business development Brian Good, along with juniors Macy Liebreich of Merit Cattle Co. and Raina Syrnyk of Syrnyk Farms, about their experiences at the World Angus Forum in Scotland this past June.
One hundred Canadians joined breeders from 32 different countries at the forum, the largest delegation next to Australia. This was the first time in 45 years that Scotland has hosted the World Angus Forum. As part of the program delegates toured Angus herds in England, Scotland and Ireland, and cattle shows in all three countries. The biggest was the Royal Highland Show and it was a sight to see. It’s a massive show with agriculture taking centre stage. Agriculture is very important in the U.K. and agriculture shows attract much larger audiences from the general public than we see in Canada. Good, Liebreich and Syrnyk also liked the popular Royal Highland grand parade where all the cattle and sheep breeds are marched out in front of the spectators. They especially liked being able to see some of the smaller rarer breeds that didn’t have a breed show but still wanted the exposure.
The Royal Highland show was an eye opener to both Liebreich and Syrnyk who saw lots of saddle soap still being used to fit cattle for the show. There were a number of differences in terms of the products and clipping styles used in Canada.
Both Liebreich and Syrnyk were part of the Canadian junior contingent that competed at the Royal Highland show. Three junior teams of four represented Canada. They stayed in dorms where they got to know the juniors from the other countries and learn about how they did things in their operations. All the juniors brought some new ideas home with them and a new appreciation about keeping an open mind to new ideas and different ways of looking after cattle.
Even though they were all on different teams, friendships were formed within the Canadian team and with all the other juniors. Of course, there was some rivalry and lots of lively discussion, especially between the U.K. and New Zealand teams. One hot topic focused on ways to get more youth programs established. There is no junior program in the U.K., partly because of the distance between Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England while Australia and New Zealand associations are turning to junior programs to get more youth involved in agriculture. The Portugal contingent reached out to Liebreich and Canadian Angus delegates for ideas of how to establish their own junior program using the Canadian program as a benchmark. All three agreed that what sets all Canadian junior programs apart is the amount that our livestock industry invests in its youth, and the value they place on their contribution to the breed.
All the Canadian Angus team took part in the Agri Olympics at the Borders Fair Grounds. They started by manoeuvring JCB equipment around a course, driving a quad around an obstacle course while towing a trailer, and backing it up. Then they had to build a stone wall, catch heifers and put them in front of their respective pedigrees, identify flags from representative countries and put a name to old veterinary equipment Building a stone fence was a bit of an ice breaker for the juniors. Their instructor had been doing it his whole life. Everybody discovered a new-found respect for the people who built all the stone walls they saw in the U.K. At the previous World Angus Forum in New Zealand four years ago they learned how to put up a New Zealand wire fence. That experience wasn’t much help this time around.
They went to 34 herds on their tour, often seeing two to three a day. Willie Robertson of Nightingale Farm in England had bought cattle from Brian Good’s dad in 1974 and still had descendants from those cattle in the herd. One farm they stopped at had clipped every animal in their 200-head herd. Part of the tour included a couple of auction marts and what was noticeable was how clean they were. Because of health regulations the auction marts were made of steel and concrete. They would sell 5,000 sheep one day, take a day to wash down and then roll over into 3,400 beef the next day. Between species and every day, the whole facility is washed down ready for the next sale.
Scottish cattle tend to be larger than Canadian cattle but it looks like the cattle are changing in the U.K. to get away from the bigger sizes and trying to compete with the continental breeds.
One day they had to judge live steers and guess their weight. The next day they went to the ScotBeef plant and saw how the cattle were graded. The U.K. uses a 1-5 scale on fat and E.U.R.O.P. on conformation and muscle shape. For instance, a traditional Limousin steer would be an E for muscle shape and as you progressed through the letters the muscle becomes less pronounced. Carcasses weren’t cut at the 12th and 13th rib to judge the ribeye.
Marbling was not a factor as they market beef differently in the form of stew meat and other smaller cuts. After they were shown the proper technique, juniors tried their hand at cutting up different cuts of meat and wrapping them. As they start to put a grading system in place and move away from straight pounds and what they are using now, Good expects the U.K. will look to Canada for it expertise and genetics. Optimistically, that may happen within three to five years.
One takeaway message for Good was how much international cattlemen depend on shows such as Canadian Western Agribition, the Toronto Royal and Farmfair International to see and acquire the latest in Canadian beef genetics. We need more, not fewer, shows in Canada to promote our genetic advantage to the world.
Macy Liebreich and Raina Syrnyk, speaking on behalf of all the juniors involved in World Angus Forum 2017, agree it was the trip of a lifetime and both said it would not have been possible without the support of the Angus foundation’s board and the efforts of Belinda Wagner, Canadian Junior Angus Association co-ordinator and Canadian Angus Foundation executive director. Liebreich is currently enrolled in the commerce program at the University of British Columbia and Syrnyk is taking finance and accounting at the University of Manitoba. Both plan to keep building their herds and pass on the opportunity to pay it forward for upcoming youth. The words of Macy Liebreich say it all, “I expected wonderful and got so much better, more than you can ever imagine! ”
The next World Angus Forum is in Sydney, Australia, in 2021.