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Bathurst’s Scots All Saints College won Champion Steer and School Steer in the COVID-19 2020 Virtual Online Show.

While the cancellation of agricultural shows across the country has left thousands of cattle exhibitors disappointed, online competitions are filling the void.

When this month’s Sydney Royal Easter Show was abandoned Matt and Shannon Sowden, cattle breeders from Kingaroy in Queensland, decided to stage the COVID-19 2020 Virtual Online Show.

“There’s a lot of money, time and effort goes into preparing cattle, so we thought ‘let’s give these people an opportunity to show what they’ve got’,” Mr Sowden said.

Key points:

  • Cattle breeders have staged the COVID-19 2020 Virtual Online Show
  • The online competition gave breeders the opportunity to showcase their breed despite the cancellation of agricultural shows due to COVID-19
  • Judges made their decision based off photos of each animal

When this month’s Sydney Royal Easter Show was abandoned Matt and Shannon Sowden, cattle breeders from Kingaroy in Queensland, decided to stage the COVID-19 2020 Virtual Online Show.

The online competition, run on the Sowden’s Five Star Creative Promotions Facebook page, attracted more than 500 entries in the steer and stud categories.

“It was ridiculous, we thought if we get 200 to 250 that we’d be happy with that and the response that we’ve got has been unbelievable really,” Mr Sowden said.

The judges for each category, featuring international judges from Canada and the United States, were given one photo of each animal to make their assessment before deciding on the winners.

“It’s like something out of a book really, you can sit there and assess the angles on the animal, the looseness of skin,” Mr Sowden said.

“Obviously you don’t see that mobility side of it and how they carry themselves when they walk, but you can pick any good animal of a photo if you’ve got an eye for cattle really.”

Charolais breeder takes out the double win

The Tookawhile Charolais Stud at Rukenvale, on the New South Wales Far North Coast, heads into the Champion of Champions judging with two contenders after winning the Charolais Champion Bull and Champion Female.

The Nicholls family had been preparing Piccadilly Punch and Pitch Perfect, as well as a steer that placed second in Open Steer, for the World Charolais Congress at the Ekka in August.

“It was really disappointing because we were really looking forward to showcasing our cattle to the rest of the world,” Nicole Nicholls said.

But the Charolais breeder and full-time dairy farmer said she felt honoured to be involved in the competition, and for her cattle to be acknowledged by the judges.

“They really liked the thickness and softness in our bull and the correctness in our cow,” Ms Nicholls said.

“She’s doing a really good job on her calf and she’s just really structurally sound.

“We have had them on feed getting them prepared; they definitely weren’t in show preparation because Ekka [was] still a fair way away but I presented them like I would on a show day really for the photographs.”

Strong start to young breeder’s career

Three years ago, at just 15 years old, Armidale’s Kareena Dawson started Tintara Murray Greys, and it was the first bull she bred that brought her home the gold in the COVID-19 2020 Virtual Online Show.

“I broke him in and started taking him to all the local shows, and he was meant to go to Sydney [Royal],” Ms Dawson said.

“I went there last year with another stud, but this year would have been my first year going for myself.”

In addition to the Champion Murray Grey Bull win, Ms Dawson also claimed Reserve Champion Murray Grey Female with a seven-month-old heifer she bred.

“There’s been a lot of positive feedback, a lot of Murray Grey stud breeders have congratulated me which is a pretty big thing since I’m only a new stud,” she said.

The Champion of Champions will be announced online on Saturday night by world-renowned cattle judge PJ Budler, live from his home at Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States.

From the hoof to the hooks

Glen Innes-based agents, Colin Say & Co, quickly got to work on organising a carcase competition after hearing about the Sydney Royal Easter Show’s cancellation.

“We appreciate the time and cost that the students and the professional steer jocks put in to these cattle for these shows,” livestock agent, Shad Bailey, said.

“Some of these cattle going towards Sydney would have been on feed for 150 to 200 days and we just couldn’t see them going without anything.

“It was quite difficult, obviously we had to firstly find somewhere for the cattle to be procured, which Woolworths at Tamworth came on board, and we got the export cattle down to Wingham [Beef Exports].

“Then we needed to then find some depots to be able to get the cattle through the Meat Standards Australia pathways to the works so speaking with a couple of saleyards in the south that we knew were MSA accredited and also in the north we had a couple of drop off points and we managed it from there.”

Head of Agriculture at Calrossy Anglican School in Tamworth, NSW, Bronwyn Nielson, said the information gained from the competition will be used in both the classroom and in the paddocks.

“It is really good for the students to analyse, as well as the breeders, and as well for us at the agricultural teachers, just to see what we’re doing well with what animals and what we need to improve for competitions ahead,” she said.

“A lot of the breeders involved really enjoy comparing their results; which animals did well and what animals could possibly have done better given different management or different breeding regimes.”

Ms Nielson said the students were proud of their animals after the initial disappointment, but understanding, of the Sydney Royal Easter Show being cancelled.

“Even though they didn’t get the opportunity to exhibit them themselves, the animals still were still able to perform well,” she said.

The Calrossy team won the Champion Trade Carcase and Champion Virtual Taste Test Trade Carcase categories with their Shorthorn x Angus steer.

Coonamble High School, in the NSW Central West, won the Grand Champion Carcase.