The isolated Canadian village of Miami couldn’t be more different to its flashy United States namesake.
Situated in the province of Manitoba, it’s where New Zealander Lucy Collin spent two months working for a beef cattle stud.
“I didn’t see a single blade of grass the entire time I was there. The ground was always covered by a foot of snow,” said Lucy. Manitoba’s weather isn’t for the faint-hearted. The mercury sank to minus 25 degrees and did not climb above minus 10 during Lucy’s stay.
“It was freezing. I took my thickest, warmest clothes, but the icy Canadian winter is next level,” she laughed.
Lucy’s from a sheep and beef farm in Waipukurau in central Hawke’s Bay. Her parents breed Charolais cattle and have 110 purebred animals. It’s the 21-year-old’s love of Charolais and genetics, and a well-timed travel prize, which led her to Canada.
Lucy achieved a long-held goal of being named the 2018 Allflex Senior Beef Ambassador at the Future Beef event in Feilding. The coveted award came with a cash prize. She used the money, along with a scholarship from Charolais Breeders New Zealand, to travel to Canada for the first time last July.
“I competed at a major Charolais event and scored the top international points, which was extremely exciting,” she said. “We had to tackle a range of modules, including livestock judging and handling.”
During the two-week trip, Lucy was invited to work at Steppler Farms in Miami, which is Canada’s second-largest Charolais breeder. “I went back over after my exams in November. My job was to help prepare animals for the biggest cattle show in western Canada and for the stud’s annual female sale,” she said.
The top animal, a two-year-old heifer, sold for NZ$23,000 at the sale.
Steppler Farms has more than 900 registered Charolais cattle. The hardy animals live outside year-round. “The cattle are fed a mix of hay, straw, grass silage, maize and barley. The grain is grown on a nearby family farm and stored in massive silos. I’d never seen silos that big until going to Canada,” she said.
“One of my jobs was to take straw bales and spread them under the trees so the animals had a warm place to sleep.”
“During calving, cows have to be checked hourly because the ears of calves born outside can freeze off if they’re not brought inside,” she said.
Charolais are one of the most popular breeds of cattle in Canada.
The breed even operates a Canadian Charolais Youth Association (CCYA). Its objective is to strengthen the involvement of youth in breeding and connect enthusiasts from across Canada.
“The Charolais industry is a lot bigger in Canada. Every province has its own youth committee. There are lots of young people interested in the breed,” she said.
“I made friends with heaps of CCYA members. A number of them want to visit New Zealand, which is awesome.”
“Being named the 2018 Allflex Senior Beef Ambassador has opened up so many doors for me. To be honest, I didn’t realise just how many it would open up,” she said.
Those international connections will prove to be very valuable. Lucy is in her fourth year studying a Bachelor of Security Studies majoring in biosecurity at Massey University in Palmerston North. She’s focusing on biosecurity because she recently bought her own Charolais cow on her 21st birthday.
“I want to breed my own stud cattle. It’s important to have good genetics. I want to use my biosecurity skills and qualifications to import and export semen,” she said.
Lucy’s passion for the primary industries was sparked at a young age.
She was a weekday boarder at Iona College in Havelock North and, along with Kate Ward, helped establish the school’s first TeenAg club in 2013.
“I chaired the club from Years 11-13. We went on a couple of farm tours and arranged to have interesting guest speakers come and talk to us. It was a great club,” she said.
Lucy and her teammate Megan Hassle even made it through to the TeenAg Grand Final.
She encourages other students to get involved in TeenAg and the Future Beef event, which both provide endless opportunities.
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