The Australian coaches and students (L-R) head coach Tim Ryan; students Emily Webb Ware, Jake Bourlet, Harriet Moss, Bridie Luers and Lachlan Woods; with other team coaches Nick van den Berg and Sarah Stewart.

Aussie ICMJ team goes back-to-back in Denver

The Australian ICMJ team has taken out the National Western Stock Show meat judging competition in Denver, Colorado, bringing home the champion team trophy for the first time in 17 years.

The Australian national meat judging team has backed up its triumphant campaign and taken out the National Western Stock Show competition in Denver, Colorado – for the first time in 17 years.

Head coach, Tim Ryan, said to beat the locals at their own game is an impressive accomplishment and one rarely before achieved by the Australian team. 

“This group of young and enthusiastic students trained extremely hard over the past two weeks and they should be proud of their achievements,” Mr Ryan said. 

Along with top honours, the team will return home with trophies for highest team in placings, questions, pork judging and – well timed for Australia day – lamb judging.

Australian team member and overall individual champion, Bridie Luers, said she is really grateful for the opportunity to represent Australia and the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association in such a prestigious competition.

“It has been really interesting learning the ins-and-outs of the American grading system and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know like-minded students over here in the US,” Ms Luers said. 

“I am a bit shell shocked about the win at the minute and didn’t expect it to happen but I am very excited about the team win, it was a team effort all round with everyone placing well.” 

The National Western Stock Show culminates the training and competitive component of a month long US industry tour. A total of six teams took part in this competition with a team from Honduras, teams from the US and the Australian team all battling it out for the title. 

Overall high individual winner Bridie Luers with a range of her awards.

Australia had previously taken out the overall champion team in 2001, but no Australian has ever won high place individual. 

Ms Luers said she became interested in the meat judging competition to gain industry relevant experience and exposure that will further allow her to be a reliable, competent and experienced vet. 

“The competition has given me a lot of industry exposure and understanding of the supply chain from start to finish that I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise in my degree and this will be a great advantage when I graduate university,” she said. 

Team coach Sarah Stewart said Australia has a good relationship with all the other universities, especially Texas Tech and Texas A and M. 

“It was great when they announced the high team overall we all got a standing ovation which is pretty special,” Ms Stewart said. 

“The other teams are all awesome and helpful. It is a great atmosphere and great collegiate environment.”

The biggest challenge for the Australian team was learning the US grading system, a component that is worth a lot of points in the competition, in a short two week period. 

“The fact the team was able to learn a whole new grading system in two weeks is incredible,” Ms Luers said. 

Reaching the half way mark the team will now focus on visiting a broad cross section of the US meat industry, including seed stock producers, ranchers, lot feeders, universities, processors and retailers.

Mr Ryan, head coach of the Australian team, said the main aim of the trip is to get the students across what the US meat industry involves.

“They are here for competition but the main value is looking at what students can get from an educational and personal development perspective,” Mr Ryan said. 

Charles Sturt University student and Australian team member Lachlan Woods, Bylong, said on their tour around College Station, Texas, they visited Kallion Farms, a Brahman Stud recognised for their cattle docility and quality carcase traits.

“After working on large cattle stations in the Northern Territory, I believe the breeding objectives of Kallion Farms would benefit Northern cattle producers, resulting in a superior quality product,” Mr Woods said.

Also from Charles Sturt University, Jake Bourlet, Temora, said the highlight of the trip so far for him was visiting the 44 Farms Angus ranch.

“Their facilities were world class and after learning of their young history, the sheer scale of the operation was mind blowing. I look forward to the remainder of the trip and furthering my knowledge of the American red meat industry,” Mr Bourlet said. 

The US tour is coordinated by the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association (ICMJ) which has been developing young leaders in industry since 1990.

Each year ICMJ runs a national meat judging competition and conference, in which 130 students from universities across Australia and its key export markets attend. ICMJ also coordinates a range of high school competitions and a development program from which it selects the Australian team.

ICMJ is principally funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Meat Processing Corporation, along with industry contributions from a range of Australian companies.

ICMJ president Pete McGilchrist said the program each year injects young and enthusiastic students into the Australian meat industry. 

“I am excited to see where this intelligent and passionate group end up in our industry,” Mr McGilchrist said. 

The Australian meat judging team will travel across Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas over the next two weeks, visiting a range of companies in the US red meat industry.

Individual awards from the National Western Stock Show are as follows:

The Australian ICMJ program runs every year, fostering and developing the future leaders in the beef industry. The next program will be held in Wagga Wagga throughout the first week of July. 

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