Rachael Cruwys threw down the challenge to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship assessment panel – who knew whether they’d eaten a Brahman-bred steak?
All 13 on the panel had to admit they couldn’t know for sure, cementing the Capella cattlewoman’s request for Churchill Fellowship backing so she could study US marketing and breeding techniques and strategies and apply them back in Australia.
While the ultimate aim is to change the perception of the meat being tougher than other breeds, she said the question of whether the breed should promote branded beef was an open-ended one that she hoped to return with an answer for.
Rachael was announced as one of 19 Queenslanders and one of only two from rural Queensland, Goondiwindi’s Lucy Walker being the other, as a recipient of a prestigious Churchill Fellowship in 2018, worth some $3.1 million collectively.
With the pedigree for the job – Rachael’s family has been breeding Brahman cattle since the 1950s, when they were introduced commercially to Queensland, and she and her husband have just started their own Geronimo Brahman stud – she’ll be leaving no stone unturned to increase the domestic marketability of Brahman cattle.
“Having had that long-term association with the breed, I can tell you that’s a perpetual belief among consumers, that because Brahmans do well on harder country, they’re less palatable,” she said.
“That can breed discrimination in feedlots and with processors so I’m trying to dispel the myth.
“The Texas Panhandle, Florida – they’re similar in climate so that’s why I wanted to go to America – to see how they’re doing their marketing.”
As well as travelling to Texas and Florida, she’ll be visiting the Oklahoma national stockyards, the largest in the US, to see how flatback cattle are compared to Brahmans there, what buyers are buying, and why.
The five-week knowledge-gathering exercise will begin next February at the Houston Livestock Show, where a lot of Brahman ranchers will be in the one spot.
“I’ll see how they make comparisons with Angus and hold their own,” Rachael said.
“I’m also going to the University of Texas where they have two herds and are comparing phenotypes, and to Cactus Feeders in Amarillo, one of the biggest in Texas, to see how they view everything.
“It’s a full-on itinerary.”
Acknowledging the Australian Brahman Progeny Test project, which is gathering performance data on different sires, Rachael said it would be interesting to explore US selection processes with this in mind.
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Her fellowship has been sponsored by the Samuel and Eileen Gluyas Churchill Fellowship, who Rachael said had been well known in the Hughenden region and who had bequeathed money to ideas that would benefit the northern pastoral industry.
“It’s a real honour and I hope I do them, the northern beef industry and the Churchill Fellowship proud,” she said.
“This is a terrific opportunity for Rachael to learn new skills and gain further knowledge to positively change perceptions about the capabilities of the Brahman breed to fulfil consumer demands,” said Adam Davey, CEO of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. “She is clearly passionate about her cause and we are excited to see how she will apply her new knowledge to improve the marketability of Brahman cattle here in Australia.”
Some 112 recipients have been announced nationwide.
Since its inception, the Churchill Trust has enabled more than 4300 Australians in identifying projects where overseas investigation will allow them to return home inspired with the practical knowledge and experience needed to advance their projects and embed new opportunities in Australia.