She may have competed Down Under but Brandon’s Melissa McRae now sits on top of the world.
The Angus cattle world, that is, after she and her team of "Canucks" brought home the world champion title from a prestigious international cattle forum in New Zealand.
The young cattle producer and businesswoman was one of 12 Canadian young people — forming three teams of four — chosen by the Canadian Angus Association to compete in the youth program at the 2013 PGG Wrightson World Angus Forum in New Zealand in the fall.
Along with teammates Jared Hunter from Didsbury, Alta. (team captain), Patrick Holland from Montague, Prince Edward Island and Michael Hargrave from Maxwell, Ont., McRae and the Canucks bested three teams from Australia, three from New Zealand, one from the United Kingdom plus the other two Canadian teams to take the title — plus $10,000 NZ in prize money.
"I am so honoured to have been selected to represent Canada on this prestigious trip and winning it is truly unbelievable," McRae said.
"I want to thank all the sponsors, organizers and volunteers for making this my best trip ever! Also to congratulate all the other competitors for welcoming us Canadians and for all for their hard work."
The reserve champion world title was also awarded to a Canadian team, Team BsquarED, while the third Canadian team, The Eh Team — which included Breanna Anderson from Swan River — brought home honours for champion Team Presentation.
The five-section contest was varied and rigorous, testing the young producers on everything from general knowledge, parading (presentation, showmanship and sportsmanship with an Angus animal), stock judging and animal preparation (clip an animal for show) to agri-sports (hands-on team challenge involving day-to-day tasks) and quick quizzes on Angus knowledge.
To make one of the Canadian teams, each applicant had to submit a resume and an essay that included why she or he would be a good representative for Canada and the Canadian Angus Association, goals to achieve at the forum and past involvement in the association.
"Although the applications were only (last) January, I feel that my application process for this prestigious event started years ago," McRae said. "Without the experiences and involvement with Angus cattle at a provincial and national level, I would have never been selected to represent our country."
While she wasn’t team captain, McRae was acknowledged by Canadian Angus Association officials to be the sparkplug who motivated her male counterparts to ramp up their competitive zeal.
"My drive and enthusiasm to compete and put Canada in the spotlight helped our team to stay positive and compete at the best that we could," she admits.
McRae credits all the members of her team for bringing "beneficial and diverse skills" to the table, and said the fact they came from all parts of the country gave them insight on very different types of farming techniques and knowledge.
"My strengths to the team was the knowledge of cattle and the industry as a whole; not only the showing and grooming but also the working side of the farm, from building fences and operating machinery," she said.
That’s because McRae is back on her family farm, Mar Mac Farms southwest of Brandon, after study and a career stint out west.
After graduating from Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School in 2007, she ventured to Alberta to study communication arts with a major in advertising and public relations at Lethbridge College.
"After graduation, I got a dream job working for a cattle marketing company out of Saskatoon," she said. "I spent almost two years there working for national Angus, Limousin, Hereford and Simmental breed magazines."
However, Mar Mac beckoned and trumped the dream job.
"Missing Manitoba, the farming lifestyle and my cattle, I moved back to the family farm to build up my own herd of Angus and Simmental cattle and start my own business. I am a part-time Angus producer and full-time cattle marketer."
She also started her own graphic design company, Prairie Pistol Designs, creating catalogues, advertisements, websites and other advertising materials.
"This was the start to my career goal and to expand my marketing abilities, I recently started working for Cattle In Motion, an online cattle broadcasting company out of Texas," she said.
"My career aspirations are to build these businesses along with my cattle herd to be able to be on the farm full time."
In the meantime, McRae so relished her New Zealand experience, she remained in the country for a period following the forum.
"I love New Zealand," she said. "it is a beautiful country, full of agriculture, beautiful scenery and the hospitable people."
The feeling, it would seem, is mutual. Rob Smith, CEO for the Canadian Angus Association, heaped praise on all members of the Canadian teams for representing the association so well.
"Countless individuals have told me how impressed they were by our capable, friendly, polite Canadian youth ambassadors," he said.
In summing up her experience, McRae has a little advice for everyone — young or old.
"If there is one thing that I can take from the trip, it is that you should never pass up an opportunity, because you will never know how incredible it really can be!"
» Brandon Sun
There were many parts to the competition that teams were judged on, with a possible 1,000 points to be won.
• Heifer preparation: "This was how well we worked together grooming and preparing the heifers for the show."
• Heifer judging and reasons: "This is where we judged a class and had to speak in front of the crowd to explain why we placed the heifers the way that we did."
• Handlers or showmanship (as we call it in Canada): " ... is where we paraded our heifers around the ring in front of a judge."
• Team presentations: "... where we were given a topic and we had to come up with a five-minute presentation and present to a panel of judges."
• Agri modules: "... was a set of four different challenges including machinery operation, agricultural knowledge, teamwork skills and livestock operating knowledge."
• Agrinightmare: "... was a best but worst event. We had to work as a team to complete course of a bunch of agriculturally related challenges, i.e: chop a log into firewood, identify safety procedures before operating a tractor, debone a beef carcass, set up a watering system and to end it off, light a campfire."
• Quiz bowl: "... a quick buzzer round of questions on Angus cattle, agriculture and general knowledge."