PAVING his way within the agriculture industry, Damien Thomson of the Shacorrahdalu Angus stud was named the 2022 recipient of the Angus Australia TransTasman Travel Bursary earlier this year.
From a family farming operation near Yass, which was established in 2009 and consists of roughly 100 stud cows, the 25-year-old Mr Thomson currently works for AuctionsPlus as a senior analyst within the market insights team.
Previously he was with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) within the agriculture forecasting and policy team.
"Generally we have been running an autumn herd which has expanded - it used to be 50 cows, now we are at 80, and we have picked up another 20 in the spring from ET [embryo transfer] programs," he said.
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Mr Thomson was also one of the 2020 participants in the Angus Australia and Achmea Australia GenAngus Future Leaders Program, who joined the 2021 and 2022 cohorts for three days of intensive workshops in Adelaide, SA, earlier this month.
"Finally meeting everyone (after COVID-19 postponed the program) and having the first day to connect and get to know each other was the main thing (I enjoyed)," he said.
"I really enjoyed the dinner and hearing from (former Angus Australia president from 2016-2018) Libby Creek (OAM) and (Achmea Australia CEO) Emma Thomas.
"And I learnt a lot from a few sessions on mindset and DiSC profiling that I am looking forward to implementing."
Applying for the TransTasman exchange program was something Mr Thomson had always considered, especially after hearing about past recipients' experience and seeing photos.
"I always wanted to have a shot at it... I knew it would be amazing," he said.
"New Zealand is one of my favourite countries in the world for its natural landscapes. I've been there once before, but I am really keen to return and see another side of it.
Mr Thomson is not exactly certain on when he will travel however he is starting to plan his trip that will be at least four weeks long.
"I have a couple of studs earmarked to go including Te Mania, Grampians, Stern, Matauri and Dandaloo," he said.
"I would love to see as much as I can; attend markets, see how commercial farms run and differences in scales of production and system.
Mr Thomson says seeing the entire supply chain would be ideal.
Any opportunity to travel is amazing, but I really look forward to getting experience in the international Angus world, he said.
"I see a lot of potential for personal growth to understand their systems and genetics.
"I am interested in looking at Australia and New Zealand's place in international genetic markets - they are under performers on the international stage in terms of semen sales compared to America and Canada, and I want to explore that and see why and how it can be fixed.
"There is potential for growth, and it will be great to talk to people about it."
Mr Thomson along with his family recently held their first on-farm sale as an invitational Helmsman auction only open to existing clients.
Previously we were doing most of our sales privately, but we got to selling 30 bulls a year and it got a bit too much and became a bit on a first-in, best-dressed situation, so we opted to have it all in one day and give everyone an equal opportunity, he said.
"Our main goal is driving genetic improvement through objective mating and selection decisions, with the support of digital tools.
"We are continually developing that strategy and are working on EBV [estimated breeding value] accuracy constantly.
"The last two years we have entered bulls in the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program aiming to increase the accuracy and produce high-performance bulls."
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Mr Thomson has been involved in the Angus Youth program for the past four years, and first took up the opportunity to attend a Roundup event in 2019 while he was studying a Bachelor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of New England.
"I wasn't involved in it [Angus Youth] at a young age, but I remember in high school hearing about Roundup and not knowing what it was. Being at Yass they weren't all that close," he said.
"But then when I was at uni in Armidale and the Roundup was there in 2019 I was able to go.
"It was my first Angus Youth event, it was all brand knew and I didn't know many people. We had shown cattle locally at Yass and Bungendore though."
Mr Thomson has received a number of Angus Youth awards in recent years including the Bulliac Studmaster Award in 2019 and a 2021 Beef Australia scholarship supported by Angus Australia.
I received six embryos from Bulliac and ended up with one autumn-born bull and two heifers born in the spring, he said.
"Since we have sold the bull, but the heifers are continuing on in the program and have been AI [artificially inseminated].
Before the 2022 NH Foods Angus Youth National Roundup was postponed in January, Mr Thomson had been preparing one of the Bulliac embryo transfer heifers as well as a bull to show.
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