Two young guns from regional Queensland have recently returned from a once in a lifetime trip to the US as a part of the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging (ICMJ) team, and their suitcases may be a little heavier thanks to the silverware that's coming home with them.
Lawton Elliot, Jackson, and Jasmine Wholton, Biarra, helped to make up the seven person team which claimed second place in the overall team competition at the National Western Meat Judging Contest in Colorado last month.
The competition was the culmination of a three week trip, where the students participated in a tour of various agricultural businesses across Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas.
Mr Elliot was a standout for the Aussie team, placing first in the overall individual contest and individual beef judging, second in the individual beef grading, lamb and pork judging, as well as receiving a high individual award for the beef section.
Along with fellow teammate Sam Turner, Mr Elliot had the opportunity to work at two ranches in South Texas for a month before the official tour kicked off, and completed his trip at a processing plant in Montanna, both being major highlights.
Mr Elliot said the trip allowed the team to better understand the positive position of the Australian beef industry on a global scale and the potential for growth within the export market.
"There's 91 or 92 million cattle over there and they slaughter the best part of 30 million cattle, and more than 90 per cent of their cattle are on feed or go through a feeding program," he said.
"It probably made me realise the advantages that the Australian system has on a global stage and how our product, being highly traceable, safe and high quality, how appealing that is to export markets and there's a lot of opportunity for growth in Australian exports to the US.
"It's a pretty exciting place to be at the moment for a young person coming in, and even though there's a lot of challenges with from various different aspects, there's also a lot of opportunities and a lot of promise here in the red meat industry."
After graduating with a Bachelor of Agribusiness from the University of Queensland and working on his family's Angus cattle operation, the 21-year-old will soon be relocating to Central Queensland in a graduate program role with Signature Beef.
"I'm not too sure which direction I'll take yet, but I'll definitely be in red meat industry, to some degree, for the rest of my life, that's for sure," he said.
A third-year vet student at Charles Sturt University, Ms Wholton said the trip allowed her to gain a greater insight into various sectors of the cattle industry, furthering her desire to work in feedlotting and production consultancy.
"It was absolutely unreal and it was eye opening, that is for sure," she said.
"It was definitely one of the best opportunities and experiences I've received to date, being able to trip around the states in such a dominant grain fed industry alongside young enthusiastic people, it was just absolutely amazing.
"We were able to go to 28 businesses within three weeks so it was very full on but we really got a proper insight into the whole supply chain in America, because obviously there's things that we could do here that America have implemented.
"There was also things that we could pat ourselves on the back to say, look, we're ahead of the game in this area, because obviously there is a lot of competition in the beef industry within Australia, but there's also competition with the rest of the world trying to produce the best beef, so that was really good to see."
Amongst the many takeaways from the tour, Ms Wholton said the group were able to see the importance of effective communication between the different sectors of the industry, something which they could utilise in their various roles back in Australia.
"There's a lot of division during conception to plate between producers, the feedlots, the abbatoirs and we got to see how, on a larger scale, that division creates a lot of issues," she said.
"There's a lot of miscommunication that's not benefiting the agricultural sector there and we're able to now take that back and have those conversations around what to steer clear of and how to not go down that pathway.
"So, definitely seeing where we can communicate in the beef industry better was a major highlight for me."
Ms Wholton also completed two months of work with a feedlot veterinary company in Canada prior to the tour, which she said was an invaluable experience and something a bit different to the work she currently does here in Australia, working with Whyalla Beef.