/ 11 min read

Faces of Beef

Faces of Beef
Brahman bull at the Rockhampton Agricultural Show, Qld, 1963. National Archives of Australia.
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Galah wanted to know what Rockhampton's Beef Week – the Coachella of Cows – was all about. So, in collaboration with Nutrien Ag Solutions and the Regional PR Co, we sent reporter Ella Smith to the week-long event to introduce us to the "Faces of Beef".

Words and photography by Ella Smith

MORE than 100,000 people from all over the world travel to the central Queensland town of Rockhampton in the heart of the Fitzroy Basin for the triennial week-long, internationally-recognised symposium that is Beef Week.

The event, set across a sprawling eight acre site, is the who's who of the beef industry, from billionaire cattle barons and multi-generational family producers, to scientists, school kids, chefs, pollies and all the colourful characters in between. No one misses it. 

Hotels and pub rooms book out decades in advance, people are forced to pitch tents at the local footy ground, and commercial flights are so tough to snag that it's not uncommon to roll in by private plane or a feral ute. You do whatever it takes to get there. 

Let me introduce you to some of the "Faces of Beef" from Rockhampton this year.

Cattle legend

"When they talk Hay and Hell and Booligal, well, Ivanhoe is well west of that."

Sam Graham spent time as a kid at his parents' sheep property in the tiny outback town of Ivanhoe in NSW, but "the little woolly fellas" were never his thing, and the lure of the north and interest in cattle took him to a Julia Creek cattle camp fresh out of school. 

The following year he joined the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo), Australia's largest integrated cattle and beef company, as a jackaroo at Brunette Downs. It would be the start of a huge 36-year stint at AACo, since holding various roles at Meteor Downs, Headingly Station, Dalgonally/ Clonagh Station, Wylarah Station and Anthony Lagoon Station. 

About ten years ago, while driving around checking cattle with industry legend Henry Burke, the Toyota fell silent. "He turns to me and says, 'Reckon you'd move to Brisbane?' and I said f*** off Henry, what would I want to do that for. I said I've done nothing but work in the bush!"

But Sam did move to Brisbane for a role that bridges the gap between corporate and stations. He might be based in the big smoke, but he can't shake station life. "I'm based at Skyring Station now," he says. AACo's head office is on Skyring Terrace in Brisbane. 

Sam is as passionate as they come, and loves seeing young people cut their teeth in the beef industry and the opportunities that follow for a highly-rewarding career path. You'd be hard-pressed to find a patch of cattle country across Queensland, Northern Territory or NSW that Sam hasn't worked on - so we'll listen when he tells us the best way to eat beef: "Strip loin steak, chargrilled over fire, and served with salsa verde and potatoes on the side."

The changemakers

Kate and Tick Everett turned Beef blue. The Katherine-based couple, who have worked across the cattle industry most of their lives, are fighting to change the culture of bullying, founding Dolly’s Dream in memory of their 14-year-old daughter who died by suicide.

They’re now focused on preventing other families from going through the same experience by addressing the impact of bullying, anxiety, depression and youth suicide, through education and direct support to young people and families.

Stalls, businesses and regular Beef-goers all went blue on Do It For Dolly Day on Friday, to help make Dolly’s own dream of a kinder and safer world for Australian kids and communities a reality. Among them was Nutrien Ag Solutions, who replaced their green uniforms and signs with a sea of blue. They've raised more than $70,000 (and counting) for the charity to fund a counsellor for six months to provide around-the-clock support for anybody who needs it. "It's saving lives, right there," Kate says. "This is what the industry does - stick together."

The organiser

Forget the Grand Prix and The Australian Open, Beef Week is officially the biggest installation of temporary infrastructure in the country.

It’s a title Beef Australia Chair Bryce Camm wears with pride, leading the volunteer board who stage the biggest beef expo in the southern hemisphere every three years in Rocky.

When he joined in 2012, the budget was shy of $4 million, and it’s since grown to now be a more than $22 million production.

Bryce has been in the cattle game all his life, now calls the Darling Downs home, loves nothing more than the people behind the industry, and since catching a celebrity chef at one of this year’s cooking demos, now loves bone marrow. A far cry from his former preferred beef form, the humble mince, for its versatility, accessibility and affordability.

A dry hat

Small by name, innovative by nature. Greg Small’s family has been producing cattle in the Middlemount region of Queensland since 1964, but we reckon he might be the first to come up with a novel solution to keeping your hat dry in a surprise downfall. “It’s just your regular plastic bag,” he says. The Brahman-cross producer, alongside his sons, brother and nephew known as “the bearded wonders”, has been coming to Rocky Beef since 2012 and loves the people behind the industry. His favourite way to eat beef? “Any way it comes, as long as you get meat, that’s it.” Here here.

Beef baby

Dulce Cragg has seen more beef than most at just seven-weeks-old. We think she could well be the youngest person to have ever attended Beef since its inception. 

It's a full-circle moment for her grandfather Bill, who came to the very first Rocky Beef in 1988 - and hasn't missed one since. This year was no exception, with three generations of the Cragge family making the 150-kilometre journey from the family property, Mourindilla in Dingo. Dulce was joined by older brother Jack, 3, sister Marcia, 2, parents Madaleine and William, and grandparents Bill and Maxine. Five generations of the Cragg family have called Mourindilla home for 95 years now, and there's no chance they're going anywhere soon. "In the hard times and the good times, it's in your blood," Bill says. 

The Brahman beauties

Think you know beef? Try laying claim to attending the very first Beef Week when it started all the way back in 1988. Margaretta Morgan hasn’t missed one since.

The Condamine-based Red Brahmans stalwart, who’s been in the cattle game all her life, has even been honoured with life membership of the Australian Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA). Her sister Elizabeth Fahey isn’t far behind.

The pair are all things glam, sporting hats acquired while on a Colombian Brahman congress and a swag of pins collected from all over the world. The royal sisters don’t mess around when it comes to how they like their beef: blue-rare, salt and pepper. Never overcook it.

A very big bull

Meet Ultra Star, a 1150kg bull – one of the heaviest at Beef Week – from Devon Court Herefords.

"We did not intend to sell semen in this bull but it was decided that the industry needs bulls like this to make a difference, not just within our herd but across the country," says Devon Court Herefords. "Both male and female calves made from the semen of this bull "are showing tremendous signs of greatness."

The best connected person at Beef

There’re overachievers - and then there’s Georgie Somerset. The Queensland grazier is president of Ag Force, representing some 6500 members. She's also Deputy Chair of The Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), Australian Broadcasting Corporation, National Farmers Federation, Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal and is Chair of the Red Earth Foundation.

Her first Beef Week was in 1994 where she rolled out a leadership program for women - and three kids later, she’s just as passionate about getting the next generation into agriculture. When Galah stops by, she’s chatting to some of the 4000 school kids who’ll go through the gates of Beef this year. And while they’re more steak-and-chips-with-plenty-of-sauce kids, Georgie can’t go past a good roast round the dinner table with her family.

A birkie-wearing cattleman

Could this be Australia's only birkie-wearing cattleman?

Lachy Smith is a grazier and stock and station agent in north west Queensland and he's developing an alternative career pathway for the beef industry. The enhanced graduate program is about collaborating with family farms and businesses to entice and retain the next generation, supported by Beef Australia's Graeme Acton Beef Connections mentoring program designed to grow future leaders in the Australian beef industry.

Lachy is carving his own path when it comes to footwear and best way to eat beef. "I'm a medium man, which people might say is wrong, but I go for it."

The researcher

Balanoposthitis. Bet you've not heard of it. But 26-year-old Liam Cameron can tell you a thing or two about it.

The South Australian works on a commercial Angus operation, and has previously spearheaded an Aussie-first trial while working at Te Mania Angus to try to prevent a virus known as Balanoposthitis for bulls with severe inflammation of the penile area in their first year of mating.

Liam is part of Beef Australia’s Graeme Acton Beef Connections program and will continue testing hypotheses relating to his research over the coming years.

He's been around beef all his life, riding in the truck with his dad as a kid checking out cattle all across the country, so he's well-placed to know the best way to eat beef: medium-rare steak with chips on the side.

World's best steak

Patrick Warmoll (left) grew up in pluggers changing irrigation pipes on his family's cotton farm.

These days, he's a boots-and-cattle-kinda man, but he's not just any regular beef producer. Patrick, of Jack's Creek, lays claim to the world's best steak.

The third-generation farming family processes and markets high-end, grain-fed Wagyu and Black Angus products and proudly exports to more than 30 destinations worldwide from their property at Willow Tree, NSW.

In 2023, Jack's Creek was awarded named World’s Best Steak, as well as World’s Best Grain Fed Steak, World’s Best Sirloin Steak and Oceania’s Best Steak. The business also won the same accolade in both 2015 and 2016.

When it comes to getting behind the tongs, he's learned a thing or two over the years. Having listened to Iron Chef Sakai's cooking demonstration using Jack's Creek beef at Rocky, Patrick's big takeaway doubles as a life lesson. "Cook slowly, and I think that's just an omen for everything in life," he says.

The feedlot queen

Meet Amanda Moohan. Born and bred in the cattle industry, the Condamine-based COO of Condabri Beef loves all things ag. And at the top of her list is the feedlot industry.

Amanda is passionate about nurturing the next gen, founding Women of Lot Feeding (WOLF), a network of women paving the way for sustainable careers in the Australian lot feeding industry. If you can't tell from that grin, she also loves a good time and fabulous fashion.

The Accidental Olympian

When Luke Leyson saw a “staff wanted” poster in the window of his local butcher at the age of 14, he did not imagine representing Australia in butchery down the track.

The Adelaide-based butcher worked his way up from a cleanup kid on the butcher’s floor to now captain the Australian Butcher Team, leading a team of six as they battle it out at the World Butcher's Challenge - more commonly known as the Meat Olympics - in Paris next year.

Stock and station agent

Meet Justin Rohde, the young gun whose life changed when he met Nutrien livestock manager Julian Laver at Beef back in 2018. 

Justin was fresh out of high school and wanting to pursue a career in agriculture, so Julian took him under his wing. Since then Justin has since worked as a Nutrien commercial livestock agent based in Emerald, travelling the countryside buying and selling cattle.

He was back at Beef this year talking all things ag, a dream job for the former Pallamallawa kid who loves nothing more than following cattle right through the supply chain, from paddock to plate where the only way to eat it, according to Justin, is "fresh". 

When Galah swoops in, Justin is checking out the Raglan Brahman team and runs into one of the many pollies floating around. He auctions off the nearby wheelbarrow - and with those auctioneering skills, we reckon he could sell just about anything. 

World's best garnisher

“We've come a long way since the curly parsley days."

Move aside beef, we want to talk toppings. And no better man to give us the rundown than Melbourne-based butcher Tom Bouchier, a six-time member of the Australian Butcher Team who's travelled the world representing the green and gold at the World Butcher's Challenge since he started as an apprentice.

He also holds the title as world's best garnisher - a crown he'll be contesting in Paris next year.

The volunteer army

Alice Kelly knows a thing or two about beef.

The Gracemeare resident once chased cows on horseback, was the proud owner of a prized one-tonne Brahman called Crocodile Graham, and starred in a book called "Bitten By The Bull Bug".

Now, the 78-year-old gets her fix by volunteering at the biggest beef expo in the southern hemisphere. It's the seventh time Alice has volunteered at Beef, and the first for her new friend, Yeppoon-based Yvonne Rogers, 73, who can't go past a good steak well-done or a wing rib roast. The pair are among an army of 211 volunteers at Beef Week this year, braving the elements of sweltering central Queensland heat and subtropical rains.

Yeast boys

“Most people think of yeast as bread or beer." 

Not a quote you'd think to hear at Beef, but Tamworth-based Toby Locke of Philio by Lesaffre explains the benefits of yeast to an animal's gut health. The French-headquartered company is the biggest yeast business in the world, building feed efficiencies in the ruminant diet to help deliver a better quality end product on your plate. 

Among its worldwide team is Hylton Buntting, who made the 15-hour flight from his hometown in South Africa to Rockhampton especially for Beef. The pair agree on most things: Aussie beef is the best in the world, Beef Week is the best ag event in the world, camping at the footy oval isn't as great, and their favourite way to eat beef. “You can't go past a tomahawk," Toby says. Hylton agrees with an emphatic "without a doubt".

Thanks to Nutrien Ag Solutions, one of Australia's biggest ag companies, for partnering with Galah and The Regional PR Co to cover Beef 2024.