/ 11 min read

Coachella, but for cows

Coachella, but for cows
Beef 2024. Image courtesy of Beef Australia, with a Beyonce cameo care of Hattie Hickson and her nascent photoshopping skills.
Anna Rogan
Anna Rogan Tallarook, Victoria
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Welcome to Galah Weekly, our newsy newsletter keeping you up to date with regional headlines that matter, plus all the goss from Beef Week, Rockhampton. By Anna Rogan, who is here for the beefiest newsy ever.

Regional news round-up

This week it's the round-up as usual until half-way into the newsletter, when things get beefy.

Drought resilience and downpours

A record $519.1 million investment in drought resilience initiatives to support farmers, producers and regional communities was announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Beef Australia in Rockhampton this week. The investment will provide continuous funding for the second phase of the Future Drought Fund (full story).

In other good drought news, outback stations in the Nullarbor are seeing a return of livestock and green pastures as record rainfall in the region breaks a six-year drought (full story).

Please hold

Telstra has delayed the shutdown of its 3G network until the end of August in response to concerns that 200,000 Australians, many based in regional areas, might be unable to make emergency calls. Telstra customers affected by the shutdown will now hear a short voice message when they make outgoing calls reminding them to upgrade their devices (full story).

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‘We don’t have time’

Family and domestic violence services in regional NSW have called for more investment in emergency housing as shelters house women in tents and cars to cope with demand (full story). A lack of case workers also continues to pose challenges, as reporting this week revealed that only 30 of 500 new domestic-violence workers pledged by the Federal Government in 2022 have been hired (full story).

Meanwhile, a raft of new funding promises to support victims and end gender-based violence was made this week under continuing public pressure. The Prime Minister announced a $1 billion federal package (full story); Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas announced $21 million as part of the state’s latest budget (full story); and NSW Premier Chris Minns pledged $230 million. In his announcement, Minns ruled out the possibility of a royal commission, saying: “We don’t have any time, the money’s got to get into the sector straight away” (full story).

In case you missed it, for the month of May, Galah is donating $1 for every new newsletter subscriber and $5 for every new magazine subscriber to the national sexual, domestic and family violence response and recovery service Full Stop Australia. Help us direct funds to where they’re needed by sharing this newsletter with friends and subscribing to Galah magazine.

It’s not too late for a gift Mum’ll love

In case you’ve forgotten, Mother’s Day is today. But before you make a mad dash to the shops for a box of Cadbury roses and a bunch of flowers, can we suggest a Galah magazine gift subscription instead? Unlike grocery-shop carnations, it’ll last all year long and she’ll never suspect you left your gift-buying to the very last minute.

Things are about to get beefy

Brahman bull at the Rockhampton Agricultural Show, Qld, 1963. National Archives of Australia Beef Week.

Galah-on-the-ground, reporting in from Beef

Galah wanted to know why Rockhampton's Beef Week—think Coachella, but for cows—is such a big deal. So, in collaboration with Nutrien Ag Solutions and The Regional PR Co, we sent reporter Ella Smith to find out. After a week partying with cattlemen and some very stylish cowgirls, she reports in.

I thought I was relatively primed for Rocky Beef having grown up going to Casino Beef Week in the Northern Rivers of NSW. I was wrong. Horribly wrong. Rocky is an other-worldly beast, meaty enough to tip any scale. 

So big, in fact, it trumps the Grand Prix and the Australian Open for being the biggest temporary infrastructure installation in the entire country. It's easy to see why. About 100,000 Beef-goers from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the biggest beef symposium in the southern hemisphere every three years. 

I learned a few things during my time at Rocky. There's an official Australian Butcher Team that competes in the Meat Olympics; cattle tags on hats are a badge of honour; a slice of tomato on your steak burger is the closest you'll come to getting in your recommended 2-and-5 serves of fruit and veg; and breaking a two-month beef fast in preparation for the big event over a 10-course beef dinner was well worth it. 

Beef gets right of way in Rocky, with gates shutting to foot traffic to allow cattle to pass. When you order from any other takeaway joint, you're usually given a paper ticket or asked your name to claim your order. In Rocky, you're given a cattle tag with a number on it instead. 

Beef draws a media scrum like you wouldn't believe. TV crews fly in from all over the country, there is a dedicated channel called Beef TV that runs live during the event's duration (even broadcasting into the South American cattle country of Venezuela), and the Queensland Country Life runs a special Beef daily edition, thanks to the local printing press in town. 

Hotels, pubs and families' spare rooms book out decades in advance and "no vacancy" signs plaster motel windows lining the main drag, while giant bull statues take centre stage on the median strip. 

There's MEAT Street, which you'll smell before you arrive. The closest thing I came to anything not beef-related was meeting a bloke called Squid in the lawn bar. Even the wifi and flower arrangements are all things beef. And then there's the fashion. Cowhide suede flats, designer heels and Ganni cowboy slides replace your regular work boots, and women are already talking about outfits for the next Beef. 

But it's the people behind the industry who make it so special. Everyone I asked said the same. From a fifth-generation cattle producer to an Olympian, school kids to pollies, and long-serving volunteers to industry legends, they unanimously agree: there's nothing else quite like Beef. 

Beef Week 2024. Image courtesy of Beef Australia.

This week's newsletter is sponsored by Westfund

Not-for-profit private health fund Westfund has regional branches around Australia, including in Rockhampton, the home of Beef Week.

Faces of Beef

Brought to you by Nutrien Ag Solutions

Ella Smith wasn't just partying at Beef Week. She was also busy documenting the diverse people who travel to Rocky for the mega-event. Here's a taste of her Faces of Beef mini-interviews. For the full collection, head here.

Cattle legend

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

Sam Graham spent his childhood on a 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, along with an interest in cows, took him to 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, where Graham held 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 now, but Graham can't shake station life, he's even dubbed AACo's head office on Skyring Terrace, Brisbane, "Skyring Station". 

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 changemakers

Kate and Tick Everett turned Beef blue. The Katherine-based couple, who have worked in the cattle industry most of their lives, are fighting to change the culture of bullying. Together, they founded 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.

Stalls, businesses and regular Beef-goers all went blue on Friday for Do It For Dolly Day, to help make Dolly’s dream of a kinder and safer world for Australian kids and communities a reality. Nutrien Ag Solutions 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 big boss

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 as he leads the volunteer board that stages the biggest beef expo in the southern hemisphere every three years in Rocky.

When Camm joined the board in 2012, the budget was shy of $4 million—it’s now grown to a more than $22 million production.

Bryce has been in the cattle game all his life and calls the Darling Downs home. His favourite cut (and we're using this term loosely here) used to be mince—for its versatility, accessibility and affordability—but after catching a celebrity chef at one of this year’s cooking demos, he has a new found love of bone marrow.

World's best garnisher

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

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

He also holds the title of world's best garnisher—a crown he's looking to hold onto in the next World Butcher's Challenge held in Paris next year.

(A beefy) What's on

Fernando do Campo: Capricornian Minotaurs and Where to Find Them

Fernando do Campo explores the social history of beef and agriculture and the unique ties between humans and cattle in the Capricornian Minotaurs and Where to Find Them exhibition at the Rockhampton Museum of Art, Qld. The artist’s collection of photographs, prize ribbons, banners and artwork provides a unique perspective on the cultural phenomenon of Beef Week and is displayed until 23 June. Read more.

Ord Valley Muster

The Ord Valley Muster celebrates the local characters and flavours of WA’s Kununurra and East Kimberley region with a wonderfully diverse program of events and experiences, including a rodeo, black-tie dinner, comedy show and corroboree under the stars plus food, live music, station tours and art installations. On 17-25 May. Read more.

Australian Kelpie Muster 

If you’re keen to see what all the working dog fuss is about, the Australian Kelpie Muster in Casterton, Vic, presents a weekend of events, including the kelpie high jump, stockman’s challenge, street parade, trade stalls, kids’ activities, a poet’s breakfast and working dog auctions on 8-9 June. Read more.

Beef Week 2024. Image courtesy of Beef Australia.

Beef news round-up

It wouldn't be a Beef Week takeover without a round-up of beef news.

Sealed bags of cow's breath

A breath test that detects pregnancy in cows as early as 18 days and delivers results in just minutes was presented to judges at Beef Australia's Pitch in the Paddock this week. The breath testing device, Agscent, was developed by Dr Bronwyn Darlington on her farm in regional NSW using NASA-licensed technology. Dr Darlington said she contacted the US-based space agency "on a whim" to ask whether their air analysis technology could be used on cows. “NASA wrote back and said they could see the value,” she said. NASA then tested the concept using sealed bags of cow's breath delivered directly by Dr Darlington. Agscent could be available to producers by the end of the year, with the company seeking funding to take the device to the next stage (full story).

A good cut

Australia’s red meat industry has recorded a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, according to new data released by Meat and Livestock Australia (full story). Meanwhile, peak body Cattle Australia is calling for a review of the industry’s net zero by 2030 target, as some experts suggest a climate-neutral goal would be more realistic and appropriate (full story).

The price is right

A new monitor to help producers make informed decisions about buying and selling young cattle was launched by the National Livestock Reporting Services this week. The new National Young Cattle Indicator tracks data on young cattle (weaners, yearlings and vealers) sales across Australia and is reportedly the most significant industry monitor to be released in 20 years (full story).

Not quite steak and cabernet

Patrick of Coonawarra, a winery in SA’s Limestone Coast, is launching a new tasting menu that eschews the classic pairing of steak and cabernet, for edible insects such as ants, mealworms and crickets with complementary white and red wines. The menu, which is launching as part of the Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival, will be a permanent feature of the Patrick of Coonawarra cellar-door experience (full story).

For the love of dog

Working-dog trials and auctions in Australia have recently enjoyed a boost in popularity reflected in high sale prices and increased international interest (full story). While Beef Australia might be the Coachella of cows, working dogs share the spotlight, with the main arena showcasing feats of athleticism from Dave Graham’s Mutley Crew as well as a meet-and-greet with Lisa Millar, Zoe Miller and Buddy of the ABC’s Muster Dogs fame. 

What’s new(s)?

We’d love to hear about the news, events and people that should be making the headlines in the Galah Weekly newsy. Share what’s new(s) in your neck of the woods with us at newsie@galahpress.com