GenAngus Future Leaders Program

Name: Nancy Crawshaw

What is your background:

Growing up on my parents farm I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. I studied abroad for a semester at Colorado State University in my fourth year of my Lincoln Agricultural Science Degree. At CSU I studied Capstone Meat Processing Systems, Applied Animal Breeding and Genetics, Live Animal & Carcase Evaluation and Agricultural Production Management with Linear Programming.

The Capstone Meat Processing Course really opened my eyes to meat science and the complexity of converting muscle to meat to produce a quality product for the end consumer. The large meat companies in USA were all taking on university graduates, a highly rated career path for amongst my peers. This appealed to me as I wanted to be involved in the beef supply chain to understand the value of beef and how it is impacted by the genetics and farming system.

When I finished university there weren’t any roles like this open in NZ which is why I looked in Australia and began a Graduate program with Teys Naracoorte. Since completing the graduate program I have moved in the Quality Assurance Manager role which covers the entire process from livestock receival to customers receiving the end product.

What’s your stud prefix and where do you farm/live?

My parents stud Kenhardt Angus in Nuhaka. We calve down 300 registered angus cows annually which are run alongside 4000 ewes on 1100 ha. Along with finishing cattle and store lambs we run 13000SU at a sheep to beef ration of 55:45.

Currently I am based in Naracoorte South Australia working in beef processing, learning about another part of the supply chain of the beef industry. I am still heavily involved in our family stud operation with managing the data entry and maintenance of our pedigrees.

Tell us a bit about your Angus stud? How and why did you get into breeding Angus? When was your herd established? How big is your herd and what’s your breeding philosophy?

Kenhardt Angus was established in 1957 by Hugh and Gwyneth Crawshaw in Oxford, with their cattle purchased from Beverly Hills and Mangatarata studs. The cattle from Beverly Hills were ‘returning home’ as they were previously owned by Gwyneth’s parents. The Stud was relocated to the North Island in 1973 and after a few years leasing land in Gisborne they were able to purchase the Omana Farm at Nuhaka where the herd is still based today.

Growing up on the farm we became immersed in Angus from a young age and this passion has never left. Our parents allowed us kids to start learning the financials of farming buy opening a joint back account buying some commercial steers. These profits were used to buy and finish cattle and sheep until we had enough money to invest in stud females. Through queen of hearts, dispersal/reduction sales we have been able to purchase a few cows over the years including recently at the Merchiston Sale. We had a pleasant surprise when we worked out how many descendants of these cows are still active in the herd.

The three key fundamental traits we breed for are temperament, structural soundness, and fertility. Add to these fundamentals we are working to add the desirable traits to improve performance and ensure our clients meet their end market requirements. Overall, we want to breed bulls that last and go on to breed quality cattle in commercial hill country environments.

What do you want to gain from the Future Leaders Program?

I am wanting to improve my business knowledge and marketing as this is an area I haven’t been as involved in since leaving University. Also looking to gain wider understanding of the industry and skillset to be able to address the challenges of the future for the Angus/beef industry in New Zealand.

When the time comes to take a role within the family business, I want to be well prepared with the rights tools to ensure this is successful. I think the Future leaders program topics will improve my capabilities in this regard.

What motivated you to apply for the Future Leaders Program?

There has been really positive feedback from past participants. While I’m living in Australia I want to gain as much knowledge as I can. I see this as a great opportunity to network with others who are passionate about the Angus breed.

This program appealed to me as it covers a range of topics. It will be a great opportunity to be challenged and collaborate with like-minded people while learning from industry professionals.

Where do you see yourself going in your beef enterprise? Are there areas you’d like to develop in your current role?

My long term goal is to return to New Zealand and eventually take on a role within the family business. Currently I am just looking after the stud performance recording and when travelling is allowed looking for outcross AI sires to improve the herd performance without compromising the fundamentals. 

Agriculture in New Zealand is in a time of unprecedented change with new environmental regulations being implemented with more in the pipeline. I think sustainability, environment and animal welfare will be more consumer driven as consumers are becoming are more interested about how their food is growing and where it has come from. The quote that resonates with me is, “your either at the table or on the menu.”

Marketing is becoming increasingly important to improve the value over our final products.  In the US the percentage of branded beef products increased from 42% in 2004 to 96% in 2015, this is a global trend. Now that majority of beef is going into branded beef, consumers have the choice of different branded beef at the same price. As a beef enterprise we need to ensure we breed cattle which meet the market specifications of the branded programs we supply. Breeding and supplying these genetics to our clients will ensure we all gain premiums from our beef herds.

This is an area our beef enterprise has looked at closely since becoming part of Atkins Ranch program at Progressive. We will continue to focus on quality of carcases we produce to ensure our beef meets premium market specifications and can adapt to changes in the marketplace to satisfy the end consumer.  

What inspires you or gives you the most pride about your involvement with the breed?

The ability of Angus to perform in different environments and produce quality product for the end consumer. I’ve been lucky enough to witness this firsthand in America and Australia which both have different production systems to NZ.

Working in the beef industry I’m surrounded by people who are experts in beef production, maximising the value our of each carcase. Our workers in production areas may not know much about farming and genetics but they do know Angus is a premium product.

What values drive you? Beliefs filter down and inspire who we are and what we do. Think about what you believe as it relates to your position, and the work you do for the breed.

Resilience – When you get knocked down it’s about how you get back up. There are always going to be setbacks and things which occur in farming/beef industry that are out of our control. How we react to these challenges and learn from them is what’s important.

Kaitiakitanga – Our company culture is based off the All-Blacks Legacy book. This is paramount in my role as we aim for continuous improvement to ensure our position/department is in a better state then when we started. This is also important in farming and breeding cattle as we work to enhance and improve the environment/genetics.

Integrity – Being honest, staying true to your word, practice what you preach. I want my team to be able to trust me to come forward with any issues and know that I will come through on any handshake agreements we make. This also applies to our family business and in life outside of work. 

What would you like to see occur (or become a reality) for the Angus breed in NZ in the next 5-10 years?

I would like to see unity within the Angus breeders, as I question a smaller membership viability. I believe in diversity within the breed is a strength as we offer bull buyers variety within their purchases to meet the different market and environmental requirements.

I would love to see a nurturing system for networking with younger breeders within NZ. So, say under 40-year-old have an annual get-together or workshops that we can attend and visit herds, so we can discuss issues that are pertinent to ourselves like farm ownership, succession, herd development, management changeover, compliancy impacts of new regulations. I have been given opportunities by Generation Angus and would love to give back and keep the networking going for an older age-group. I would like to see the umbrella widen to include this group whilst still maintaining support for our younger and teenage ages.

Amongst younger breeders both in New Zealand and Australia there is an interest to learn from the different farming systems on either side of the Tasman. I think there is an opportunity to create a summer work experience trans-Tasman program where we can match farming businesses with youth looking for a summer job.

When I move back to NZ, I would like to offer my thoughts to the Angus NZ council and would be keen to drive this initiative with a team of keen young people around me.

What progress would you like to see made in what areas – do you have a projection for the breed you’d like to share?

I think getting a standardized beef grading system in New Zealand which assesses meat quality being utilized by all processing plants (similar to MSA feedback in Aus). Providing this feedback back to all beef producers so they can make informed decisions on farm. The MSA program In Australia is used at all beef processing plants. In the short time I’ve been in Australia I’ve seen how some producers have taken this information on board and really been able to add value to their breeding programs to produce a better product for the end consumer.

The value of Angus in crossbreed analysis to be recognised. Hybrid vigour can significantly improve economic gains in the beef industry. When I was in the US hybrid vigour had taken off in the seedstock industry and the majority of my genetic class was learning about the increased production and profitability benefits. The maternal and carcase attributes of Angus position it well to add value through hybrid vigour in New Zealand.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not farming? What are your hobbies/interests? What do you do that makes you ‘human’, makes you feel alive and excited?

I enjoy playing sport currently playing Women’s Footy and Hockey. I find sport is a great way to switch off and take a mental break.

 I am passionate about cattle, family, and friends. During downtime in Australia, I have enjoyed travelling to see Angus Cattle studs and sales to learn about different farming businesses.

If you could invite anyone (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would it be and why?

Rangi Solomon – Rangi was part of the family, working for us off and on over a 20-year period. Growing up he was my second Dad, a mentor and a great friend. When he passed away I had just start high school and one didn’t have much direction about what I wanted to do when I grew up. One of the last discussions Rangi had with Mum at docking was about being unsure what I’d end up doing. I don’t think either of us would have predicted what future held and I’d love to get his thoughts on everything that’s happened in the last 12 years.

Favourite quote:

‘Learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, because that’s where all the learning and growing takes place’ Mavis Mullins 2017.