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Cattle show steeped in history

Jun 1, 2016 | Archived News

Take the time to walk through the Mackay show cattle precinct. Ten percent of Queensland’s cattle graze the rich pastures of the Mackay region which includes Isaac, Mackay and Whitsunday regional council areas. The annual display of beef cattle has a history of promoting new ideas, market and other information to support this important regional industry.

Show Patron Don Wall MBE hosted the first Mackay Show carcase competition at his butcher shop in 1961. The interest generated helped to convince the State Government at that time to construct the Bakers Creek abattoir in 1965. Local cattle supplies could not provide an economic throughput so in 1967 the abattoir was sold to Borthwicks, a company who could transport in additional livestock. The abattoir has changed ownership several times since (including for a short time by Mackay Sugar Co Operative) but has always traded under the Borthwicks name. It is currently owned by NH Foods.

The competition was relocated to Borthwicks in 1965. Each year since then Borthwicks has provided a display of Show cattle. Under the watchful eye of the judge stewards and their helpers measure carcases to objectively determine class winners and champions. The opportunity to develop cattle assessment skills and to understand market specifications and other industry requirements is available to all by visiting this display on the Thursday morning of show week. If anyone is extra keen stewards can always include a small number of willing learners on their panel

On the show grounds a yarding of cattle from properties between Homehill and Rockhampton and west to Clermont is assembled for judging on the Tuesday morning, followed by an auction in the afternoon. These cattle have their weight painted on their back and have a coloured ear tag to indicate their approximate age. Many of the classes have specific market specifications including weight ranges and dentition, again offering opportunity for both exhibitors and spectators to hone their cattle assessment skills. Cattle breed, conformation, composition and presentation has changed significantly during the past 50 years.

The beef cattle sub committee recently renovated the oldest building on the showgrounds. Constructed in 1921 this grand old building with period architecture is fitted with portable yards for the show each year. This allows use of the building for other functions throughout the year. The portable yards connect to the outside cattle yards which are midway through reconstruction.

This building (Pavilion 8) is also utilised on Thursday morning for the Junior Judging competition while a landscaped lawn and garden area provides an excellent area for the led steer judging which takes place midday – early afternoon Tuesday. These events are well supported by Mackay and Rockhampton high schools.

Wednesday is stud cattle judging day with judging taking place in the south west section of the main arena.  Stud cattle and led steers are housed in two buildings close to the cattle yards and Pavilion 8, creating a cattle precinct. This has provided an additional area for a horse precinct on the south east corner of the Show grounds.

The beef display is supported by 56 individual sponsorship packages ranging from over $3000 to $200 each and a committee whose members are prepared to roll up their sleeves and contribute to working bees. The restructure has been funded by the Mackay Show Association although the beef committee is proud of its fund raising achievements. $95,550 was raised in 1hr and 10 minutes in 2015 by auctioneering silky oak timber for the successful bidder to brand with their cattle brand. A similar exercise in 1987 raised $54,000. The new board should be hanging in the beef Pavilion (P8) by show time.

The busy week concludes with the annual beef dinner on the Thursday night. Due to generous sponsorship a lucky door prize of $1000 is on offer. The Tuesday morning tea for sponsors, spectators, judges and yardmen is also a social highlight.

The Des Barnes Memorial smoko for yardmen and volunteers on the Monday morning when cattle are being scheduled is a time to reflect on the contribution of past members and volunteers.

Redevelopment of the cattle precinct remains a work in progress. Please take the time to walk through the precinct to enjoy and reflect on the significance of this industry to our region. The auction on Tuesday afternoon is always exciting – just remember to keep your hands in your pockets!

For further information contact the Mackay Show Office.