Brett McRae is a passionate young producer who shared a glimpse into the mindset of the beef industry’s upcoming generation during the recent Manitoba Beef Producers annual general meeting.
Twenty-seven-year-old McRae is the fifth generation to raise cattle on his family’s 100-year-old farm. Mar Mac Farms is located outside of Brandon, operating with 210 head of purebred Angus and Simmental cows and 1,000 acres of grains and oilseeds.
While growing up, McRae was heavily involved in the 4-H program, the young Canadian Simmental Association and the Canadian Junior Angus Association (CJAA). He was a founding member of the Manitoba Junior Angus Association (MJAA), served on the board of the CJAA and earned a diploma in agribusiness from Lakeland College.
Last year, McRae was selected from a number of applicants to take part in the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) mentorship program.
“The CYL program is by far one of the best opportunities that young producers have today. It is a mentorship program that pairs you with an experienced producer that matches your operation goals and interests,” said McRae.
The program annually selects 16 producers between the ages of 18 and 35 from across the country.
McRae was paired with Steve Kenyon from Busby, Alta., for his eight-month mentorship. Kenyon has been involved in sustainable grazing management for more than 10 years. He runs a custom grazing business, Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd., with 1,500 head of livestock and 3,500 acres.
“Sometimes the best way to learn is through talking to other producers; seeing what they are doing on their operations and asking for advice.”
Balancing experiencewith change
During the Manitoba Beef Producers annual general meeting, McRae gave a presentation about shifting paradigms and why it is important to examine why and what you do in your operation.
“Young producers today need the guidance of experienced producers without their limiting beliefs. What worked well in 1975 won’t necessarily work today. The industry is changing,” said McRae.
“When do you calf? How many cows do you have? Many young farmers would respond with the same answers that their father or grandfather had because that is the way it has always been done,” said McRae. “But, if you are using a map and paradigm from years past to navigate, you are going to have a lot of trouble in today’s fast-changing industry.”
McRae urged audience members to examine their operations to identify any paradigm that may be affecting their bottom line or production levels.
“What are you focused on? Do you focus on the past or the future? As a young beef producer, I urge you to focus on the future. We will always need the past for data and knowledge but the future is what we need to base our decisions on.”
McRae also finds value in online and social media.
“One of the best tools producers have today is YouTube. It is a fantastic tool that I use all the time. It is free, full of valuable information and speakers giving advice on a number of different topics,” said McRae.
Along with using YouTube for practical on-farm information, McRae has also begun to use social media outlet to advocate for the industry and help give a voice to today’s young beef producers.
Last year, with the help of his sister Melissa, McRae created a YouTube video about a day in the life of a beef producer. He entered the video into a contest put on by the Five Nations Beef Alliance and won a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, in October where he toured ranches, packing plants and feedlots.
“Social media is an amazing tool, a handy resource to get answers to questions and a great way to tell our story to consumers,” he said. “Consumers are really interested in where their food comes from. I think it would help our industry if we can express to the consumer that we have a safe, reliable source of protein that they can enjoy. The more they get to know about our industry, the more they are going to like it and feel good about eating beef.”