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Good eye for genetics

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At this year’s Bindoon and Districts Agricultural Show, Dale Jansen of Fernwood Farm is proud as a parent as she parades a pair of her prize-winning heifers. At 600 kg and 546 kg respectively the striking black Angus girls are shining examples of health, condition and excellent genetics – and Dale has good reason to be chuffed.

‘P4’ recently placed Reserve Champion Female in the Angus section at this year’s Perth Royal Show, with her sister P14 also doing well, taking out a second in her age group. Although their somewhat basic alphanumeric names give no hint of affections, Dale confesses she adores her cattle. “I just love them,” she says. “They’re almost human! They’ll even call for me if they’re in trouble!”

The ease with which Dale nudges the majestic beasts into position in the show ring and the casually told tales of pulling calves in the paddock, would make one think she herself was born and bred on the land – in fact she’s a true city slicker who has taken to country life like a duck to water.

Dale travelled the world as a musician and a flight attendant before moving into marketing for Phillips and Braun. “I brought the first electric toothbrush into Australia!” she laughs. She worked hard at a successful business career, and along with husband John, was cruising towards a comfortable retirement in the city when things took an unexpected turn.

”We bought a beautiful apartment in the refurbished Swan Brewery building with fantastic views over the Swan River,” she explains. “But they didn’t tell us we’d be living on top of a nightclub! It was impossible to live there – so we escaped to the country and haven’t been seen since!”

In 2004 the couple embarked their radical tree change at a picturesque Orange Springs property blessed with 5.4 km of Moore River frontage — and to start they bought ten white face cattle to eat the grass. “I’d never met a cow in my life – and I knew absolutely nothing about cattle,” says Dale. “A dear friend of John’s said to me, ‘What are you doing with these mongrels? Why don’t you get the real thing?’

“So I headed down to the Perth Royal Show to have a look. It was late when I’d finished work, but I snuck into the cattle lanes and looked for the cattle with the most ribbons. I saw Little Meadows Black Angus had masses of winnings, and so I approached the owner Tony Golding.”

It took a little convincing, but Dale’s business acumen and charm saw her eventually take home eighteen of Little Meadows’ top stock to start a herd of her own.

“I thought, if I’m going to go into this, I’m going to go into it full bore!” And of course she did.

A decade later, Dale and John’s Fernwood Farm runs 143 black Angus cattle and is a hot contender at any agricultural show. They are solid advocates of the Angus breed – which is also celebrating it’s centenary this year. Most of their young stock are sold as mated heifers — for impressive prices.

“We haven’t looked back!” says Dale, “We won the interbreed in 2014, and the Gingin Heifer Competition last year. It’s been a blast! At my time of life you’ve got to have a bit of fun — in case you fall off the perch!

“I am so blessed and privileged to be among God’s beautiful black Angus cattle,” says Dale. Some pretty lucky cattle as well I’d say!