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Up-and-comers paired with leaders and innovators in the cattle industry

Albertans make up half of the mentees and 10 of the mentors in the 2017-18 edition of the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program.

The program, which started in 2010, pairs young producers between the ages of 18 and 35 with industry leaders for a year-long mentorship geared to their individual interests. Participants also have a $2,000 budget for attending conferences and industry events. Applications for the 2018-19 program are now open and must be in by March 31. To apply or see the full biographies of the 16 mentees and their 16 mentors in the current program, go to www.cattlemensyoungleaders.com.

Lee Creech grew up on M.C. Quantock ranch near Lloydminster, which is currently calving around 1,000 cows. He has a marketing degree from the University of Lethbridge, has worked for a livestock nutrition company and an online auction technology company, imported and sold utility vehicles, and is pursuing a master of science at the King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management at Texas A&M. His mentor is Travis Toews, a former president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and managing director of a ranching and backgrounding operation near Beaverlodge.

James Jenkins grew up near Okotoks on a small family farm and operates Double J Ranches, a 70-head cow-calf operation made up of both purebred Fleckvieh Simmentals and commercial cows that spring and fall calve. His mentor is John Cross of a7 Ranche, the oldest cattle ranch in Canada still in the hands of the original family and which employs holistic resource management.

Ashley Gaudet is a first-generation cattle producer, originally from P.E.I. She began showing commercial steers and purebred Charolais cattle in Eastern Canada, earned a veterinary technician diploma, and moved to Alberta to build a herd of her own. She is growing her own herd of Angus/Simmental-cross cows east of Calgary. Her mentors are Rob and Gail Hamilton who have a purebred Black Angus operation northwest of Calgary. Hamilton Farms was started on rented land in 1981 and now consists of 325 purebred Black Angus cows, more than 6,000 acres, and a seedstock operation that has sold genetics around the world.

Melissa Lee is another Alberta transplant. She came from Manitoba to study at Lakeland College and took an environmental studies degree at the University of Alberta. She is now a conservation officer at Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks as well as operating Diamond L Ranch near Oyen with husband Leon. They raise high-quality Red Angus seedstock for both commercial and purebred producers as well as training and selling ranch and performance horses. Her mentor is Clint Morasch of Lazy MC Angus in southeastern Alberta, which has a 200-head purebred cow-calf herd and employs genomics and herd improvement tools. Morasch is also a partner in Bow Valley Genetics, which is located at the ranch.

Cale Toews is a third-generation cattle rancher from west of Grande Prairie. The family operation has 1,500 mother cows and a small backgrounding feedlot. Toews works at the ranch during the summers and is attending the University of Calgary and hopes to become a veterinarian. His mentor is Dr. Cody Creelman of Veterinary Agri-Health Services in Airdrie. Creelmen is well known for entertaining and educational YouTube videos and is also co-founder of an investment group created to support rural veterinary practices in Western Canada.

Matt Kumlin is a fifth-generation rancher from Jumping Pound who graduated from the University of Calgary’s veterinarian school in 2014 and worked as a cow-calf and advanced reproductive vet at Bow Valley Livestock Health and Bow Valley Genetics in Brooks. This month he, wife Angela, and son Wade moved back to the family ranch. The couple plans to expand the commercial and purebred Red Angus herd while Kumlin also works at Veterinary Agri-Health Services. His mentor is Dave Solverson, who is past president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and operates Woodwind Ranch with his brother and daughter.

Ben Wilson is a full-time independent filmmaker and consultant who was raised in Ponoka and now operates Benjo Productions from Bashaw. The company is a full-time venture and serves a wide variety of clients across Alberta, primarily in the agriculture industry. His mentor is Phil Braig, assistant manager of the historic Douglas Lake Cattle Company at Douglas Lake, B.C.

Originally from B.C., Lacey McCrae operates a mixed operation north of Vermilion with husband Andrew McCrae. Along with grain, they have a commercial Black Angus herd and calve out about 350 cows. Her mentors are Kelly and Julie Anne Howe, who have a Charolais and Red Angus operation near Moose Jaw, Sask., and have been active in numerous ag associations and groups.

Alecia Karapita works as an ag banker for RBC and operates an Angus herd with her husband near Kamloops, B.C. Her mentor is Rob Smith who has had an extensive career in the cattle sector spanning nearly four decades. This includes working as a livestock extension specialist, managing a purebred seedstock operation, stints with the Alberta and Canadian Angus associations, and most recently co-chairing the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Canadian Beef Industry Conference.

B.C. native Carley Henniger works for the B.C. Angus Association. Her mentor is Bob Lowe, managing partner of Bear Trap Feeders at Nanton, past chair of Alberta Beef Producers, and the first producer to become involved with McDonald’s sustainable beef pilot.

Kaitlyn Polegi ranches in Saskatchewan and is also an inspector with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Her mentor is Jill Harvie who ranches with husband Cole and his family on an operation near Olds, is a partner in her parents’ operation, and is also the program manager at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and manages the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program.

Taylor Grafton is a third-generation rancher from Prince George who manages the family operation. His mentor is Michael Munton of Benchmark Angus, a fourth-generation family operation in southern Alberta that raises Black and Red Angus. Thirty per cent of the ranch’s cattle grade prime and the ranch is a supplier to top steak houses in Calgary and Banff.

Other members of the 2017-18 Young Leaders program are young ranchers Andrea Haywood-Farmer (B.C.), Allan Hjertaas and Quinn Anderson Folk (both from Saskatchewan), and Rachel Verwey from Manitoba.

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