From Illinois to Australia

From Illinois to Australia

Apr 5
Jennifer Shike, Director for Communications and Marketing

Experiencing life in a different country changes you. It opens your eyes to see just how big and how small our world can be. My husband Dan and I recently returned from a 12-day trip to Sydney, Australia, where he was invited to judge the Sydney Royal Easter Angus Cattle Show.

Dan Shike judging cattle
Dan evaluating 200 head of Angus cattle during the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

Throughout the past 12 years, Dan, an assistant professor in animal sciences in the College of ACES, has coached many great students on the U of I livestock judging team. In addition, he has worked with many talented Australian students who have traveled to the United States to Champaign-Urbana through the Angus Australia judging scholarship program. In 1979, Dr. Doug Parrett, interim head of the U of I Department of Animal Sciences, judged cattle in Australia for four weeks and recognized that there was a strong interest among Angus breeders to develop stronger youth programs and to develop new young judges for their country. During that trip, Dr. Parrett hosted small judging clinics – the first of their kind for youth in Australia.

Dr. Parrett encouraged Angus Australia to identify an outstanding youth judge each year. If the association could sponsor them to America, he offered to host them as visitors of the University of Illinois for a semester where they could learn judging, meat animal evaluation and more. Long story short, the program launched in 1980, and 33 years later, it’s still going strong boasting returning scholarship winners who have gone on to be leaders in the Australian meat animal industry.

Our experience abroad was unique because we were guided nearly every day by some of these former U of I visitors, as well as some new Australian friends, who showed us their country and opened our eyes to new ways of thinking. Their stories are now part of our stories. And hopefully, we were able to leave a little of our story with them as well.

Australia Collage
(clockwise, starting at top left) Dan discussing his beef efficiency research during a lecture at the University of New England in Armidale; Catching up with a group of former judging scholarship winners catch up after the show in Sydney; Attending the Royal Easter Show's Cattle Dinner in the Council Stand with Chief Steward Alison McIntosh; Visiting Rangers Valley, the premier long-fed beef operation in Australia.

One of our favorite experiences during the trip was leading a cattle judging clinic with 15 youth at Orlanga Angus in Camden, New South Wales. (Dan and I met and competed together on the same livestock judging teams throughout college – we always enjoy helping young people with similar passions.) In the morning, Dan led a practice workout similar to what he would do with the U of I livestock judging team instructing them on selection traits and decision making. Later that day, he helped run the contest classes with the four students vying for the scholarship to attend the University of Illinois. I worked with the others on how to give oral reasons, improve their public speaking schools, and grow their cattle terminology.

Judging Workout at Orlanga Angus
Teaching and interacting with the youth, meeting Bruce and Patricia at Orlanga Angus, and working alongside the leaders of Angus Australia was amazing. Despite a few differences in the scenery and “barn talk,” it felt like home.

What started out in my mind as a vacation to see a few kangaroos, watch Dan judge a cattle show, and relax on the beach, ended up being a life-changing opportunity to develop treasured friendships.

Australia is even more captivating than I imagined. I will never forget watching the sun set against the Sydney Harbor Bridge or driving along the gently winding roads of the New South Wales countryside viewing cattle, sheep and horses at every turn. I can still feel the soft sand under my toes at Bondi Beach and the spray of the ocean while cruising along on the Manly Ferry.

But when people ask what I enjoyed most about Australia, it will always be the people.