Charlie Perry, Australian winner of this year’s Zanda McDonald Award, breeds highest quality Wagyu at Aberfoyle, NSW.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photos Ken Brass

Charlie Perry barely remembers when one of his family’s stud cows sold at an Adelaide auction in 2019 for an astonishing $200,000. “I developed amnesia on the spot,” he recalls. “I know I was present and I remember the excitement as the bidding escalated, but I have not much recollection of what happened when the sale was done.”

Charlie’s partner Georgia was at work at the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale and his parents, Wal and Jen, were at home on Trent Bridge, at Aberfoyle in the NSW Northern Tablelands watching the auction online when GeneFlow, from Tocumwal in the NSW Riverina, paid the record price at the Elite Wagyu Auction. “It was about as likely as winning the lottery,” Charlie says of the sale of K34, which, according to the UNE’s Breedplan genetic evaluation system, had the highest marbling EBV (estimated breeding value) in the country. “We thought she would make maybe $40K in a good season. But we were in the middle of a crippling drought. The money immediately went on buying hay from Victoria.” 

In February this year Charlie, 35, was announced as the Australian winner of the coveted Zanda McDonald Award, which recognises passionate young professionals in the ag sector in Australia and New Zealand. The award, which is open to 21–35 year olds, honours the memory of prominent Cloncurry beef producer Zanda McDonald, whose energy and enthusiasm for promoting youth in agriculture was cut short when he was killed in a farm accident in 2013. The prize includes a trans-Tasman mentoring trip to high-performing farms, $10,000 towards further education and networking access. A week’s travel by Pilatus PC-12 will allow Charlie and his New Zealand co-winner, Rhys Roberts, to maximise their individually tailored personal development packages.

According to beef entrepreneur and chair of the award committee Richard Rains, Charlie’s leadership skills and obvious capability were factors in his selection. “Charlie has significantly grown his family’s seed stock business,” he says. “He has a clear understanding of the challenges that face both his business and the industry, and he’s providing leadership as chair of the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA). The award is about mentoring, and by introducing him to the right people, there will be more to come. There’s plenty in that tank for him to grow and gain.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #143

Outback Magazine: June/July 2022