RESPECTED Victorian Angus breeder and property developer Dennis Ginn has bowed out of beef production as he faces the biggest challenge of his life.
The former Angus Australia chairman who reformed the organisation a decade ago and boosted the profile of Angus in Australia during his term last week completed his fifth bout of chemotherapy.
Despite the bleak outlook, the 69-year-old, whose Yancowinna Angus stud at Cape Paterson produced top cattle for 30 years, remains optimistic.
"I'm a realist, I'm a fighter, I'm a bloody stubborn bugger and I'd like to think we'll pull through this but statistics on mesothelioma are not encouraging, in fact they are down right disastrous," he said.
"Unfortunately I was diagnosed with Parkinson's 12 years ago and we handled that and got through it but then we had the latest incident with cancer and it's making life a little difficult but we're still here and kicking."
Over the past three decades, the Yancowinna brand has grown synonymous in eastern Victoria among Angus breeders, with the stud producing on average 100 bulls a season.
Twelve months ago Mr Ginn and his wife Christine Gicquel dispersed their stud operation, turning to a commercial herd of 400-odd Angus steers, many of which came from the Yancowinna bloodline.
However, last week the steers were sold at Leongatha's store store - where ironically the first two lines were filled with the Cape Paterson cattle - after a decision to exit breeding altogether.
"When I was growing up Angus were the poor man's breed, if you couldn't afford Herefords or Shorthorns, you would get the little Angus," he said.
"I think we've seen a rise in popularity due to their fertility and they are naturally polled and that's a big advantage and Angus Australia has remained focused on providing relevant information for breeders to utilise."
During his time at the helm of Angus Australia, then the Angus Society, his business acumen raised the financial and corporate governance of the organisation and grew the brand domestically.
Mr Ginn also played part in the first trial for Certified Angus Australian Beef, which boosted domestic demand and export numbers rapidly.
As part of the trial, 12 Yancowinna cattle were processed and served at the Polo Club restaurant at Rockman's Regency Hotel.
"I was able to identify the cattle from conception to consumption and to be part of that was absolutely incredible," Mr Ginn said.
"It really set the whole branded product for Angus up and within a few years we had an input of 100,000 head up and down the eastern seaboard of Australia."
Mr Ginn said the development of estimated breeding values was the biggest change he had noticed in the industry in 35 years.
"The EBVs were developed from collecting raw data to identify appropriate sires that were relevant to the beef industry," he said.
"The quantum leap of EBVs from 30 years ago to the use of genomics and DNA profiling is quite incredible."
Young producers are the way of the future
Mr Ginn encouraged industry leaders to develop more agricultural opportunities for young people.
"One thing we must do is encourage younger people to get involved with the agriculture industry, that's our biggest challenge," he said.
"We need young people in the industry bringing forward new ideas, they are our future and we need to get them onto the land earlier."
Mr Ginn served as one of the youngest chairs of Angus Australia in the organisation's history between 2004 and 2007.
He also served as the inaugural chair of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program for five years, which was funded by Meat & Livestock Australia.
The program tests on average 40 young Angus sires for marketplace suitability annually.
Friend of 30 years and recently retired SEJ Leongatha livestock agent Rod Draper said Mr Ginn's exit from cattle was difficult to comprehend.
"Dennis has left a good legacy right through this district," he said.
"There are a lot of clients who have bought bulls from day one and continued to do so until Dennis dispersed last year.
"He was one of the few people in the area that were producing the bulls people should have been using and it'll leave a hole in South Gippsland and parts of East Gippsland that Dennis has filled for the past 30 years."