WANDER the cattle sheds of the Royal Queensland Show or drop by the beef ring and you’re bound to hear the words “G’day Glen” at some point.
Legendary Brahman breeder and respected livestock judge Glen Pfeffer is the quintessential Ekka treasure - known and loved by everyone, passionate about all things cattle and someone who has pretty much seen it all when it comes to show shenanigans.
He has judged buffalo in the Northern Territory and Brahmans in Thailand but the Brisbane show holds a special place in his heart.
From the time he broke the Ekka rules by riding in a pony competition as a six-year-old when one was required to be at least eight, he has been addicted to the show scene.
He has missed only a few Ekkas in the years since his pony mischief, due to being in the Top End working on cattle properties.
Since 1984 Mr Pfeffer has been the manager of NSW’s longest established Brahman stud, Mogul, now operating near Casino.
In that time, he has exhibited at every single Sydney Royal Show.
But it was Queensland where his love affair with the Brahman breed began.
His parents had a South East Queensland cattle property and saw the benefits early of introducing Bos Indicus into a pure British herd.
“They started with Santa Gertrudis then sourced some Brahman females and I fell in love with them straight away,” he said.
“Gatton college had one of the earliest Brahman studs and we’d pull up on our way to the Ekka every year and have a look at them.”
Mr Pfeffer went to Toowoomba Grammar School and at the age of 17 headed north to be a jackaroo.
He worked his way up to assistant manager of Granada Station Brahman stud, Cloncurry, then moved onto Mountain Valley near Katherine where he was overseer of another Brahman stud.
Poached by the Santa Gertrudis breed to run a stud on the Barkly Tablelands, he eventually decided to “rejoin civilisation to further the career” and started with Mogul, owned by Sydney doctor George Jacobs.
It operated near Maclean for 35 years before the shift to Casino in 2015.
The first thing Glen Pfeffer will tell you about the beef ring is not to believe any handler who says an animal will never get away from them.
It happens to everyone.
“The scariest moment I’ve had was at the old Sydney showgrounds at Moore Park when a heifer got away,” he said.
“There was a huge crowd and she took off past all the other exhibits, past the bar, through the crowd - she went for 300m right back her exact place in the sheds.
“All I could do was watch and pray and yell at everyone to get out of the way. It must have worked because not a single person got hurt.”
At the Ekka, he once ended up halfway up the steps to a showground building after the steer he was in charge of decided to go on a little adventure.
Brahmans are an incredibly intelligent breed, which can make taking a calf to a show for the first time quite challenging, Mr Pfeffer said.
In 2006, he was invited by the Thai Brahman Society to judge a show in the northern town of Kampangsan.
There were around 70 head - fewer than would otherwise be the case because it turned out the show coincided with a massive flood and also an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
The Thai Brahman had evolved from the rangelands type, Mr Pfeffer said.
“They were tall, narrow and had incredible ears - three times the size of Brahmans in Australia,” he said.
“Their ears were often below their knees and plenty of times I saw calves walking on their own ears.
“Ears are valued there because they are the biggest surface areas for cooling the animal.
“But mostly I think their owners just love the shape of those big ears.”
As for judging buffalo, Mr Pfeffer said it was quite an experience.
“Basically, I looked for walking ability and temperament,” he said.
He wasn’t quite confident enough to run his hand over the animal’s rump.
Mogul has collected a room full of ribbons and trophies over the years - more than 150 Royal Show championships at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Toowoomba Shows in fact.
One year, the stud exhibited three different females as Grand Champions - in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, possibly a feat unmatched.
“It’s great to win ribbons but showing cattle is all about the social life,” said Mr Pfeffer.
He believes the future of the big shows is secure.
“But between biosecurity issues and the cost of showing for breeders, I do fear for the viability of smaller shows,” he said.
“There’s not much change from $15,000 for us to take a team to Sydney Show these days.
“Coming out of Sydney show this year we had strong inquiry for our genetics from New Caledonia interests.
“And it’s not unusual for buyers of our bulls to say they first saw us three years ago at a show - so yes, it’s a proven marketing tool.”