Steel with a heart of gold

Bruce Steel, an Angus breeder with a heart of gold

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Bruce Steel returned home to Walcha, NSW, from the Second World War keen to start breeding stud Angus cattle.

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ANGUS INSPIRATION: The late Bruce Steel, Ben Nevis stud, Walcha, was keen to inspire young people to get involved in the Angus breed.

ANGUS INSPIRATION: The late Bruce Steel, Ben Nevis stud, Walcha, was keen to inspire young people to get involved in the Angus breed.

Bruce Steel returned home to Walcha, NSW, from the Second World War keen to start breeding stud Angus cattle. 

He saw service as a dispatch rider fighting the Japanese in the 2/31 infantry battalion where his commanding officer, the legendary Angus breeder, H. Gordon Munro, inspired him to breed top-quality Angus.

Read the full Summer Angus publication here.

Mr Munro had established the famous Booroomooka stud near Bingara in 1926 which is now operated by his descendants.

In 1947 Mr Steel and his father James bought three stud cows from the Forster family’s historic Abington stud near Uralla and Ben Nevis Angus was formed.

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The move started Mr Steel – who died in June, 2017, aged 93 – on a long journey of major contributions to the Angus breed.

He was chairman of the New England Angus Breeders and instrumental in the start of the successful annual NEAB Show and Sale and the Tocal Beef Cattle School.

Mr Steel was also chairman of the NSW State Committee of the Angus Society of Australia. He was a member of the society (now Angus Australia) for 70 years and made a life member in 2006.  

But perhaps his biggest achievement was his encouragement of young people to get involved in the breed.

HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER: Bruce Steel with his daughter, Erica Halliday, at the 1998  Sydney Show. Erica has now judged cattle at royal shows across the country.

HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER: Bruce Steel with his daughter, Erica Halliday, at the 1998 Sydney Show. Erica has now judged cattle at royal shows across the country.

He and his wife Cherry organised junior heifer shows and in 1987 ran the first Angus Youth Roundup in Toowoomba, Qld, an event which is still flourishing today.

Mr Steel donated some of the foundation females to start the Farrer Memorial High School Angus stud.

In 2007 he and Cherry were awarded the Stewart Award for service to youth in the Angus industry.

GREAT MATE: Bruce Steel with one of his beloved working dogs. Family members remember he had  a fairly dismissive view of road rules.

GREAT MATE: Bruce Steel with one of his beloved working dogs. Family members remember he had a fairly dismissive view of road rules.

Eulogies delivered at his funeral described a much-loved husband and father with a reputation for having a short fuse if things went wrong while moving stock. The result was usually an outburst of colourful language.

He also had a dismissive attitude to road rules, particularly when it came to navigating roundabouts and intersections. It was a case of “first in, best dressed” regardless of stop signs.  

Bruce Steel was a short, wiry man who grew up on the family property, Mingary, Walcha, but went off to work for his bachelor great uncles Willie and James at nearby Ben Nevis as a young man.

He later bought Ben Nevis and started the long, hard struggle to clear thick timber and get rid of rabbits and blackberries.

Ben Nevis ran about 1000 sheep in his uncles’ day but after years of clearing, superphosphate and improved pasture he developed a property that now runs 800 cows.

The Ben Nevis Angus stud remains a family affair with Cherry and their daughters Kylie Cox and Erica Halliday and their families heavily involved.

The story Steel with a heart of gold first appeared on The Land.

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