From the treasured archives of the Charbray Society of Australia Ltd we are happy to share the historical path of our beginning written for and verified by Mr. W.G Robertson.
The Origin of Charbray Cattle and the Charbray Society in Australia
After receiving an invitation from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1966 to spend 18 months in South America as a pasture and crop agronomist and consultant, my family and I left our Birrahlee farm at Wandoan in good hands and arrived in Uruguay in December 1966.
While in Uruguay I first became acquainted with Charolais cattle. Charolais and Limousins were being used in crossbreeding experiments with the local breed of British cattle. The Charolais crossbreeds outperformed the Limousin crosses. Having learned that the British Milk Marketing Board was in the process of introducing Charolais cattle from France I visited the U.K on my way back to Australia in June 1968, one objective being to examine the Milk Marketing Boards progress. I learned that a batch of Charolais semen had been earmarked for export to Australia. I immediately lodged an application for semen from the Australian allocation, only to learn that the entire batch was to go tho the University of Queensland's Faculty of Veterinary Science for crossing with Australian Breeds of beef cattle. At this time Charolais were subjected to considerable criticism because of calving problems within the breed and in breeds used in crossbreeding, so the University's experiment was essentially to test the calving problems in Australian breeds. Aware that Brahman cows produced small calves regardless of the breed of bulls used I immediately contacted Professor Des Dowling and offered to provide Birrahlee Brahman cows for the experiment, Professor Dowling being in charge of the project which was to be undertaken at the Gatton Agricultural College. My offer of cows was accepted as was the offer of the late Dr. Frank Stone of the Stanley Park Brahman Stud at Guluguba near Wandoan.
Insemination with semen from the pure French bulls Sucre, Salomon and Superieur was commenced in the autumn of 1969 and the first calves were born during the summer of 1969/70 at Gatton College. The nervous tendency of some of the staff members to interfere prematurely with some of the calving was probably due to the existing criticism of the Charolais and the fact that the Brahman cows in the experiment were valuable animals. These were the first Brahman/Charolais animals to be born in Australia. The Brahmans calved without any undue problems.
From the initial calving Birrahlee sold 4 of the male calves as weaner bulls at the Australian Estates Gracemere sale on the 30th of November 1970, for an average price of $1512 and a top price of $1800. At the same sale 17 Birrahlee cows pregnancy tested in calf to Charolais bulls grossed $11 500.
During 1970 a Charolais Society of Australasia was formed in Brisbane and in November 1970 the Society formed a Charbray division within the Charolais Society. The first meeting of the Steering Committee of the Charbray division was held in Brisbane in November 1970, Mr. E.G. Kirk, Mr. K.R. Coombe and myself were members of the Steering Committee.
Differences immediately arose regarding the percentages of each of the breed to be used in the establishment of Charbray cattle. The Charolais Society and most of the South Queensland members of the Charbray division favoured a minimum of 75% Charolais while members from Central and North Queensland stressed the need for much higher Brahman percentages.
The second meeting of the Division was held in Brisbane in February 1971. Discussion centred largely around a breeding plan necessary to arrive at the desired Charolais/Brahman breed. A move away from the Charolais Society was evident at the meeting when the names Charbos and Charman were put forward as suitable name for a new breed favoured by Central and North Queensland breeders.
Following the Steering Committee meeting a public meeting was held in Brisbane of persons interested in breeding Charolais/Brahman cross cattle. Steering Committee members E.G Kirk, K.R. Coombe and myself attended the meeting.
In October 1971 I called a public meeting in Townsville at which more than 50 people interest in breeding Charolais/Brahman cattle attended.
During 1972 correspondence flowed between the Charolais Society of Australasia, the Queensland branch of the Charolais Society and the Charbray division of the Charolais Society. While the Queensland Branch of the Charolais Society was prepared to accept a decrease in the Charolais content to 50% the Australasian Society refused to move away from 75% Charolais.
In November 1972 the inaugural meeting of a Charman Society of Australia was held in Rockhampton. I was elected as acting Chairman and my wife was elected as acting Secretary of the new Society. At the meeting the 5 member Steering Committee elected included Mr. K. R. Coombe, Mr. R.F.(Hec) Maynard and myself. During 1973 considerable time was spent by Society members developing a Society Constitution, a set of Regulations, a Breeding Plan and regulations covering artificial insemination and branding.
During 1973 approaches were made to the Australian Brahman Breeder Association (ABBA) re the possibility of the Charman Society becoming a division of ABBA. After extensive consultation between the parties involved it was agreed that Charman breeder would be represented by a Charman division of the ABBA. This arrangement came into effect in November 1974 but the new division was refused permission for one of its members to attend meetings of ABBA Council when Charman division matters were under discussion by Council.
In November 1974 I stood down as acting Chairman of the Charman Society of Australia and Mr. R.F. Maynard was elected as the first Chairman of the new Charman division of the ABBA.
During 1978 the Charman division of the ABBA became the Charbray Society of Australia under a breed plan that allowed much greater flexibility in relation to the respective percentages of Brahman, Charolais and other breeds used in the final makeup of Charbray cattle. In effect we had gone full circle from the initial differences with the Charolais Society of Australasia, the Charbray division of the Charolais Society and the Charman Division of the ABBA to today's Charbray Society of Australia. Mr R.F. Maynard was elected as the first Chairman of the new Society and Mr. E.G. Kirk became a Councillor of the 6 man first Council of the Society. As at July 1st 1979 there were 36 financial members of the Charbray Society.
The original document of this historical article is verified with W.G Robertson's signature and dated
the 8th of September 2002.