Born: Kadina, South Australia, October 6, 1932
Died: Perth, September 12, 2019 (Aged 86)
THE Angus Society lost a true breed stalwart and innovator for the Australian beef breeding industry with the recent passing of John Grant McKay, aged 86, formerly of the Wilson Downs Angus stud, Cunderdin.
John and wife Beth were members of the WA Angus Society for more than 50 years, establishing the Wilson Downs Angus stud in 1968, based on females purchased from the Tenterfield and Wallah studs, New South Wales and Barwidgee stud, Victoria.
Born in Kadina, South Australia on October 6, 1932, to Thomas and Bertha McKay, John ventured to WA in the early 1950s, initially to work as a stockman at Yardie Creek station, Exmouth, before moving to Muchea to begin his farming life.
An accomplished footballer, John trained with the Claremont Football Club before a knee injury sidelined his sporting career.
But the football training was not in vain, it was in Perth where John met his future wife Beth, a nurse at the Princess Margaret Hospital.
After marrying in 1958, the couple moved to their own property at Tardun, east of Geraldton.
In 1960 they moved to Beth's family property at Cunderdin, owned by her parents Alfred and Olive Wilson, where in 1968 John and Beth formed the Wilson Downs Angus stud and a passion for breeding and developing quality Angus seed stock was borne.
Keen to contribute to the development of the Angus breed, John was involved in the leadership of the beef industry as State chairman of the WA Angus Society in 1977 and 1978, and as a Federal councillor in 1977/78, 1980 and 1984/85.
The culmination of decades of leadership and contribution saw in 2018 both John and Beth presented with Angus Society 50-year recognition awards.
The Wilson Downs stud was instrumental in injecting some of the best Angus genetics (and later Salers genetics), into Australia during their active years in the industry.
In 1981 prior to the protocol allowing direct importation of cattle into Australia, embryos and heifers were imported into New Zealand by the McKays.
This resulted in the Angus female lines of the Rosebud and Pride family's which have had an outstanding influence in many herds.
John was an innovator in the beef industry and was responsible for the formation of the Salers Australia Association.
Eyebrows were raised in the mid 1980s by the decision of the McKays to diversify into Salers and they went to great length and cost to import the best Salers bloodlines from the United Kingdom and North America.
In August 1985 John was on hand at Perth airport to unload the first Salers cattle to come to Australia.
John held chairman and national committee leadership roles within the Salers Association and was a life member.
Always working on positioning the WA beef industry as a leader in the Australian market, John was involved in the instigation of grassfed bull trials in WA for the Angus Society and formed and managed the International Angus Stud which comprised animals from WA, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and New Zealand to form an elite herd.
This stud produced the top-priced bulls for two consecutive years at the Angus National Beef Classic, held at Wodonga, Victoria.
Wilson Downs is nationally recognised for its ability to present cattle at the highest level, resulting in the stud obtaining substantial success in both the show and sale ring.
The stud held the Australian record for the top-priced Angus bull for 23 years with Wilson Downs Zenith, which sold at the Suzuki Classic, Wodonga, Victoria, to New Zealand in 1981 for $40,000, three-quarter share and possession.
Other highlights for Wilson Downs include the rare achievement of winning the coveted Governors Cup at Perth Royal Show in 1990 (most points in the livestock section); having bred the Supreme Angus exhibit at the Perth Royal Show for five consecutive years, including two All Breeds champions; breeding the top performing Angus bull in the WA Knutsford bull trials for three consecutive years and breeding outright or been involved in the breeding of the top selling bull at the National Beef Classic for six years.
Further afield in the show ring saw success at the 1986 and 1987 Sydney Royal Easter Show, winning the Supreme Angus exhibit at both shows.
Always looking to use his industry best practice breeding skills, 1998 saw John invest in a Red Angus herd which delivered further success in both the show and sale ring.
John is survived by his wife Beth; sons Bruce, Paul and Ian; and grandchildren Kirsty, Tom, Abby, Jodie and Taryn; and great granddaughter Reagan.