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Taking the road less travelled

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As children we are often exposed to a variety of toys and it’s the fire trucks, police cars, race cars, spaceships and tractors that spark dreams of what we want to be when we, one day, grow up.
A select few children are lucky enough to not just have to dream – they can live the reality right in their backyard. Valley born Myles Immerkar is one of the lucky ones.
“Beef cattle has always been a part of my life and my upbringing. From day one,” he said. “I was exposed to the cattle industry and life on the farm.”
Immerkar – the son of Colleen and the late Hans Immerkar – grew up on the family farm, located two miles east of Swan River. The operation consisted of approximately 100 head of purebred Simmental cattle that were a part of the diversified farming operation that also saw a feedlot, pigs, chickens and some grain farming.
“Dad was the local artificial insemination (AI) technician and bred cattle throughout the Valley,” said Immerkar, noting that this is how he was first exposed to beef genetics and reproduction.
“From an early age I had an interest in the genetics side of the business and enjoyed reading and learning about all the new AI sires we had an option of using and their traits, pedigree and characteristics.
“Some of my early highlights were being involved in the selection of the bulls that would be used on the cowherd and the anticipation of what the spring results would be from those matings,” he continued. “As calves were born on the farm I knew instantly the cow they were from and the bull they were sired by.”
Immerkar continued to grow his passion for the beef industry as he grew, involving himself in the Minitonas 4-H Beef Club from the moment he was eligible to begin showing to the time that he graduated from high school at the SVRSS in 1992.
“I attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (B.S.A) with a major in animal reproduction and animal nutrition,” he said. “Following graduation from the U of M, I was fortunate to be given an opportunity in the Animal Nutrition sector.
“I accepted a role in the industry based in Dauphin with a company that became Masterfeeds – which is Canada’s largest Animal Nutrition brand today. I was fortunate to be close enough to home to be able to begin my career as well as have the opportunity to stay involved in the family operation where passion in the beef industry still existed.”
The experience offered plenty of opportunities to be involved with beef programs across the prairies while also working his way up in the organization to eventually become a Beef Specialist and General Manager.
“In 1999, following the sudden passing of my father, I became more involved in the family farming operation and focused on the beef cattle operations of the farm,” said Immerkar, who relocated back to Swan River to be able to spend more time on the farm while still maintaining his career ambitions and continuing his roles in Dauphin.
“All career goals, objectives and ambitions at that point in my career was to continue to grow the farming operation with the goal of setting myself up to be raising cattle and ranching cattle as a full-time career.”
But, that all changed when, in the summer of 2002, Immerkar was approached with a unique opportunity and what he knew would be a new challenge.
“A large dairy genetics company based out of Guelph, Ont. approached me about their desire to add a beef program to their business operations and made a proposal for me to start up this division for them,” he said. “It was clear that this was a unique opportunity to take on a new challenge and an opportunity that may not be there again.
“I made the decision to relocate to Guelph on a trial period to explore this opportunity with the plan that if this was not what I expected I would return back to the original plan of cattle farming in Swan River.”
The Semex Alliance had come off a failed attempt to enter the beef industry in the late 90s but wanted to take another stab at it, this time with Immerkar on board.
“It turned out to be a great experience and after one year, I knew this was something I wanted to commit to and see through,” he said. “So, in the summer of 2003 we dispersed the Simmental cattle herd in Swan River and I decided it was time to buy a house in Ontario.”
The 16 years Immerkar spent at the Semex Alliance were filled with many great opportunities and experiences – working with all types of cattle relevant to the global beef industry.
“I quickly had to become an expert in all beef breeds and their attributes, pedigrees and strengths in order to build a strategic plan and focus for those breeds within our program,” he said. “With a strategic desire to bring some tropical and international breeds to Canada, where they did not exist, in order to improve logistics in genetic transfer, many of these exotic breeds made their way back to Swan River and a handful of breeds saw the first ever calf of that breed to be born in North America right in the Valley.
“Breeds such as Brazilian Gyr, Australian Droughtmaster, Belgian Blue, American Brahman, Paraguayan Brahman, South African Angus, Argentina Brangus, Argentina Brafford and American Simbrah saw their first progeny born in Canada right in the Valley.”
Growing a Global Beef program took him to all parts of the world – travelling to 65 countries and working with clients or government sectors on the development of their beef program or industry.
“One of the truly unique parts this job created was not only the countries that I visited but the parts of the country that very few people in those countries ever experience themselves,” he said. “I had the opportunity to work in Siberia region of Russia, the Steppes of Kazakhstan, the Amazon region of Brazil, the Darfur Region of Sudan, the Northern Territory of Australia and Mongolian region of China among many other unique and fascinating places around the world.
“The ability to experience the true culture and way of life in these isolated regions is definitely something I will cherish forever.”
Through all this Immerkar was able to play a integral role in some of the largest beef farming operations in the world.
“I had the opportunity to manage fully integrated project management programs from breeding to slaughter in Russia, China and Vietnam for large corporations,” he said. “I had the opportunity to work with grassroots government industry development projects in developing countries in South Sudan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Indonesia and China. I also had the opportunity to play an integral role in strategic development in some of the world’s large meat programs in Mexico and Brazil.
“Each of the 65 countries I had the opportunity to work in brought unique challenges, opportunities and obstacles as we explored and learned the cultural, political, climatic and economic challenges of each country around the world.”
But, change was on the horizon once again for Immerkar and in December 2018 he decided to take the leap into another opportunity, leaving his role as Global Beef Programs Manager for the Semex Alliance.
“As it had occurred 16 years prior, I was approached with a very unique career opportunity,” he said. “The Canadian Angus Association (CAA) were looking for a new Chief Executive Officer to lead their organizational direction and growth.
“I know these opportunities don’t come along every day and there are only a few roles in the beef industry that I felt would be a positive stepping stone for my future – this was one of them.”
The CAA is one of the renowned beef organizations in the industry and has a strong genetic base, passionate membership and product appeal to the end consumer.
“No breed plays a more important role in the restaurant and meat trade today than the Angus breed,” said Immerkar. “In Canada there are more registered Angus breeders than all other breeds combined and Angus influences 65 percent of the Canadian commercial beef industry.
“I feel my understanding of both the domestic beef industry as well as the global beef industry will create new opportunities to add value to the Canadian Angus members. Semex was the largest marketer of Canadian Angus genetics globally and I understood the strength of the Canadian Angus breed as well as understand the missed opportunities for the breed in the global sector.
“My experience in understanding the science involved in the beef sector, the branding and marketing experience and sales networking experience will all ideally bring new value and new opportunities to all Angus breeders of Canada who I represent,” he continued.
“Just in my first few months, the opportunity to sit at the same table and discuss strategies with some of the world’s iconic brands and organizations in the meat and food services from top end restaurant chains to supermarket chains to beef processors has created an exciting opportunity to create more value, learn from these organizations and add new skills.”
Heading up the national Angus association is a long way from the farm in which he grew up raising Simmental cattle with the family.
“I continue to have a soft spot for Simmental and am still extremely passionate for the breed that continues to be a major component of the beef industry not only in Canada but around the world,” said Immerkar. “I continue to follow the Simmental breed and am an advocate for all beef breeds as they all play an important role in the industry even though my focus today is on the success of the Angus breed.”
Not only has the change been exciting professionally for Immerkar but also personally.
“The opportunity to have a change of lifestyle was appealing to both myself and my family,” he said. “Travelling around the world on a regular basis provided a great opportunity however always came at a cost of not being around as much as one would like, not becoming a part of the local community and not being involved in all activities of a growing family.
“I am excited about the opportunity for my family to take on a new adventure together. Over the next six months my family and I are excited to begin the relocation process, finding a new community to call home and establishing roots in Alberta where (the CAA office is located).”