10 July, 2022
Rural northerners win rare opportunity
A GROUP of 11 rural North Queenslanders have been selected to participate in the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries funded "Advancing Beef Leaders" (ABL) program.
Included in the group are Kasmin Brotherton from Evelyn, Cailan Byrnes, Tolga, Bill Bjurstrom, Inorunie Station, Georgetown, Lara Conaghan, Red Rock Station, Einasleigh, Emily Corbett, Mareeba DAF, Kate Hams, Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, Ian Masterson, Lochlea Station, Greenvale, Mandy Pickering, Croydon, Brandy-lee Shannon, Springfield Station, Mt Surprise, Dan Slaney, Amber Station, Mt Garnet and Keerah Steele, Gulf Savannah NRM.
ABL is a 12-month tailored leadership and professional development program for emerging producers and community leaders and, according to Sam Fryer, a participant of the initiative's pilot program, the timing couldn't be better.
“Beef is sexy right now. We need to keep that momentum going and ABL offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for involving the next generation and promoting all the industry has to offer,” the 32-year-old beef producer from “Ellington” Station at Hughenden said.
Recently selected to represent his state as the NAB Agribusiness Cattle Council of Australia's Queensland Rising Champion, Sam has just returned from an intensive training and mentoring session in Canberra.
“Contract mustering for four years in the Gulf and Northern Territory, I felt like I didn't have a very high-level view of the cattle industry,” he said.
“Learning how the peak industry bodies, like Agforce and Cattle Council operate and interact has been an eye-opening experience, making me realise how much they need our support.
They can't go in to represent us with 10 votes behind them, so at Beef Week's Next Gen forum, (Senator) Susan MacDonald and I will be focused on getting young people on board to support the decisions and changes needed to keep our industry strong.”
Sam said the mentoring he received during his year with ABL was literally life-changing. Being employed full-time post- ABL, by his mentor, Emma Black, of Black Box Co, as their Northern Accounts Manager has helped “get him out of his own little pond”.
Currently studying a Bachelor of Agribusiness through the University of New England, majoring in finance, marketing and management, Sam encouraged this year's group to have an open mind and a willingness to learn, and not to be afraid to speak up or get involved.
Rocky Creek Abattoir manager, 27-year-old Cailan Byrnes, saw ABL as a way of “catching up” on lost years in the beef industry.
Choosing to step away from his family's vertically integrated beef operation, Cailan completed an Electrical Engineering degree and worked as an electrician for several years.
“I came back three years ago and now run the day to day operations of the plant, maintaining quality control inside the plant, coordinating the supply of cattle from our breeding and fattening properties and ensuring our butchers and restaurants are happy with our ‘Tableland Blue’ branded product,” he said.
“My current focus is on using Ph testing to improve the consistency and quality of our meat and using ossification to achieve more accurate aging of cattle.
We cart our weaners down from our Peninsula blocks at 200kg and fatten them on properties at Upper Barron and Malanda.
“Staff shortages are probably our biggest challenge at the moment and I would like to build a relationship with local school leavers to make them more aware of us as potential employers.
“I am planning on setting up in-house carcase competitions and engaging students in an inter-school meat judging competition as a way of getting young people involved in our business.”
Kasmin Brotherton from Evelyn said their beef business story was fairly typical for the area, transitioning from dairy to beef due to market changes following deregulation.
Kasmin is currently secretary of the Malanda Beef Plan Group, which focuses on helping farmers through that transition.
“While I love the cattle and land management, developing people is where it’s at for me,” she said.
“Through ABL, I want to develop a deeper understanding of the issues families face in areas like succession planning and I would like to work alongside grazing families in that space in the future.”
The big drawcards for Mandy Pickering of Belmore Station, west of Croydon, were the opportunities for personal development, networking with other producers and industry leaders and gaining a mentor or two along the way to intensify the program's benefits.
“Because I am originally from Bellbrook, New South Wales and my husband, our three children and I spent over a decade contract fencing in the Northern Territory, just using Belmore as a base, I feel quite new to the beef breeding industry,” she said.
“We have been back living on the property for the last five years, working on expanding numbers in our breeding herd and I think the Advancing Beef Leaders program will help build my confidence and fill the gaps in my industry experience.
“I work as a Project Support Officer with the Gulf Savannah Ag team out of my Croydon office and love delivering events to producers.
We are a five-hour drive out of Atherton, so one of the great things about this course is that most of the content is delivered online, with just a few face to face meetings.”
Mareeba-based Extension Officer with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Emily Corbett, loves her job, station hopping through Cape York and the Northern Gulf, working across the cattle industry's entire supply chain.
“I really enjoy working alongside producers, relaying information from industry trials and research and providing opportunities to better their businesses and more importantly, learning from their experiences and understanding what works for them in their location,” she said.
“I hope ABL will give me the skills and confidence to reach a point where I can eventually be a voice for the rural industry and I am excited for the opportunity to build relationships and learn from this group of forward thinking ABL members from my area.”
North Queensland coordinator of ABL and Principal Beef Extension Officer with DAF, Alison Larard, said the DAFfunded course included modules on Understanding self and others; Spheres of influence; Technical foundations; Economic and financial fundamentals and Business and succession planning.