It was with designs in mind to further develop his personal skillset that Darling Downs-based Kerwee Feedlot general manager Steve Martin decided to take part in the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation’s (ARLF) flagship Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) from which he recently graduated with the aid of a scholarship from ALFA.
He said the program has helped him become a more effective leader by its focus on better appreciating the trading environment you’re in and by developing your communication abilities with staff, clients, and others.
“I’m a much better listener now, and I’m more open taking in alternate views and methods, which will hopefully lead to more mutual engagement with staff and clients,” he said.
After Steve applied for the ARLF program, he was contacted by ALFA and due to his lotfeeding ties, they awarded him a scholarship to attend the course through ALFA levy funds.
In 25 years the ARLF has seen more than 1000 participants graduate from the ARLP course, and Steve said one of the keys to the success of the program is being able to connect with program alumni and discuss shared experiences from the course.
He said his cohort for the program covered a large cross-section of people from across Australia involved in a broad spectrum of industry roles.
“The course really pulled a lot of different personalities and spaces together, so it was great to get out and learn from one another.”
He said one of the course components he got the most out involved a trip to Indonesia.
“That section focussed on better understanding different cultures and putting their priorities and requirements into perspective against our own.”
“We learned our business priorities are much different to theirs, I think it has helped me develop a sense of sensitivity when dealing with clients from our export partners now which I didn’t have before I completed the course.”
Steve road to this point came after graduating from university with a Rural Science degree which he used combined with his passion for the industry to score a graduate trainee position at Elders’ Killara Feedlot in 2006.
“Working there was a great opportunity and gave me a great insight into the supply chain.”
He moved around through different roles during his eight years at Killara and was eventually promoted to livestock farm manager.
“One of my personal highlights during my time there was being nominated for and winning the ALFA Young Lot Feeder Achiever Award in 2013.”
He said winning the award led to the generation of a lot of interest from other businesses looking to gain his services.
“It’s a good industry to be in if you’re young and have long-term career ambitions.
“It gave me the opportunity to have a good think and decide where and how I wanted to expand my career, and in 2014 I applied for the general manager role at Kerwee.”
Steve said the family-owned feedlot (which has just celebrated 60 years) is designed for the cattle to enjoy a clean and stress-free environment whilst maintaining the viability of the surrounding eco-system.
The feedlot now has a carrying capacity of 20,200 after the recent completion of expansion works and is National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme accredited.
“The expansion plan was put in place due to customer demand for our product, it’s been a very rewarding experience and we’re by no means finished with our infrastructure upgrades, we have several more projects in the pipeline.”
He said Kerwee beef is exported to 19 countries, targeting the high-end restaurant trade in Asia and the Middle East.
The branded beef programs at Kerwee include four, 400 day Wagyu products and a 200 day long-fed Angus product.
Kerwee’s focus on quality is reflected by the fact that they are currently the Wagyu branded beef titleholders at the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne RNA shows.
“We work using a conservative family model, which is based on producing quality over quantity, we aren’t trying to compete with the large-scale operations.
“I think it adds value to the results we’re trying to produce in that sense, it certainly suits me well as achieving goals is what gives me job satisfaction, and we have top-notch, highly loyal staff here that makes everything run that much smoother.”
Steve said he began the ARLp course in June 2016 and graduated in mid-October this year.
“The program involved close to 50 days of training over that span of time which is a decent time commitment, but the workload is manageable.
“I would recommend the program to all and sundry provided they meet the selection criteria, as the key learnings you acquire from other people and the course itself will be of great value to anyone.
“It has definitely made me want to become more involved with engaging with those in the feedlotting industry and the surrounding community.”