Her roots are in the Channel Country but the 2018 QCL Beef Achiever, Dalene Wray, is poised to walk across the world stage.
Already recognised for an impressive list of achievements at the Rabobank Beef Industry Awards dinner at Beef Australia 2018 last Monday night, Dalene, the managing director of OBE Beef Pty Ltd, is forging ahead with a plan to show the way in managing animal welfare outcomes from a production point of view.
Foreshadowed in her speech accepting the prestigious red meat award, Dalene said animal welfare was important to herself and to customers and so a way had to be found to “be impactful”.
“If the whole industry started talking about this, we might be able to do something,” she said.
Under Dalene’s guidance, OBE’s contribution will be through an animal welfare committee, made up of producers who supply livestock to them, producers outside its supply chain, a veterinarian, and customers from Dubai, and is set to have its first meeting on May 16.
They’ll be asked to help the organic meat company consider what they’re already doing and suggest improvements they could make.
“I think we’ll be running risks and positives past them, and areas of improvement, and see whether producers accept them,” she said.
The idea came after an industry peer sent Dalene an animal welfare benchmark report, the criteria of which she quickly ran through with OBE producers in mind.
“I said, OBE can do all that but then I thought, maybe not.”
As far as she was aware, OBE will be the only livestock management group in Australia dealing with animal welfare issues this way.
It’s a trademark move from the woman who initiated a Reconciliation Action Plan for the company, another first for an Australian agribusiness.
Making the announcement in January, Dalene said it aimed to create social change and economic opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their group, and to show the way for others to do the same.
Dalene is the first woman to win the QCL Beef Achiever award and she acknowledged that, as someone who left her Birdsville home at the age of 12 to attend boarding school, then spending six years living in Hong Kong, she would be seen as an unlikely winner.
“It’s an honour, among so many beef achievers here tonight, to receive this,” she said. “I’ve never worked in a stock camp, never mustered.”
The industry accepted her as the managing director of the company though, recognised by Dalene on Monday night when she thanked “the Stanbroke crew” on one of the tables.
“I was a young girl when I stepped into the Valley Beef abattoir and I really appreciate the support I got from them,” she said.
Dalene described herself as a “millennial mum” because of her drive for innovation and digital adoption, and her recognition of both clean and green and animal welfare issues.
“I’m the consumer the beef industry is targeting,” she said. “I’ve lived overseas and I understand what they’re looking for.”
Leading a small team of 10 based in Brisbane, she paid tribute to the company’s founders, Peter Schmidt, Scott Frazer and her father, David Brook, at the awards dinner.
She has driven a number of innovations in the business to improve the sustainability of beef supply chains, including partnering with GrazingBMP to improve farmer profitability and productivity; webinars to improve farm safety; and introducing a program to measure the extent and cost of disease and parasites in cattle, using carcase data.
She has also hosted forums to encourage outback producers to adopt technology, and advocated for improved bush broadband connectivity.
She speaks English, French, Spanish and Afrikaans, and has lived in the densely populated cities of Asia, building relationships and markets that have helped to further enhance the profile and reputation of the Australian beef sector offshore.
Back in Australia, Dalene continues to wear many hats, as a member of the Telstra Queensland Regional Advisory Committee, as an industry advisory group member for the Australian Government Farm Cooperative Project, and as a member of the DFAT Council for Australian Arab Relations.
Showing the importance of reconciliation to her beliefs, Dalene concluded her acceptance speech by saying she likened her win to the 2018 NAIDOC Week theme – Because of her, we can!