You didn't have to go far to see the impact that the Graeme Acton Beef Connections program has had on Australia's young beef producers, when the lunch to introduce the seven participants and their mentors was held during Beef Australia 2018.
From the moment the first of the three scheduled mentor partners opened their mouth to share their project and how their mentor had assisted, it was apparent that this was a grassroots plan with punch.
A new initiative in 2015 and back for a second time this year, Beef Connections was named in honour of the late Graeme Acton, who, as Bryce Camm said at the lunch, was renowned for supporting young people entering the sector, and sharing with them his extensive knowledge.
“There are people around Australia who mightn’t have seen themselves as a leader, but could open a young person’s eyes as to the economic potential of the beef industry,” Bryce said. “The mentors have really inspired our young people, and we hope the alumni will be a legacy, showing what a success it’s been.”
Three of those – Annabelle Butler, Jim Teasdale and Ella Paine – did just that, before an audience that included federal opposition agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, and Rockhampton Regional Council mayor, Margaret Strelow.
Annabelle, who works with Teys Livestock in strategic operations, told the lunch that her mentor, Julie McDonald, had helped narrow her focus as she tackled the challenging topic of rumen health and adding value for producers.
“I believe it’s under-rated,” she said, explaining that she was working to provide easy steps for people to follow, such as a multi-series webinar.
“The end result will be a well-rounded program that helps beef producers add kilograms,” she said.
For Otway Livestock Exports operations manager, Jim Teasdale, Geelong, it was the powerful changes to his personal relations where Beef Connections had helped the most.
He shared a message from his six-year-old daughter to demonstrate that for him, while it was good to celebrate financial gains and focus on the horizon, the greatest benefit was understanding that someone like himself could have a positive impact on those around him.
With the help of mentor, Ken Rich and his 25 years of experience in silage systems for intensive ruminant businesses, Jim was able to reduce shipboard mortality by 58 per cent by altering pre-export quarantine management feeding protocols.
While a relatively simple project that just required a change in thinking for the company to become an exporter that fed cattle, borrowing from feedlotting protocols, Jim’s presentation made it clear how valuable the mentoring process had been in confronting the changes to the business brought about by a high Australian dollar.
“It became more economical to feed our own cattle, some for 35 days, some for as much as 90 days,” he said.
“We receive them at the quarantine pen when they’re at their highest point for health risk factors, after mustering and trucking.
“We brought some export protocols forward to induction, and the results far outstripped expectations.”
As well as mortality reductions, vaccine costs were reduced by $1.72 a head or more than $100,000 a year.
“The program has already paid for itself for me,” was Jim’s summation.
Winton’s Ella Paine found her time at the Longreach Pastoral College so rewarding that she made increasing enrolments her project, under the tutelage of Chinchilla’s Steve Taylor.
“The phrase, good help is hard to find, is one I’d heard often, so I thought it was time to stop waiting for it to turn up,” she said.
A post-graduate role with the college meant she was able to network with people of varying backgrounds in all states, sharing a message of beef as a rapidly growing and diverse industry.
“I definitely had a positive impact on student numbers,” she said.
The four other mentor partners in the 2018 program were NSW producer, Anna White, mentored by David Greenup; Victorian producer/processor, Stewart Moroney, mentored by Brett Kelly; Queensland agribusiness representative, Bede McAlpin, mentored by Richard Rains; and NT producer, Hamish Lamond, mentored by Greg Chappell.
Beef 2018 participants heard their stories the following day at a seminar.
Bryce Camm put out a call for people keen to play a part in giving back to the beef industry to consider being a mentor for the 2021 program.