Lot feeding industry mourns Trevor Schoorl

Vale Trevor Schoorl

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Trevor Schoorl pictured upon graduation from Gatton Ag College in 1993.

Trevor Schoorl pictured upon graduation from Gatton Ag College in 1993.

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LEADING livestock identify and animal nutritionist Trevor Schoorl was tragically killed in an accident just two days after Christmas.

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LEADING livestock identify and animal nutritionist Trevor Schoorl was tragically killed in an accident just two days after Christmas.

Trevor was killed after a ride-on lawn mower he was loading onto a trailer fell on him on December 27, just a week before what would have been his 48th birthday.

Trevor, who was born on the Atherton Tablelands on January 3, 1971, was instilled with a love of the land that forged his future career paths that took him across Queensland and overseas.

He was the second born son to Cees and Eileen and brother to Graham, Alison and Judith.

His brother-in-law Michael Thomson delivered a touching eulogy at his funeral service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Toowoomba on Saturday, the same church where Trevor married his wife Gen in 1996.

Mr Thomson recounted Trev’s upbringing on the family dairy farm on the Atherton Tableland, learning skills that he carried for life, loving the land, the animals, the joy of hard work and its rewards.

“His family and their values, their practicality and their honesty, were the foundations for the man we were all later blessed to know and love,” Michael said.

“Trev had an in-built drive to pursue his goals … although normally a helpful boy, his mother recounts being rebuffed when she asked an 8-year-old Trevor to help with some chores as he had some “irrigating” to do. Trev had witnessed the installation of a travelling irrigator on the farm and decided he needed one of his own, attaching the hose to the old family pram to wind the sprinkler slowly across the grass.

“By 10 he was driving a tractor, and co-opting his sisters and his mates into a money making scheme to collect grass seed by hand from the road sides to sell through the local farm supply agency. He loved agriculture and had a natural flair for “getting amongst it”, as he liked to say.

“As we all know he also an adventurous streak. Only years later did his father learn that a 14-year-old Trev and his mates used the farm four-wheeler as a make-shift amphibian – its big spinning wheels keeping the bike afloat and moving forward all the way across the Barron River.

“He was full of energy and had a pretty big motor to run on. At Malanda State High School he collected countless medals for his running, was elected a sporting house captain and represented Peninsula at the State athletics titles in 1988. His energy was relentless.

“After school Trev took what’s now known as a gap year - his was hardly a holiday though, working at Len’s Chainsaws in Atherton as a small engine mechanic and continuing to help out at the dairy at home. He was also awarded a six-week Lion’s Youth Exchange ticket to Canada, leaving younger sister Alison at home to milk his cows for him even though she was in the midst of studying for her year 12 exams.

Trevor pictured recently working for Lallemand as an animal nutritionist.

Trevor pictured recently working for Lallemand as an animal nutritionist.

“These experiences changed Trevor’s outlook - understanding the importance of presenting himself to customers, to sponsors and to industry overseas, seeing the opportunities that lay beyond the farm. It focussed his mind on using his time at university for maximum benefit later in life.

“At Gatton Agricultural College he undertook a Bachelor of Applied Science from 1990-1993. It was nothing for Trev to start the day milking the college’s dairy herd, put in a full day’s study, spend his spare time fixing and tinkering and doing odd jobs to help out, and then find time to train to compete in triathlons, and still have enough go left in him to teach his mates a thing or two about beer appreciation. He knew only one pace - “go hard or go home” he would say. This included his application to studies - he graduated with honours.

“Going hard also meant not taking a backward step. Trevor never sought trouble, but somehow that cheeky grin attracted it from time to time. But he wouldn’t be bullied, even when a toothless goon at the Powerhouse nightclub was threatening him with a barstool, Trev stood his ground and told him to “go home to his mum”.  On other occasions drunken louts made the mistake of showing his female friends unwanted attention. Trev would excuse himself to “sort these blokes out”. That would be the end of that.

“It was this combination of integrity and cheekiness and relentless helpfulness that endeared him to everyone here. When he first met my parents at home, he impressed by leaving his boots at the door and washing up after dinner. Some may have thought it was a good move to impress the prospective in-laws, but it wasn’t a one-off. It was every visit thereafter. This was just Trevor being Trevor. If he saw a need he wouldn’t walk past it - he got stuck in.

“As a stand-out among his year group it was no surprise that he attracted attention from potential employers. During his final year at Gatton Ag, he undertook a six-month work placement with North Florida Holsteins in the US, where he formed a strong relationship with owner Don Bennink. Don knew he’d found a good one in Trev and after graduation invited him back for a further year of work as the dairy hospital manager.

“On his return to Australia Trev worked at World Wide Sires selling dairy semen to farmers from Cairns to Victoria and all points between. My sister Genevieve was working at the Burke and Wills Hotel, which we later nicknamed the Mills & Boon after Trev proposed to her in the car-park. They were married in December 1996 here at this very altar, with many of you here today also here on that much happier day.

“From 1997 to 2004 they enjoyed the great adventure of their lives - running a dairy in the Caribbean island nation of the Dominican Republic. His old boss and good mate Don Bennink called on Trev to lead the establishment of a large-scale dairy which was being developed through a joint venture between North Florida Holsteins and Dominican milk processor, Leche Rica. From learning Spanish to dodging car-jackers, every day was different to their lives in Australia.

“But in many ways Trev was made for the DR - a country and a culture paralysed by class, corruption and a manana attitude, Trev crashed through it all with his relentless can-do attitude. His farm workers loved him, because he was not above them like a Dominican Don, but was one of them who knew how to do every job on the farm and was not afraid to get his hands dirty in doing them. He stood up for them too - one day the team arrived at work without the country’s tool of choice, the machete. The local police were confiscating them from everyone on the street in response to some recent violence. Trev went straight to the cop shop and returned a few hours later with their tools. They loved him because he cared and he showed his care through his actions.

“He left his mark in a much more significant way for the developing country which in the late 90s was importing 80 per cent of its milk. When he arrived he was handed the keys to a low-performing 200-cow herd. In his first two years he doubled the number of litres per cow per day, without even changing genetics. The transformation started from the ground up, teaching the team to do the basics right of nutrition and animal management. By the time Trev and Gen left the Dominican they were managing a new and larger farm with a 1500 cow-herd, milking three times a day, growing its own silage, and tracking individual animal performance with pedometers, milk quality measurement systems and modern data analysis. This transformation generated wealth and jobs in a poor country, and provided much needed improved nutrition to the human population.

“Even though Trevor had plenty on his plate, he was never selfish with his knowledge, taking time out even on holiday road trips to pop in to visit small local farmers who were eager for his advice. They may only have been hand milking 5 or 10 cows - it wasn’t beneath him to share his time and a tip or two to help the locals. He genuinely loved teaching, and his natural humility meant we all loved being taught by him.

“It was in the DR that Trev and Gen’s greatest joys arrived in the world - Abigail in 2001 and Charlie in 2003. They don’t remember much of that time, but they were lucky enough to return to the DR as a family last year to revisit old haunts and rekindle old friendships from among the ex-pat community and among the farm workers. They had so much fun together on that trip. They were so pleased they could finally return (albeit for a short period) to their Dominican family and home, with Abby and Charlie gaining a new appreciation for how hard their father worked and what he was able to achieve.

“Trev was super-proud of Abby and Charlie. If anyone saw the photos of Abby’s recent graduation they would have recognised Trev’s big grin, bursting with pride at the wonder of his daughter. It was the same look he’d have watching his little mate Charlie at work with him in the garden or on the farm. He instilled in them the same talents and values he gained from his wonderful family - honesty, integrity, determination, hard work, helpfulness, and a little bit of cheek. Not to mention a dangerous combination of intelligence and exceptional athletic ability.

“When the young Schoorl family returned to Australia, Trev took a position with Quality Silage Systems, which later became part of the Lallemand corporate family. The Schoorls settled into a comparatively quieter life in Toowoomba, but it didn’t stop Trev travelling far and wide to advise farmers on silage management and nutritional supplementation for beef and dairy herds. It did take a bit of adjustment though - at one field day not long after his return he was taking questions from local Australian farmers only to notice they were looking at him oddly. He was so used to dealing with Dominicans that he had been answering questions in Spanish instead of English.

“Trev really loved his job and he quickly established himself as a star both within the business and among the client base. Driven by his competitive nature, he exceeded every revenue target set by his bosses. He was always on the go, even keeping a record of his carphone conversations by scribbling notes on the car windows with a white board marker.

“He attained the respect of some of the biggest and best in the beef and dairy industries. He provided advice to the likes of Moxeys Dairies, Australia’s largest dairy farming operation, as well as major beef businesses like JBS, Mort & Co, and Teys Australia.

“Trev was regularly invited to speak at industry conferences like BeefEx and the Australian Lot Feeders Association conference, and countless dairy industry workshops. His advice was in demand around the world, regularly called on by corporate farming operations like the Aust-Asia Dairy Group in China or the Elders feedlot operations in Indonesia. He built this following through his honesty, hard work, accountability, and his amazing ability to personally connect with everyone he encountered. Whether it was a farm hand or a CEO, he treated everyone alike.

“I knew Trev was good at his job, but as he was a mate and family member I don’t think I fully appreciated what a captain of industry he actually was until a few years ago. Unsolicited a colleague of mine in Central Queensland said to me, “Trev may not have the most degrees compared to some people in the business, but he’s still considered by many as Australia’s number one animal nutritionist.” Having spoken in recent days to others in the industry, they have all commented that there was no-one better than Trev at converting feed into beef and milk. Our personal loss of Trev is also a major loss of knowledge and skill to Australian agriculture.

“His presence was huge in all of our lives. Somehow in such a busy and full life he stayed in touch with us all - his childhood friends from back in Atherton, the Gatton College crew, his Dominican mates, his team at Lallemand, and of course his family.

“We are still stunned by the accident that took him from us two days after Christmas and a week shy of his 48th birthday. He left Gen and Abby and Charlie after lunch to quickly duck down the road to mow a friend’s lawn. He never returned. It is still so hard to fathom.

“There will never be another Trev, but I hope we can remember him by emulating him – showing our love for others through our service and our smiles, just as Trev did. He was the best of men.”

The story Lot feeding industry mourns Trevor Schoorl first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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