Experienced agribusiness professional John McKillop has taken on one of the biggest jobs in Australian agriculture as head of billionaire Gina Rinehart's vast agricultural interests.
Mr McKillop is the new chief executive officer of Hancock Prospecting's agricultural portfolio including Kidman & Co, starting this week.
With more than 25 properties in its portfolio, Hancock is the country's second largest producer of beef with a total herd capacity size of over 340,000.
Australia's biggest property owner Ms Rinehart is selling almost two million hectares of her holdings in a breath-taking move to dispose of many of her stations across northern Australia.
Seven big stations in WA and the Northern Territory covering some 1.876 million hectares are on the market although Mrs Rinehart will still retain the title as as the nation's biggest landowner, still spanning eight million hectares (after the sale).
It is understood Mr McKillop will retain his prominent lobbying role as chair of the Red Meat Advisory Council.
But he will leave as chair of LAWD, a rural valuation and real estate business based in Melbourne, and he is also non-executive director of the Dairy Farmers Milk Cooperative, Compass Agribusiness and on the advisory boards of Hummingbird Technologies and Kinross Farms.
Mr McKillop has also held prominent roles with Meat & Livestock Australia, Stanbroke, Elders, Dairy Australia, Hassad Australia, Clyde Agriculture, Cubbie Cotton and the Primary Industries Education Foundation.
Former chairman of the Australian Meat Industry Council and founder of branded beef business, Atron Enterprises, David Larkin vacated the Hancock role in July after four years in the job.
In a statement, Hancock Prospecting chief executive Garry Korte said Mr McKillop had been charged with making its agricultural division, the leading agricultural business in the country.
Mr Korte said Hancock had made made progress on changing cattle care culture at Hancock "so that all our staff appreciate that, happy healthy cattle are the best cattle".
He said the company had invested in extra shading, including over water troughs and adjacent areas, stock yards and in birthing paddocks.
Other initiatives include making branding irons as small as possible, and adding head rests and padding to weaner cradles.
"For staff safety we have changed windmills to solar bores, and installed digital UHF and repeater stations, so that our staff have phone, text and email contact across almost all areas of our properties, in the process building a communication network across an area similar in size to the south island of New Zealand.
"We are also conducting active research into electric and battery operated vehicles, which are under trial on several on our properties.
"Currently electric vehicles in our environment are still more expensive but over time this may change.
"Given the early stage of development of hydrogen with its many economic and safety issues to overcome, we are not trialling hydrogen vehicles in our agricultural operations."
Mrs Rinehart said agriculture and its associated industries were essential for Australia's future.
"It is a major employer, contributes significantly to our country's revenue and provides food security to our population," she said.
"To allow our industry to flourish we need an environment that welcomes investment, not overburdened by government costs and tape.
"I look forward to working with John towards making our agriculture division, even better, whilst also being mindful of government policies that hurt the whole industry and those businesses who depend on our agricultural industry."
For his part, Mr McKillop said he was excited to be joining Mrs Rinehart and the teams at Hancock and Kidman.
"I have watched the rapid expansion of this business, together with the important improvements Garry has referred to, and what has been achieved is truly outstanding.
"I am looking forward to working with a chairman and boards that are focused on further growth, who are active with innovation and continuing with industry leading standards in employee safety and animal welfare."
Meanwhile, Mrs Rinehart has confirmed her company has entered into an agreement to potentially acquire the Great Keppel Island development project from Tower Holdings, subject to a "myriad of state and local government approvals".
There is no confirmation of the price but it is believed to be around $50m.
And also, the move of Mr McKillop follows the resignation of Red Meat Advisory Council CEO Reith Parker.
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The story McKillop lands one of biggest jobs in Australian agriculture first appeared on Farm Online.