Beefing up youth in ag

It all starts with knowing what you don’t know, and then doing something about it

I RECENTLY argued that the only thing wrong with youth in agriculture is the perception of it, and that point was reinforced at this year's Young Beef Producers Forum.

Nearly 250 head of under 35-year-olds were yarded at Roma, Queensland, for the 10th annual event last Thursday and Friday.

The Future Farmers Network put on a solid show sporting strong speakers and great networking opportunities.

With a very impressive line up of sponsors and supporting exhibitors, the national body reinforced its position as the most dominant ‘youth in agriculture’ organisation.

All states and territories were represented, although Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia need to pick up their game, given their contribution to our national herd. There’s a huge opportunity for their young farmers to be involved.

Speakers touched on subjects like marketing to consumer demands for beef, how butchers are value-adding through beef cuts, and an afternoon discussion panel featuring contributors from the National Farmers Federation, AgForce and the Australian Financial Review.

The real highlight, catching eyes, ears, minds and hearts, was Rob Cook.

The ex bull-riding, chopper-flying beef farmer from the Northern Territory has been wheelchair-bound for six years after a helicopter muster went wrong and left him a quadriplegic.

He’s now a Nuffield Scholar after spending years travelling around the world learning about beef production and automated cattle handling systems, all of which he controls from his chair through the limited but fine movement of his hand using shoulder movement.

Inspiring us about the unconditional love and support of his wife Sarah and their kids, Rob left us all in awe of his courage, commitment and attitude.

Many of us commented that it’ll make us think twice next time we reckon we’ve got it tough or can only think about things a certain way.

The Friday was taken up mostly with a farm visit to “Point Lookout” where we were shown around by the Reddan family and given a look at their feedlot operation. Presentations on on-farm technology and drones were also enjoyed despite the hot and dry day.

Of course a huge turnout from Queenslanders and Northern Territorians gave the forum a 'northern beef' flavour, but lessons from southern producers would prove invaluable.

Rob Cook shared his experience on a dairy in Gippsland and how that affected his management up north where the country is so different.

I’ve also seen great synergies missed by those up north and down south not communicating or experiencing the other.

There are infinite opportunities for young beef producers or others in the industry to put themselves into ‘stretch assignments’ where minds, knowledge and thought processes are widened; and the uptake and exposure to those concepts from attendees was really promising.

It all starts with knowing what you don’t know, and then doing something about it.

The forum finished with the Future Farmers Network annual general meeting, where Jessica Skilbeck, Rebecca Gowen and yours truly, were most honourably voted onto the board as directors.

The FFN is uniquely positioned and has some very exciting projects ahead, so Jessica and I are really looking forward to sinking our teeth in and being involved in the industry around Australia over the coming years.

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Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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