Live export role just fine for Gemma

13 Aug, 2012 04:00 AM
Gemma Lomax is passionate about the live export industry.
Gemma Lomax is passionate about the live export industry.

HOW to attract more young people to the agricultural sector is a hot topic in the industry at the moment.

While there is concern that there are not enough agribusiness graduates coming out of Australian universities to fill the vacancies the sector has, there are still plenty of examples of passionate, intelligent young people who are keen to make a career in agriculture.

Take Gemma Lomax, for instance.

Gemma works for Wellard Rural Exports and is in charge of that firm's livestock operations throughout northern Australia.

She is in charge of co-ordinating the logistics, the preparation of cattle and the loading of livestock vessels bound for South-East Asian markets.

Gemma, 26, said she loved the industry and that even during the live export ban she never considered leaving the industry, despite having to sit in an office for six weeks due to no shipments .

Another reason Gemma moved into the live export field was her love for working with Brahman cattle.

She moved north from her birthplace of South Australia, where her parents ran a dairy farm on the Fleurieu Peninsula, after she completed a degree in agriculture at Roseworthy University in Adelaide and has never looked back.

So what is it about the Brahman cattle which made her move from one end of the country to the other?

"I don't know, they are just great cattle," Gemma said.

"They have plenty of attitude, they are very hearty, very loveable, just the whole animal plus the lifestyle and weather in the north of Australia is just amazing."

In terms of her day-to-day duties, Gemma looks after everything on the Australian end of the shipping process, other than the buying of the cattle.

"I have a contract buyer who does that and I co-ordinate with all of stakeholders that are involved in loading the ship such as stevedores, truck drivers, depot operators, port authorities and anybody else who needs to know what we are doing," she said.

"Then the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) vets come out and do the final inspections and the final paperwork and documentation.

"It's a logistics role which keeps me very busy."

Gemma looks after all the cattle bound for South East Asian markets.

"That entails is everything from booking quarantine facilities to inspecting the cattle as they come in for quarantine, organising the vet for the protocol, organising anything which needs to go on board, organising our stockman, right through to the paperwork and meeting all of the importing country requirements," she said.

Gemma travels to any Australian port where cattle are shipped to her markets and so far it has taken her to places such as Broome, Wyndham, Darwin, Fremantle and Townsville.

Gemma said the Federal Government's sudden ban on livestock exports last year had a big impact on the whole industry.

"I think it hurt everybody on a personal level as well as a commercial level," she said.

"Anybody who is in this industry is passionate about their lifestyle and their cattle.

"I mean people don't farm cattle and breed cattle just to see them treated cruelly.

"So everybody was distraught over that and I was no different."

Gemma said she was disappointed in the way industry handled the situation.

She said it didn't seem to come back at the activists and show any of the positives of live export, which she knows are there.

"We made a mess of that but we learnt from it," she said.

"I think it was overdue some of the stuff which we have now implemented, such as the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which is absolutely amazing.

"It has just been a really big change. It's been a massive increase in workload in terms of paperwork and traceability but I think it is all warranted.

"I think if we are going to be world leaders in live export, then why not do it the hard way and implement it overnight as we have done."

Gemma covers the Australian side of ESCAS before the cattle are handed over to the importer.

That then leads to the feedlots and to the abattoirs, the next part of the ESCAS.

Gemma said the industry was going to be more sustainable over the longer term because of the new system.

"I think it was something which we weren't doing a lot of in the north of Australia, in terms of recognising cattle from RFID's and tracing them back to properties of origin," she said.

"It was definitely there with the NLIS database and the rules around NLIS, but it wasn't compulsory to tag cattle which were going for export - but now it is.

"That has been a big change for vendors who were primarily focused on export.

"There had been a few teething problems but that has all been ironed out one year in and everybody is doing a really good job now.

"Change is always difficult but I think everybody right throughout the whole supply chain has really taken it and said you know what, we are all in this to keep the industry alive and if this is what we have got to do then we are going to do it and we are going to do it well."

Despite the hard battles over the past year, Gemma was positive about the industry's future and her role within it.

"I am in it for the long haul," she said.

"I love live export and I am as passionate about the other end as I am this end."

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13/08/2012 12:13:32 PM, on Farm Weekly

"I mean people don't farm cattle and breed cattle just to see them treated cruelly." Actually, Gemma, people breed them to make money from having them killed. Give the "loveable" stuff a break.
13/08/2012 12:55:50 PM, on Farm Weekly

Yes, they don't breed them to treat them cruelly. Sending them on live export is synonymous with treatinfg them cruelly, and farmers, exporters and the government knew just how cruelly the aninals are and have been treated over decades. It's all about making the last dollar out of the hapless animals. Their welfare is directly commensurate with their dollar value, is has nothing to do with this woman's claims that they 'love' them. Give us a break! Another paid industry advertorial.
13/08/2012 2:51:56 PM, on Farm Weekly

NIcky, this woman actually works in the industry and sees what is going on every day, unlike lettuce leaf chomping vegans such as yourself, who are little more than computer jockeys.
14/08/2012 3:33:36 AM, on Farm Weekly

Nicky, what are your credentials in this argument. It would be good to know how much time you have spent on stations, live export vessels or in feedlots and slaughter houses in destination countries so we can value your comments. Gemma's comments obviously have a very strong base in experience and expertise. Good on her for holding true to her values and committing to what she believes in.


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