THE more you learn the more you learn.
Young Queensland Department of Agriculture beef extension officer and inaugural member of the Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 Emma Hegarty uses this motto in all facets of her life to get results for the graziers she’s working with in the field.
Emma grew up at “Colanya”, a sheep property nearly 200 kilometres north west of Longreach, with the examples of her parents Pat and Sue to guide her – they are passionate about their industry and have recently begun an SRS based Merino stud, and Sue is a state councillor with the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association.
Emma would spend her school holidays sharing the property workload and says now that experiencing firsthand the struggles graziers go through is helping her professionally.
A degree in livestock science at the University of New England was 26-year-old Emma’s first step on her own learning journey, which continued when she got a sales and consulting job with Colemans Stock Feeds at Charters Towers.
“I covered a really large area, helping producers formulate licks, so it gave me brilliant knowledge of the wide nutritional requirements of north Queensland,” she said.
She sees animal nutrition as the basis for being more efficient in business and helping people make more money.
Her next job – a 10 month graduate program with Meat and Livestock Australia and Teys Bros at Rockhampton’s Lakes Creek abattoir – gave her a good grounding in another element of the food production chain.
Working in all jobs on offer at the plant, from the yards to load-off, gave her a real “paddock to plate” experience.
“It made me realise how much I wanted to work with producers, and now I have great knowledge to share – interpreting kill sheets and the like.”
It was while she was here that she got interested in meat judging seriously, although she had been to the US as a student.
Seeing it as a vehicle for educating young people about meat and livestock, Emma coaches the Australian National Meat Judging team, a hugely popular program that looks at various aspects of meat science – its quality and gradings – which travels yearly to 10 states in the central US.
Once again, it’s the exposure to new ideas from visiting ranches, abattoirs and feedlots over there that Emma treasures.
“There’s lots of new technology there that we don’t use, to process 5000 or 6000 head a day, but then again they’re trying to feed lots of people straight away.
“Their meat gets used straight up but ours can often have a 180 day shelf life.”
Emma’s been working with the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry from a base in Cloncurry for the past three years and is loving her on-property work with producers.
“This job is brilliant – I’m learning so many new things and getting exposed to lots of new ideas.”
The Women in Australian Agribusiness 100 is a joint initiative of Emerald Grain and Fairfax Agricultural Media supported by Syngenta.
Read more of our 100's stories here