Lucinda Corrigan: Blazing a path for ag's future

27 Mar, 2014 01:00 AM
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Outstanding leader in agribusiness Lucinda Corrigan, Bowna, NSW.
Every day we have the opportunity to do what we do better.
Outstanding leader in agribusiness Lucinda Corrigan, Bowna, NSW.

WIAA 100: Outstanding leader in agribusiness

MOST mornings, at about 5.30, you’ll find Lucinda Corrigan powering across the family farm on the NSW South West Slopes.

It’s when she refines, with laser-like focus, her plans for the day – be they for the family’s Rennylea Angus operation, one of many board and committee roles or how to fit in the growing frequency of requests for mentoring.

Everybody, it seems, is keen to tap into the knowledge and experience she has built up over 30 years in agriculture.

For Lucinda, raised on a Riverina sheep station, a life in agriculture was always the plan.

While the family relocated to Sydney when she was just a teenager after the death of her father, Lucinda says she quickly began “plotting” her return to the bush.

She studied agricultural science at the University of Sydney, knowing she wanted to work with livestock.

When she graduated in the early ’80s, the farm sector was battling recession and living by the mantra of diversification.

“In a way, that’s quite different now,” Lucinda says.

“I think most people would say now that to be successful you need to be a specialist at what you do and that too much diversification can be a distraction for the average family farm.

“But in the ’80s a lot of people were diversifying into new industries.”

For a young graduate then, there could hardly be a better place to be than in the fast growing goat industry.

Within five years, she was heading up the Australian Cashmere Growers Association and in trademark ‘hands-on’ fashion had established her own herd of goats that eventually grew to 400 breeding does.

When she married husband Bryan and moved to “Rennylea” at Bowna, NSW, she recalls warning him of the package deal: “when I move in, it’s me and the goats!’”.

At “Rennylea”, the goats joined an operation that included a commercial Merino flock and a still developing

Angus seedstock operation selling about 10 bulls a year.

It’s a vastly different operation to that the Corrigans run today.

The goats went first and by 2002, they had offloaded their sheep and spurred on by the results of considerable benchmarking work, decided to focus on their growing beef business.

Lucinda says they’ve since “diversified within beef genetics” with four marketing channels for their bulls – auction, contracts, private treaty and leases – and a growing arm of genetic products like semen and embryos.

The operation, now spread across properties at Bowna and Culcairn, has grown to a herd of 1250 performance recorded cows and sales of 450 bulls a year.

Over the years Lucinda says they’ve continued to benchmark their performance and challenge themselves to do better.

In 2012, the Corrigans entered – and won – the NAB Agribusiness Primary Producer of the Year award.

While the recognition for their efforts and those of their team was welcome, Lucinda says just as important was the way the entry process forced them to clarify their vision for Rennylea.

“It makes you think about what you’re doing and makes you refocus your goals.”

She is a big believer in the need for self-evaluation and learning from your mistakes.

“Failure is part of success – just make sure you use it, don’t let it slip by.

“Face it head on and think about what you need to do differently so it doesn’t happen next time.”

At Rennylea, she likes to remind the team that each day they all have the opportunity to do what they do better.

Lucinda takes the same approach to her many off-farm roles – from sitting on the board of Meat and Livestock

Australia to chairing the advisory committee for the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Indeed the NSW Primary Industries Ministerial Advisory Council which she chairs is currently undertaking an evaluation process for that very reason.

“It’s really good to look at what we’re doing so we can make it better.”

For Lucinda, her many off-farm advisory and board roles with various CRCs have all revolved around what she calls the “innovation agenda”.

“That’s always been my big interest – contributing to how we invest andwhere we make progress and the technology and tools we need to do our jobs more efficiently.”

She’s proud of the progress she’s helped drive around productivity and natural resource management and in particular around the development of sustainable grazing systems.

These are long term investments, understanding the complexity in high performing systems and making improvements in different areas to contribute to a more profitable and sustainable outcome.

She’s particularly interested in what she describes as “transformational research and development”, where industries change fundamentally with sustained investment over a couple of decades.

“In the grains industry, the development of no-till farming is a great example and in livestock it is the transformation of the fat lamb industry to the prime lamb industry.

“We have other large bodies of work that are well down this path, such as the meat quality system Meat

Standards Australia, and the grazing systems work we call Evergraze.”

Lucinda credits the Australian Rural Leadership Program with helping her define where she wanted to focus her efforts in the industry.

“It’s very easy to stay very busy and perhaps not very focused.

“I think you need to find where it is you want to make a difference.”

Lucinda now spends an increasing amount of hours acting as a mentor and helping a new generation to find their own focus in the industry.

“I often say to them: ‘What is it that makes you want to get out of bed at 5 o’clock in the morning’?”

“Finding that is key.”

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Sally White

is a former editor of The Land.

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