REVOLUTIONISING human to livestock interaction and encouraging agricultural students to seek greater career opportunities in the livestock sector, are just two main reasons the Low Stress Stock Handling School is quickly becoming a leading course in WA.
The stock handling school has been held in WA for the past 12 years and over the past three, Mitchell’s Transport owner John Mitchell and course trainer Grahame Rees have engaged with many top agricultural companies to build a strong support network and give sponsorship to students to be trained in low stress stock handling techniques.
Mr Mitchell said there was a missing link between students and achieving their career goals.
“Not only have I noticed that some students don’t think they have what it takes but many don’t know what opportunities there are from them in this great sector of ours,” he said.
Over the past few years the school has announced a bursary of positions for students attending all WA Colleges of Agriculture to be trained in these fundamental techniques.
“We ask all students who are interested to provide a portfolio of their CVs in which we and their teachers then select from,” Mr Mitchell said.
With a strong contingency of applicants and a wave of support and sponsorship from Landmark, Elders, Primaries, Harvey Beef, Livestock Shipping Services, Alcoa Farmlands, Wellards Rural Exports, Western Meat Packers, Mitchells Transport, Lanstal Pty Ltd, Harmony Operations Australia and Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd, 11 privileged students representing four colleges were selected this year.
“Like previous years, the students were able to meet the sponsors and discuss future opportunities within the sector,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The aim is to get students to start thinking about their career paths a bit earlier, in a lot more depth and to set their goals a lot higher.”
Mr Mitchell said it was pleasing to see the students engage with the sponsors and icons of the beef industry.
“It’s about making opportunities, greater connections for young agriculturalists and in doing so, slowly closing the industry gap,” he said.
The two-day spring event held in Waroona last week not only saw agricultural students but also a range of diverse participants, from first time cattle handlers, university students, to feedlot managers come along and engage in the handling of stock.
Mr Rees said the participants were put through their paces and he starts the course by teaching them the foundation for low-stress stock handling and explained the four basic animal instincts.
“There are seven principals which guide how we can interact with livestock to work with those natural instincts and produce low stress outcomes,” Mr Rees said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a small or larger producer, you work in the saleyards or you are a truck driver, the fundamental principals are all the same.
“If the right methods are implemented the stock will move with less stress through most facilities and it leads to improving production gains and profitability at weaning, in the paddock and on the truck.”
The school had evolved, giving students the opportunity and confidence to see stock handling as an enjoyable job and to get great results.
“The students don’t believe in themselves as much as they used to,” Mr Rees said.
“This gives them confidence.
“What John and I are trying to do with the companies and organisations, is to build up the culture around the sector.”
Throughout the country more than 3000 students have attended the course.
Mr Rees said he has seen many changes in the industry.
While the cropping sector is getting more advanced with technology, he said when it came to livestock, human interaction was never going to change.
“We look at the cause and teach people skills where they can work animals anywhere,’’ he said.
“In today’s world people spend a lot of money on facilities to work animals, I want to teach people basic skills, so that they are able to achieve a result safely.”
Mr Rees said it was always good to see people who had little or no experience with livestock come away confident in their skills.
“Some very experienced people also come here and after the two days they still go away having learnt something,” he said.
“It is about going back to basics, having the right attitude and enjoying the industry.”
After the completing the school, WA College of Agriculture, Denmark, students Harry McKee and Taj Bentink said they found the school very beneficial at improving their skills.
They both thought the theoretical and practical parts of the school blend together very well and were able to gain an in depth understanding of animal behavior.
“We had no idea there was so much to learn in low-stress stock handling,” they said.
“The best part was meeting the industry sponsors of the course as we were able to see all the different possible career pathways and were given lots of valuable information and contacts for further employment.”
WA College of Agriculture, Denmark, cattle technical officer Patrick Swallow said having completed the course himself in 2015, he knew his students would benefit greatly as it is well-recognised by a great deal of industry leading employers around Australia.
“Both students feel more confident in how they handle and understand livestock and their flight zones,” he said.
“They would certainly encourage other students to apply for scholarships in the near future.”