WITH an estimated four jobs for every university graduate there is an abundance of career paths for young people in agriculture.
But with strong economic returns for sheep and cattle, and a growing acceptance by farmers of the value of sound livestock advice, there has been an injection of youth into livestock consultancy in SA.
Four members of the recently-established SA Livestock Consultants group are under 40 years of age.
Hamish Dickson, AgriPartner Consulting, Clare, and Coleraine, Vic, based, Meg Bell are two who have already gained considerable industry respect.
They both run their own businesses but gained valuable experience with Mid North livestock nutrition advisors Productive Nutrition, which took on both as graduates.
Hamish, who has been a livestock consultant for the past decade, enjoys the challenge of problem solving.
“I love working with producers and helping them go through their systems and look at what they are doing really well and the areas that need to be tweaked to improve their production, lifestyles and profitability,” he said.
Hamish grew up on a property at Canowindra in central NSW and after completing an agricultural science degree with Honours moved to SA in 2007 to work for Productive Nutrition.
“Jobs for graduates in livestock consulting were few and far between then so the move to SA was always on the cards and I was keen to see different parts of Australia, which the job has allowed me to do,” he said.
Hamish says farmer awareness of livestock consultants has grown in the past decade, especially since he started AgriPartner Consulting in 2014.
“Livestock systems are increasingly complex and while agronomists have led the way more and more, farmers are seeing the role of having someone in an advisory capacity for livestock too,” he said.
“Even in drought years we are seeing producers wanting to use a consultant to justify how they are spending their money feeding animals.”
Meg, who was raised on a beef property at Millicent, has clients from the South East to Vic Gippsland, and runs several Lifetime Ewe Management Groups.
Her growing list of roles includes coordinator of the Limestone Coast Red Meat Cluster and president of the Limestone Coast branch of the Grasslands Society of Southern Australia.
The University of New England graduate spent several years working with Productive Nutrition in the Mid North and South East providing livestock health and nutrition advice.
In 2015, she branched out on her own while also working on the family farm, but after moving to Vic she has joined with partner Owen McClure to establish Coleraine Livestock Consulting.
“I always wanted to help farmers produce a better product and more efficiently,” she said.
She says the past 12 months have been hard work but her efforts are paying off.
“Farmers are expected to know a lot of things but they are not necessarily specialists. It is about fillling the knowledge gaps and helping them make a better bottom line,” she said.
“The days of getting free information are rapidly disappearing. It is not economical for the government to provide it so farmers are accepting they do have to pay for what they got for free 30 years ago,” she said.
Two of the newest faces in SA livestock consulting are Tara Graetz and Jackson Adams, who are undertaking two-year internships – an initiative of Meat & Livestock Australia and Meridien Agriculture.
Tara grew up on a prime lamb and lucerne seed and hay growing property near Willalooka.
After gaining a Bachelor of Agriculture at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, she joined Rural Directions, based in Clare, in February last year, as a graduate livestock agribusiness consultant.
“Helping people is always something that has interested me,” she said.
“It always intrigued me why everyone had agronomists for their cropping but never looked for specialist advice with their livestock – but that is changing.”
Tara has been learning from Rural Directions’ senior consultants, assisting in the MLA-funded Profitable Integration of Cropping and Livestock project, and providing support for Pasture Principles and MLA’s Southern BusinessEDGE programs.
She is also running two sheep management groups in the Mallee in her own right.
Jackson – a Mannum local – was not raised on a farm but became a convert to agriculture after doing work experience with Murray Bridge sheep classer Bill Walker.
In ensuing years he completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Honours in Animal and Veterinary Science at the University of Adelaide, before taking up the post-graduate consulting study in May last year.
The many research projects he has been working on include the SA Merino Sire Evaluation at Keyneton Station and validating the Sheep CRC’s Ask Bill app.
He said the development of many new technologies such as dual energy x-ray absorptiometry for carcase measurement and tissue sampling and the subsequent building of pedigrees brought many opportunities.
“This is extremely exciting since I’m only just starting out in the industry,” he said.