The younger generation of beef producers and industry advocates are recognising, and more importantly, responding to Australian agriculture’s changing environment.

At the 2017 Young Beef Producers Forum in Roma the theme was ‘Realise Your Opportunities’.  Attendees were challenged to think at the individual, business and industry level.

Technology is changing the face of farming

Anna Spear, CEO at AuctionsPlus, put things in perspective when she showed a slide explaining the advancement technology and individual usage. It took about 75 years for the telephone to connect  50 million people, 13 years for the same amount of television users and 4 years for the internet.

Smartphone apps can now accumulate that amount of users within days of release.

In the past ten years the rate of technological acceleration has been exponential. This impacts not only our personal interactions but also how we do business.

So, in terms of the future, what should Australian farming families be discussing?

Communication is becoming more important than ever

Internally, amongst farming families the importance of effective communication cannot be understated.  Anthony Coates AM urged attendees to ‘listen more than you talk’ in negotiations. He stressed the importance of face-to-face communication to ‘understand and look at the people you are dealing with, see the reaction you are getting from them’. Keeping the lines of communication open Anthony believes is ‘ the key to success in agriculture’, so ‘the little walls don’t get built too high you can’t climb over them’.

Succession Planning for farming families is a priority

Gabriel Passmore and others encourage people to have early and open succession conversations within their family. Gordon Stone said many discussions don’t happen because they are deemed too difficult.

Understand agricultural production is no stroll in the park

Alf Collins Senior told the group ‘the cost of production is not something scientists are aware of’ and for this reason ‘production data is so important’. He also encouraged attendees to keep learning and recognise the importance of perseverence because ‘there are no silver bullets’.

The power of positive messages

Geoff Wagstaff told the forum ‘everything is achievable, whatever your goals they are achievable’. His wisdom was simple:

  • don’t make change for change’s sake
  • enjoy what you do and surround yourself with passionate people
  • culture doesn’t just happen, it starts at the top
  • managers need hands on experience, they need to get out of the office and into the yards

The importance of financial literacy for farmers

David McLean urged producers to know their numbers.  Grass is a grazier’s most important asset but understanding these five basic principles is also important:

  • Have a clear goal
  • Financial discipline. Maintain control through having a budget and monitoring it. Have discipline and a savings plan
  • Increase net worth every year
  • Increase knowledge and skills every year
  • Continually focus on what it is you want

Females play an important role in agriculture’s future

Having attended agricultural field days, workshops and forums for over 20 years I was really impressed with the high number of females showing an interest in beef production.

I was impressed by the open encouragement the big rural employers such as Australian Country Choice give young females in agriculture. Ben Wade from Brindley Park Feedlot addressed the females by saying “you are passionate about your animals, you care”. Ben reminded them “there is no strength required in a feedlot, there is always a machine…there is a huge career path for you and there is no glass ceiling’.

The older generation of beef producer have so much to offer

So why of all the speakers was Alf surrounded by more young farmers at the end of his talk than other speakers? They were all dynamic, informative and inspirational.

What made the difference?

Perhaps his positivity and open encouragement is what resounded with the younger farmers. There was no sugar coating that farming is a tough business.

His message ‘remember whatever game you are in its all about love and respect’ was simple enough. But he also said to ‘keep hunting for inspiration and look for people who can help you’.

Innovation creates opportunities and Australian beef producers are certainly innovative and responsive to change.

What has not changed however, are the values that created great foundations for Australian agriculture and continue to  make rural Australia a valuable part of this country, not just in the economic sense.