Beef tales of the pioneers

This week I was honoured by the Australian Beef Industry via the Merial Howard Yelland Award . I must admit I was a little bit surprised to receive an award from the beef industry and pretty damned chuffed at the same time.

As I said in my acceptance speech

This award is a momentous acknowledgement by industry that what we – as farmers – do beyond the farmgate in 21st century is just as important as what we do behind it

This award is the Australian beef industry saying we are proud of what we do and we want to share our stories with the world

Most importantly this award is a salute to all the brave young people – the Young Farming Champions – I so admire and work with every day

Young people who broke new ground and started a movement to help agriculture have the courageous conversations we all need to have

Conversations that will ensure we build lifelong and powerful partnerships of trust between farmers and the community

Conversations that will cement agriculture as the strong, prosperous and vibrant building block underpinning the health and happiness of Australia’s landscape and its communities.

The press around my award has given the impression I am the first woman to win this award. Standalone yes but today’s post is a tribute to the woman who paved the way – Mary Gubbins who in partnership with her husband Andrew won the Howard W Yelland Award in 2008

You can read all about Mary and Andrew in this wonderful story Stud Science by Genevieve Barlow –

Andrew and Mary Gubbins

The Australian Beef Industry has some wonderful stories to tell – lets ensure those opportunities are found and taken up far and wide

Stories like this one. Treating the stud as a business has resulted in Paringa Livestock’s success, about the family of  previous winner Don Lawson who I met on the night

I also had the pleasure of meeting another former winner CAAB trailblazer Michael Pointer

Guest speaker on the night was the big personality John Hughes. There would be many people in Australia who would say we just don’t have enough people like John with sheer guts and determination any more.

It was a great night and  special thanks to 1995 winner Richard Makim for putting my name forward

Being part of a democracy means you have a voice. Lets find our voices and be heard.

Farmers know they are part of the planet and we do what we believe is right.

Acknowledging climate change is real is doing the right thing.

Minimising its impact is doing the right thing

Cimate Changre is real

Australians know they are part of a democracy and we have a voice.

For too long we have remained silent.

Join me and find your voice and have it heard

Sign our farmers letter here and show the world and our politicians we all care

Read why Milk Maid Marian has joined the movement to start an outbreak of common-sense here 

Are you the centre of the universe and blame everyone else for your problems?

After spending two days at the WOW Festival I realised what a sheltered life I have led with my Methodist mindset upbringing – Still can’t believe I chose the ‘Lets Talk about Sex’ session

Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen writer of Erotic Fiction or as she prefers to call her genre Feminist Porn reads from her latest book

I had the opportunity to listen to a very diverse and inspiring range of women speakers doing amazing things – the ‘What Women Fight For’ session was a great example. Women who devote their lives to work in what is often no-win situations

‘I feel like I spend my life mopping floors and the tap is still running’

I also had the opportunity to be a mentor in two speed mentoring sessions. I am a pretty confident I got more out of those sessions than the mentees did. Firstly I think I actually learnt how to actively listen, secondly I found out I am not alone and many people struggle with the same issues I do and thirdly I can only actively listen for so long.  After the Speed Mentoring session I was meeting the wonderful woman (and she is wonderful) who is facilitating my session today. It’s just as well she is a good listener because she got my life story before we had even sat down.

The take home message for me yesterday was you can choose to have two different mindsets

You can say

I am the centre of the universe and I blame everyone else for my problems


I am part of the universe and I do what I believe is right

Good advice for agriculture methinks

Channelling my inner feminism with agriculture’s most important audience

Over the next few days I will be channelling my inner feminism and meeting and sitting on the stage with some of the truly amazing women who have driven change in this country and as I found out today for a great deal the journey has been very rugged indeed

I have been invited to be the positive voice of agriculture and did I jump at the chance when I was asked

WOW what an opportunity to have two way conversations with the most pivotal audience for agriculture and that is highly educated women.

Why you ask?.  Well all the social research tells us that highly educated women are the demographic who most distrust farmers. When highly educated women don’t trust farmers they vote with their feet and wallets. The social researchers call this CRITICAL ACTIVISM. They are also the demographic most likely to support farmers when they trust them. This is called SOCIAL ACTIVISM

Today I got to share a session with Kathy Lette – the highly charismatic, fun and cheeky queen of one liners.

Kathy Lette

“Women are like wonder bras – they are supportive and uplifting and make us look bigger and better”

“Women are the future but they still get concussion on the glass ceiling and are expected to clean it whilst they are up there”

“Never turn down an opportunity. Never turn down an adventure”

Kathy and I were mentors in a speed mentoring event. As part of this I got to have conversations with five young women under 35 all doing very diverse and exciting things. The take home message for me was in 4 out of 5 of those 15 minute sessions concern about chemicals in food came up.

I learnt young highly educated women are very worried about chemicals in food.  2 out of 5 said they loved farmers and support them at every chance they get.

Interestingly enough my experience today completely mirrored the social licence research on the community’s thoughts and perceptions about farmers in this country. Highly educated concerned women are twice as likely to vote with their feet and wallets when they distrust farmers but half as like to actively support farmers when they trust them.

But putting this into context whilst men in general are not Critical Activists they are not Supportive Activists either

And of course lets not forget why women are even more important to farmers they are the demographic who in the main make the purchasing decisions

So for the next three days agriculture gets a voice with its most important audience – no wonder this little black duck said YES PLEASE BRING IT ON

What do you know about Australian food production and consumption?

What do you know about Australian food production and consumption?

Well it would appear that I know bugger all if my answers or lack of to this quizz are anything to go by

It always fascinates me when we throw a heap of statistics around like this. The statistics certainly show agriculture’s value to the economy. But the economy doesn’t feed us and clothe us and put a roof over our heads – people do.  Surely community knowledge about food production and consumption shouldn’t be defined by numbers that one should store in a corner of the brain and bring out at dinner parties. Knowledge about food production and consumption should be about what the people who buy it care about .

Surely the types of questions we should be asking are things like Is our food safe? Is it affordable? Is it nutritious?  Do our farmers care about the environment and their animals

In light of the recent BSE scare in Ireland what i know is its time to change the dialogue around food and fibre production and consumption.

I for one am damned proud to know the things our customers want to know and that is our food is safe. Its is affordable. It is nutritious and any farmer who doesn’t care about the environment and their animals should find another occupation.

Heres looking at you babeThese girls don’t care about numbers. They just want to be loved and respected and protected from the heat and the cold and be fed delicious, nutritious and safe food.

It we want people to start thinking about food and fibre and how they truly value it in a different way then we need to change the conversation.

Just like the cows, our customers want the same things we do and that’s what the Australian food production and consumption knowledge discussion should be all about.

Dairy farmers making hay while the sun shines

I am watching the forecasts for 2016 Australian farmgate milk price with great interest. Dairy Step Up forecast as processors compete for milk.

harvest Linda Faiers

Photo by Linda Faiers 

It is well known that Australian dairy farmers see costs of production – labor, energy and quality feed for their cows as their biggest inputs cost challenge.  High milk prices and low costs of production certainly mean happy days and provides the genuine quality of life for their families and their cows and necessary incentive to remain in business for the long haul.

Beyond the fairy tale it is also generally recognized Australia has one of the highest labour costs in the world and competing on costs of production alone in the world dairy stage is becoming almost impossible

At the moment Australian milk price forecasts are being predicted based on competition for milk supply between Australian milk processors rather than the traditional focus on international milk prices. Common sense says you can only pay what you can get out of the market place but then of course you cant sell what you don’t have!


Whilst I love to hear stories that sell hope rather than despair I would be very interested to hear from an industry financial whiz on the current maintain the farmgate milk price strategy irrespective of international markets .

Are these milk prices sustainable for Australian processors selling product into the international market place. Is this strategy likely to drag us into the black hole of Calcutta or will it truly fast-track us all on the road to the promised land?

Wow How impressive does this new tool for dairy farmers look

milkey-logoTake control of your milk price

A FREE web-based tool that lets dairy farmers COMPARE milk prices across participating processors

Gary Helou and Lynne Strong – Egos and personalities

I was looking forward to a very uneventful day.  My day started wonderfully, breakfast with special friends and then I got a call asking me if I had seen The Australian today

The caller was concerned that I would not be happy to find myself the farmer face and spokesperson in the front page feature story in the Business Review section that included an interview with Murray Goulburn Chief Gary Helou.  See story here (Note you will need to be an online subscriber to The Australian to view the story)

Well my caller couldn’t have been more right and I am not happy.


Wasn’t happy to see the big picture today 

I was not contacted for the story. The photo is a file photo taken for a different story written by another Australian journalist Sue Neales over two years ago

The blog post quoted was from September last year in which I was commenting on a marketing campaign, not MG’s capital raising activities. I did indeed say I was worried about Gary Helou then because I could see commentators “playing the man” and this is potentially damaging when farmer livelihoods are at stake. I still hold this view.

What I did not say in the blog post was that I thought Gary Helou was thin skinned and I categorically state now I DON’T think Gary Helou is thin skinned

One of the key reasons I started my blog was because every farmer knows that every day the supply chain gets more complex and if farmers want to ensure they are not gobbled up by the challenges and have the capacity to grab the opportunities then we must be as active beyond the farm gate as we are on the farm.

This requires us to invest in developing strong financial literacy skills, having a robust understanding of how to best leverage value from the supply chain and having the capacity and desire to build strong consumer/farmer bonds.

Having an online presence whether it be twitter or blogging or whatever vehicle you choose allows you to start a discussion, learn from others, find other people who share your vision and sometimes drive change. It can also be very cathartic to share your story with others and writing my blog has been in the main a very rewarding personal experience.

I am not a journalist and I will never claim to be and I certainly agree with Mr Helou when he says ‘I don’t like personal attacks. I don’t conduct them on others and I think it’s a terrible state (of affairs).’

I accept that my blog is on the public record and will be quoted from time to time. I stand by every comment I make. However, in this instance, I am disappointed my quotes were used to support a story on which I was not commenting.

I would like to reiterate what I also said in the blog quoted today by The Australian and once again say it’s time to focus on the big issues, not the egos and personalities.  The Australian dairy industry doesn’t need or want to be floodlit in this manner.

We need a strong healthy cooperative culture of working together to get the best outcomes for every-one in the cow to carton process.

We need to focus more on company performance, not personalities.

Murray Goulburn is the largest of our country’s milk processors, with a share of the milk pool approaching 40 per cent. It is owned by 2500 Australian dairy farmers.

Australians want MG to succeed

The Australian dairy industry wants MG to succeed

I want MG to succeed.