Industry News

Alex Davies and his fellow Rabobank Farm Manager Program attendees.


FUTURE Farmers Network member Alex Davies has come back across the ditch with a paddock full of new ideas for the family farm.

And he can’t wait to start implementing them, as soon as the season gives everyone in northern NSW a bit of a break. 

The Coonabarabran sheep, wool and grain producer won a fully funded scholarship to the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, held in Christchurch, New Zealand last month. 

He said while everyone there would have got something different from the varied program, his key take home was “making the most of what you have, on a more dollars per hectare basis”. 

“There was no one there that had a similar set up to me, everyone was really different, so it opened your eyes a bit to what you can do with the country,” Alex said. 

“You see someone doing it one way and you might be doing it very different, but at the end of the day it is another perspective – and it was great to get those other perspectives. 

“We have country that is not as productive as it could be, the plan is to get stuck into that and maximise return.” 

Alex was able to attend the renowned business management program because of the support of the Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland and Northern NSW. 

He describes the course as the best thing he has ever done for his career, and he is still talking to his fellow attendees and farming peers daily. 

“I was pretty devastated when it was finished actually, I was just like a sponge soaking it all up,” he said. 

“I will now get more into the business planning side of the operation – the business planning topic was really informative, getting into the office side of things is a big one that I want to get into.”  

The presentation that stuck with Alex the most was from a New Zealand dairy farmer who had previously attended the course and was using new initiatives in staff management. 

“I was impressed with the way he had his farm structured, he didn’t have any land when he started and now has thousands of cattle,” Alex said. 

“And the way he works his staff and really good people management staff – his staff all got a milking calf and they could breed them up and accumulate more and more each year – he had a really trust oriented workplace.” 

As well as people management, Alex was hoping to learn more about succession planning during the program, and he returned with one key message. 

“Get started as soon as possible. The longer it drags out the more difficult it will get.” 

The program was intensive, with 10 hour daily sessions and then an after-dinner group project, but Alex did get time to do some exploring after the course, touring local farms with new friends made during the week.

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2019 has seen FFN partner with Charles Sturt University to provide FFN members with access to a series of the University’s studies directly relevant to young farmers. This fourth study looks at grazing dual purpose crops. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.

Take home messages:

  • Grazing dual-purpose crops with cattle can lead to high liveweight gains during winter
  • Cattle grazing dual-purpose wheat should be supplemented with minerals including calcium, sodium and magnesium
  • Best practice grazing management required for cattle grazing dual-purpose canola to reduce the risk of negative animal health outcomes.

Dual-purpose crops such as wheat and canola have become an important part of the mixed farmers operation.

These crops are most commonly available for grazing during June and July, when there are often large numbers of yearling cattle in southern Australia that are being hand fed over the winter achieving very little liveweight gain.

Research led by Dr Jeff McCormick at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Charles Sturt School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences has found the availability of large amounts of high quality forage through dual-purpose wheat and canola crops could fill a common feed deficit in the southern beef operation.

A study carried out by Charles Sturt University Agricultural Science Honours student Mr John Paulet in 2018 showed that after an adaptation period, cattle growth rate could exceed 2kg/day when grazing canola, and it should be grazed for at least a month to achieve the most benefit.

Traditional grazing management of forage crops is to introduce cattle gradually to the crop to allow their rumen time to adjust and avoid animal health issues.

Commonly Australian farmers are reluctant to do this as it is perceived to take up too much time.

The study found that there were no animal health differences between those cattle introduced immediately to the crop, and those were gradually introduced, with all groups having hay available in the paddock at all times.

And in fact those with the slowest introduction took longer to adjust than those with the shorter introduction, as they were getting a bulk of their feed from the silage available to them when they were removed from the Canola.

Wheat crops contain a level of sodium and magnesium lower then generally required by livestock.

The study showed that supplementing these minerals in a loose-lick increased the average daily gain of steers by 25 per cent – when feed quality was high early in the season.

Those gains were not seen when loose-lick was supplemented to steers grazing the wheat crop later in the year, presumably because of the lower Crude Protein level of the crop.

To minimise the risk of cattle health problems grazing dual-purpose canola it is suggested to:

  • Reduce pre-sowing sulphur fertilisers for grazing crops.
  • Ensure cattle are well fed. Hungry cattle are more prone to health issues.
  • Introducing cattle to the crop mid-late morning during the adaptation period will reduce risks of cattle gorging themselves.
  • Although this trial did not demonstrate any negative health problems adapting the animals over a period of time will minimise any negative outcomes.
  • The research found very low nitrate levels in the canola leaf, so ensuring that there are high forage levels available will allow animals to select the leaf and reduce the risk of nitrate toxicity.
  • Provide hay in the paddock to allow cattle to select different forage. This will enable cattle to substitute hay for canola in the diet and increase dietary fibre levels.
  • During the adjustment period the cattle need to eat the crop. If they are grazing fence lines or any other non-crop areas it is unlikely the animals have been adjusted.
Dr Jeff McCormick
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Two Future Farmers Network members have recieved $1000 bursaries for exciting educational and networking opportunities thanks to our partner Central Queensland University.

West Australian Sarah Hyde will use her scholarship to attend the second evokeAg event in Melbourne in 2020. Sarah works with the Facey Group – a farmer run group that aims to improve on-farm practice to keep farms healthy and profitable into the future in the Wickepin, WA, region.

What do you hope to gain from the event? 
As the Executive Officer of a local grower group it is important to expand networks and to ensure that knowledge and opportunities are current and relevant to farmers. With technology advancing at rapid rates I think that this is the most relevant forum to expand knowledge currently offered in the agrifood space. I believe it will also be able to challenge me to explore opportunities at diversifying our current business model and looking for more sustainable revenue streams for longevity of the group. I believe that this event will allow me to expand networks and a personal professional development opportunity.

Chloe Kempe from Ferny Hills in Queensland will use her scholarship to attend the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Centre – Seed Business 101, a technical training course providing an accelerated program of learning for young managers within the see industry. This event is held in St Charles, Illinois, USA.

What do you hope to gain from the event?
My understanding of operating a seed business across all functional areas will be greatly enhanced, advancing my agribusiness management abilities. This leading course will connect me with seed industry professionals from around the world, broadening my networks. Knowledge of best management industry practice gained from this course will benefit my Australian employer and colleagues. Following the course, I will engage the seed industry through verbal and written communication with the Australian Seed Federation, and the agricultural sector more widely, through involvement with pasture R&D and commercialisation, including a current CRC-P for Northern Australia led by my employer, Agrimix Pastures.

FFN thanks Central Queensland University for their ongoing support of young people in agriculture.

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Future Farmers Network are recruiting four members to participate in the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) real-time training program. Courses are delivered in Nepal by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EuFMD).

The four placements will be funded by the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The funding included course fees and in-country costs – airport transfers, accommodation, meals, training materials, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants.

Two positions are available for the course in Kathmandu, Nepal on 25-29 November 2019, and two on 2-6 December 2019. All other expenses, including airfares, travel and medical insurance, and medical vaccinations, are the responsibility of the participant and/or their sponsor. FFN will work with the recruits to find a suitable co-sponsor to reduce the costs after they are selected for the program.

Raising general awareness of FMD is an important objective of this program and the Department expects that participants will share their learning with other stakeholders (eg. farmers, veterinarians, industry bodies) after the course. Activities may include, but are not limited to, print media and radio interviews, presentations and training courses, distribution of the course report, informal discussions with stakeholders, development of posters and other materials.

Entry Requirements

  • Applicants must be financial members of Future Farmers Network
  • Applicants should have experience conducting presentations and/or workshops, radio interviews and other public speaking, social media, and developing printed and/or digital communication material.
  • Applicants must actively work in the farming industry and see large numbers of livestock as part of their work.
  • Applicants must be available for the course dates detailed above
  • Applicants are to record a 2 minute video addressing the following question:

Why does Australia need to invest in Biosecurity and FMD training?

  • Applicants must upload video to content sharing platform of choice and the send the link, plus a 100 word bio on themselves and their involvement in the livestock industry, to FFN via The content must be in a format that is shareable by FFN on social media.
  • Applications close 5pm Friday 23 August 2019.

What are you waiting for? Get cracking on that entry, and spend a week in Nepal!  Read More

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Opinion by FFN Board Member and AgThentic founder Sarah Nolet

Aussie farmers, supported by the research and extension system in which they operate, have been driving the creation of new technologies and farming systems since well before “agtech” was a word. 

Examples range from GPS-guided tractors and new varieties, to raised beds and controlled traffic. 

But “agtech” is a new phenomenon, characterized by the entrance of new players (e.g., startups and venture capital investors), new business models (e.g., software-as-a-service), and new technologies (e.g., robotics and machine learning). 

If we can avoid the hype, agtech holds huge potential for Australian agriculture. 

There are three big trends driving the growth of agtech.

First, technology has dropped in cost and increased in performance, meaning that even very complex technologies are accessible. 

You no longer need billions of dollars or many years to bring products to market, so big companies are no longer the only source of innovation. 

Second, shifting consumers preferences are putting new pressures on our food and fibre system. 

In addition to healthy, safe, affordable food, consumers now also want convenience, premium eating experiences, and to feel confident that products are good for their families and the planet.

The traditional big players in food and agriculture are now scrambling to partner with agtech startups to create additional pathways to their traditional R&D activities. 

And finally, agriculture is a massive and growing industry – it contributes over $40B annually to Australia’s economy and is the fastest growing industry. 

Investors love big markets, and entrepreneurs are drawn to the opportunity to build companies that can do good (for the environment, for people) and do well.  

But despite all the agtech activity, and potential, the industry can be frustrating for farmers. Products often seem (or in the worst cases, are) half-baked, and as startups race to be the winner that takes all in any given area, the spread of similar products is confusing. 

This frustration with the “hype” is not to be understated or ignored. 

Farmers are working incredibly hard, facing levels of uncertainty and constraint that most non-farmers would find overwhelming. 

Adopting technologies that are failing to solve problems and add value is not what agtech is about. 

Agtech is about new ways of solving industry problems. Here are three examples where agtech has potential to deliver. 


  • Rapid business model evolution. Agtech startups are bringing solutions to market that break down existing barriers, challenge old mental models and processes, and ultimately deliver lasting value to producers. 
  • Rejuvenated regional communities. As farming continues to use more digital technology, new skills and new jobs will be required to support farming systems. And new technologies can help rural and regional communities to stay connected. 
  • Producers as more than agtech customers. Agtech presents new ways for producers to get involved in innovation. Producers can be innovators, advisors and even investors, helping to shape agtech solutions. 


Last year the National Farmer’s Federation set to grow agriculture to a $100B industry by 2030. Technology and innovation are critical to achieving this. 

But embracing the agtech revolution may mean we can aim even higher.

If we are able to export our knowledge, innovations, and know-how in the form of agtech solutions that avoid the hype and deliver real value, maybe we can leave $100B in the dust. 

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James Hegarty with Rabobank NZ CEO Todd Charteris

Mixed farm operator James Hegarty has taken out the 2019 Rabobank Business Development Prize from a field of some of Australia and New Zealand’s leading young farmers.

Mr Hegarty, who manages Ben Nevis Station near Skipton in south-west Victoria, was recognised with the award for the strategic business plan he developed for the operation, after completing the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a specialist course designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of emerging farmers.

The plan – which 33-year-old Mr Hegarty developed as a management project after undertaking the FMP last year – is already delivering tangible benefits to farm profitability and sustainability just 12 months after implementation.

The Rabobank Farm Managers Program is an annually-held course developed for younger Australian and New Zealand farmers looking to enhance their management capabilities. The program covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning.

Taking the learnings from the FMP and implementing them into the farm business he manages since graduating from the program 12 months ago, Mr Hegarty has been able to achieve improvements in Ben Nevis Station’s business productivity and efficiency, technology adoption and farm infrastructure.

The business plan Mr Hegarty created as his management project for the program also helped him transition from being involved in his family’s merino sheep operation near Longreach, Queensland, to taking on the farm managers’ position at ‘Ben Nevis’ Station.

Now responsible for the day-to-day running of the prime lamb enterprise, which sees the business turn off 3500 lambs a year, he also oversees a 670-hectare cropping program of wheat, canola and barley.

Mr Hegarty said the FMP – through the business planning sessions – not only allowed him to document and then implement goals for ‘Ben Nevis’ Station, but also articulate his personal goal of purchasing a small farm within the next five years.

“I hadn’t really thought of doing a business plan prior to attending the FMP, but after completing the course I drew up a pretty detailed business plan of where I thought the business could improve and then set goals of where I wanted to go,” he said

“I sent it to my boss straight away, because I wanted him to see what I had done at the course and also where I thought the business needed to go. And I also wanted him to see my personal goals, so he is prepared for us to do that, because I want to buy a small place and still work for him.”

One of the first changes Mr Hegarty implemented from the business plan was to increase sheep numbers.

“In the business plan I had goals like increase our ewe numbers,” he said. “So this year we have already done that by joining an extra 800 ewes.”

Increasing the weight gain of prime lambs was also a goal, with lambs sold directly to Coles at 45 to 55 kilograms liveweight. And this process, he said, was aided by investing in new technology in the form of an auto-drafter.

“So at weaning, for the first time ever, we weighed every lamb and then set targets for those lambs,” he said. “It has helped us monitor our weights better and also monitor weight gains, and we were able to offload our lambs two months earlier than normal.”

This has not only benefited the bottom line of the business, Mr Hegarty said, but also given pastures a longer rejuvenation period. “It has allowed us to spell our pastures, whereas before our lambs were eating out our pastures ahead of our pregnant ewes,” he said. “So by getting the lambs off earlier, it has allowed our pastures to be ready for when we lamb.”

The business plan also identified ways to improve farm business infrastructure – with five kilometres of fencing, two kilometres of new drains for water runoff and 140 hectares of raised beds completed in the past 12 months on an adjoining lease block – as well as, pasture improvement through targeted application rates of fertiliser.

“This year I developed a fertiliser schedule and set targets for when we apply fertiliser on our paddocks,” he said. “We also did some soil mapping, which I hadn’t done before, for some variable rate fertiliser.”

Mr Hegarty said the mapping identified that lime could be applied at 1.7 tonnes to the hectare, almost 0.7 tonnes to the hectare lower than previous application rates – a considerable cost saving to the business.

Since completing the FMP, Mr Hegarty said, he had also worked on improving communication channels with key people in the business, setting up weekly meetings. And he had also begun communicating earlier with contractors.

“Because we use a lot of contractors, I learned that it was important to keep in touch with them more,” he said. “So I have on-farm meetings with them twice a year to outline what is to be done and we set dates for when I need them here for sowing, harvesting or fertiliser spreading.”

This process, he said, had ensured the business is able to get contractors when it needed them. “If you don’t give them enough notice or be organised when they get there, it doesn’t really work,” he said.

Now in its fifteenth year, more than 500 Australian and New Zealand farmers have graduated from the FMP.

This year, the The Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland/Northern NSW and Future Farmers Network sent one member to the FMP in Christchurch, New Zealand, on a fully funded placement.

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Breaking Down Borrowing: Pain or Necessity? 

This event is in the past. Watch the recording here.

Did you miss getting the latest info on Ag borrowing from CQUniversity last week? Never fear, the recording is here!

Posted by Future Farmers Network on Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Want to hear about the big questions agribusinesses need to tackle when considering a loan? 

Future Farmers Network and CQU Australia are pleased to be delivering a short free webinar for young agriculture professionals that provides a review of the implications of borrowings and what different legal structures mean in terms of borrowing.

The webinar will be led by CQU Australia lecturer, Desley Pidgeon – a qualified financial planner who has worked predominately in Agribusiness banking.

Register now to understand the hidden implications of borrowing, determine how your business structure affects your loan status and learn the implications of debt for trusts, partnerships and family business structures.

FFN and CQU warmly invite you to submit questions through the registration process so that we can adapt the webinar appropriately.

Special thanks to FFN Bronze Partner RuralBiz Training for supplying the webinar technology.

The webinar will be held on 4 July 2019 at 6pm AEST

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2019 has seen FFN partner with Charles Sturt University to provide FFN members with access to a series of the University’s studies directly relevant to young farmers. This third study looks at Increasing Lamb Survival to Boost Production. Please contact CSU or FFN should you wish to find out more.

Increasing lamb survival to boost production
Lamb prices are currently soaring – just imagine if you had 20 percent more of them in the paddock at marking time.

One-in-five lambs born in Australia die within days of birth, costing the industry over $1 billion each year, so improving the marking rate can make a big difference to the productivity and profitability of a sheep and wool enterprise.

It’s a key area of research at the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, an alliance between Charles Sturt University and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Calcium and magnesium supplements – a low-cost risk management strategy

 Graham Centre research, funded by Australian Wool Innovation, has shown the value of supplementing calcium and magnesium to pregnant ewes, even when they appear healthy.

Clinical calcium deficiency (hypocalcaemia or milk fever) and clinical magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesaemia or grass tetany) can result in ewe death and may increase lambing difficulty and complications from birth.

This new research, led by Charles Sturt University Professor Michael Friend examined whether ewes with sub-clinical deficiencies in calcium and magnesium – those that are not visible – are also more likely to lose lambs.

Testing on commercial farms found that even if the pastures showed no deficiencies in calcium and magnesium, the ewes grazing those pastures often had subclinical deficiencies.

Part of the project involved PhD research by Forough Ataollahi, who carried out a small-scale trial comparing pregnant ewes whose diets were supplemented with calcium and magnesium, to pregnant ewes with no supplementation.

Her research found calcium and magnesium supplementation put pregnant ewes into a better metabolic state, improved the immune response in twin newborn lambs and increased their weights at four weeks of age.

Small increases in lamb weaning weight can make a profound difference to weaner survival. Early weaning can be an effective strategy to increase productivity and also to ensure that ewes have more time to recover body condition.

Key points

  • Many late pregnant ewes appear to be sub-clinically deficient in calcium and magnesium, despite grazing pastures which should provide sufficient amounts of these minerals
  • Calcium and magnesium supplementation form birth to lamb marking resulted in increased lamb marking weights, and supplementation to weaning increased lamb liveweight gain.
  • While supplementation may not improve lamb survival in all flocks, a loose lick supplying calcium, magnesium and sodium can be a cost effective method to increase growth rates of young lambs and reduce mortality risk

For more information and recommendations check out the Australian Wool Innovation Fact Sheet here
Michael Friend:
Forough Ataollahi:

Livestock forum to showcase research

The research into the impact of calcium and magnesium supplements on lamb performance will be presented at the Graham Centre Livestock Forum on Friday 26 of July at the Convention Centre at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

The Forum will also showcase research including increasing lamb growth rates on pasture, research into the use of caffeine to increase lamb survival, the effects of grain processing on the performance of weaner lambs in feedlots and breeding for quality lamb meat from Merinos. Download the program here

Registration is $25 per person and includes morning tea and lunch. Register here

If you can’t make it in person follow the action with the Graham Centre on Facebook @GrahamCentreForAgriculturalInnovation and Twitter @GrahamCentre


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FUTURE Farmers Network member Alex Davies is headed from his farm at Coonabarabran to New Zealand next week.

The young sheep, wool and grain producer has been awarded the inaugural Future Farmers Network Rabobank Farm Managers Program opportunity.

Rabobank’s Southern Queensland & Northern New South Wales Client Council awarded a place on their annual Farm Managers Program, held in Christchurch, to the FFN Member who displayed a clear ambition and desire to help the sustainability of their industry.

Alex’s ambition was clear to selectors, through both his work on the family’s 4000 acre farm Box Ridge, and his work across the wider industry and community.

“I love Ag – when your passion is on the land it makes it really easy to get out of bed and go and do whatever needs doing, and there is such a diverse range of jobs – spraying and spreading to shearing and drenching – pretty much anything. I love looking at a good line of sheep and some beautiful Merino wool,” he said.

Alex has been back on Box Ridge for seven years, and works alongside his parents in the day to day running of their 4200 Merino ewe flock and 1500 acres of dual purpose crops.


Alex Davies of Box Ridge at Coonabarabran, NSW, has won a spot in the Rabobank Farm Managers Program in New Zealand.

He says succession planning, farm debt and drought are the biggest issues facing the agricultural industry, and he hopes to gain valuable skills at the Farm Managers Program to use both on-farm and for wider advocacy and extension work.

“I didn’t go to uni and always kicked myself that I don’t have a piece of paper to my name – I have spoken to a lot of people who have done this and it sounds unreal – so it was a no-brainer to apply,” he said.

“(Learning about) succession planning is going to be a big one, just because of the situation my family are in at home, and also managing people and employees, preparation for a managers role, I will get a lot out of that.”

In the future, Alex hopes to manage a harmonious and successful team on-farm – and get plenty of rain of course.

“I look forward to the seasons returning to a normal rainfall if there is such a thing these days, and working alongside a team that at the end of the day you can be proud of what you’ve achieved and what you’ve produced.”

Alex was judged the winner from 27 applications and will attend the Rabobank Farm Managers Program, a one-week residential course held outside Christchurch New Zealand from 23-28 June 2019, with the course ($5900), flights and accommodation paid for.

Rabobank Knowledge and Network Experiences manager Matilda Stump said they were “thrilled and overwhelmed” with the calibre of applications

“Reading through the applications everyone on the panel felt very inspired and excited about the future of our industry and the leaders coming through,” she said.

“Alex Davies’ application stood out for many reasons as someone who has clear ambitions, would benefit enormously from business management training and who would really make the most of the networking opportunities and mentoring the program offers.”

Chair of the Rabobank Southern QLD and Northern NSW Client Council Sally Rigney said the calibre of candidates meant selecting the winner was a big challenge.

“Reading the FMP applications and seeing the depth of talent in the next generation of Australian agricultural producers inspired us with hope for the future.”

“It was a very tight contest among our final four but Alex Davies from Coonabarabran won through due to his clear vision, can-do attitude and obvious thirst for knowledge.”

“For Alex you could see the opportunity to attend the FMP would be life changing. Alex is someone who wants so much more for his family partnership and probably wouldn’t have access to this type of learning and knowledge without the financial support of our Rabobank Client Council scholarship.”

Designed to strengthen the operational and strategic skills of farm managers, the Farm Managers Program covers global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership, and succession planning.

Facilitated by experts in these fields, the program is designed to develop management expertise and ensure farmers leave with a highly practical skill set that can be applied from day one.

The Rabobank Client Council Southern Queensland and Northern NSW is excited at the prospect of turning this into an annual initiative in partnership with Future Farmers Network.

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Would you benefit from $1,000 to further your studies or career? FFN and CQUniversity are offering members the chance to take home a major bursary to support their Ag journey and assist in their pursuit of a career in agriculture.

FFN is offering two (2) x $1,000 scholarships to attend any Ag focussed event or course. Funds can be used for registration, travel and accommodation costs. Applications are open until 30th June 2019.

This is a great opportunity for FFN members to further your networks, knowledge and take a hold of your future.

Applications must be submitted to FFN EO, before 11:59pm, 30th June 2019.

For an application form, click here.

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