Gus's Musings

July 4, 2021

How are we training our next Gen Livestock farmers?

A fairly common response I get when ask what your son/daughter is doing after school is; “They will go to Uni or get a trade before they come home to the farm”.  Now while this is good thinking to broaden their horizons, how many farmers are we losing to our industry because there is no clear pathway to the “trade of Farming”?


Now I left boarding school after finishing year 12 and went to Longreach Pastoral College in QLD, I still maintain that most of what I know today had its base at LPC.  Due to many reasons most of farming’s physical training facilities have shut down and I reckon we are now starting to pay that cost.  The price of Ag land has spiralled in the last decade or so, the price of wool and meat has as well, so where do we find these skilled managers to look after multi-million dollar businesses?


We have tried employing managers and now happy for us to provide the management and employ workers with a good attitude, then just see where that goes.  I’m hearing from investors that they would love to get into owning rangeland livestock properties, their blockage is availability of good quality staff.  When I look at rangeland properties across Australia, I reckon the largest blockage to changed and improved management is the education and experience of the decision makers, property managers.


When I speak of “education and experience”, I’m not necessarily talking about university education, I’m talking about a mix of practical and theoretical learning that empowers them to make good decisions, manage people, livestock, the land and money.  Currently in Ag there is no clear pathway to this end goal, especially in our vast rangelands that need good quality people.  I would like to add that I’m not sure that any livestock region in Australia has an over supply of quality livestock managers that can fulfill the roles I talk about.


These concerns were exacerbated by hearing from a fellow parent of a girl at school that was told his daughter was unable to do work experience on a significant sheep stud (that is a registered training provider), as the accommodation was unsuitable (they have jillaroo quarters).  In fact if you look around some regions that were renown future farmer training grounds, like Hay, most of the large properties there employ contractors, very few jack/jillaroo places. Now I’m sure there are many issues as to why training of our future farmers, safety being a key one and compliance being a barrier to employers.  It is very important for us to find safe, legal and effective ways to train our next Gen of farmers.


The Hay area has taken this issue into their own hands and has put in place a training system/organisation of their own, Hay Inc.  As with any issue if you are going to have a successful outcome across a large area/population, you will need many tools, this is certainly a great start.  The commonest pathway that people take into management of large livestock properties is by starting off as a “ringer” on large northern pastoral stations, then slowly moving up the ladder.  While this pathway producers very physically skilled people, are they armed with the appropriate skills to manage people, the landscape and money?  Are they capable to give clear and articulate presentations to the investors/boards that own and set strategic direction of these large properties?  The combination of these skills is what we need our future leaders in Ag to be armed with.



How many parents could confidently say that if their son/daughter approached the career advisor at their school, saying they would like to become a livestock manager of a large station, the advisor could map out a clear pathway for them?  Does one actually exist?  Our last employee was brand new to Ag, he bought energy and enthusiasm that we loved.  Ag has lost many of our great people to other industries over the years, we need to position ourselves to win some from other sectors.  Many would say that all we need is more money, bigger pay packet and people will come.  Currently a person with the skills I talk about would be able to walk into a job for about $250K/yr, there are so few people in that pool they can set their price.


I reckon this is a very important issue that NFF (National Farmers Federation), MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia) and AWI (Australian Wool Innovations) and others should be involved with to make sure clear and exiting career pathways exist.



  1. Allen Kelly

    Hi Gus, thanks for your thought provoking blog. I had a conversation earlier today with the parents of a great young person. Your blog and their concerns led me to review my experience and how we help change the future.
    I trained as a Jackaroo on a large sheep and cattle enterprise after two and a half years at home before returning to the family business with more skills and experience from working with other employees.
    Now we take work experience students from schools and encourage them in their careers. If each Agricultural business had a similar plan to educate and encourage young enthusiastic trainees, it would help fill the gap that you mention in your blog.

    • Angus Whyte

      Thanks for your reply and the point you make about passing on the experience that you received is one that would be great to encourage. A really good tool to see better trained ppl in our industry.

  2. Grahame Rees

    A well written and timely post Gus, like you Longreach gave me a foundation for my future in Agriculture. There is nowhere today that teaches the skills we learnt at that college. If agriculture is to play a part in Australia’s economic future we desperately need real training in place not competency based training. Employers also have no opportunity to learn how to create a workplace culture that people want to be part of.

    • Angus Whyte

      Thanks very much for your support Grahame and good point about employers understanding what they might not know about creating a positive work environment.

    • Jo Marshall

      Hi Graham,
      We sure do and that is my passion project I have been working on for the past 5 years. Have a look at our website. I would appreciate any help or ideas you might have to get the doors open.

  3. Jo Marshall

    HI Gus,
    I hear you. I have heard for many years how do we build the next gen of producers. I’ve also heard of horror stories of teachers thinking wool was a silkworm product. I have been keen through to build access to a virtual library of careers in ag, a “Walk in my boots” kind of interaction to show what a day in that career looks like. This platform takes away careers advisors need to know about all careers, it also allows anyone not just students access this information, and comes with a matrix to show you the pathway to that career. I do have the company that can do it, and support from PIEFA & NFF but there is the neverending need for money to produce a “good product” that will excite and deliver interest. If you have any ideas of anyone who can help us solve this problem I would greatly appreciate it. Great article!!. Cheers Jo

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