Sheep industry's finest win Lambition Awards

Lambition Awards won by sheep industry's finest

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The winners of the 2020 Lambition Awards, from left to right Jason Trompf and family, Mark Ferguson and Susan Finnigan and family.

The winners of the 2020 Lambition Awards, from left to right Jason Trompf and family, Mark Ferguson and Susan Finnigan and family.

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The winners of the inaugural Lambition Awards have just been announced.

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The winners of the inaugural Lambition Awards have just been announced, with a prominent Victorian consultant and farmer, a New Zealand livestock consultant and a south-west Victorian fine wool producer taking out the three awards.

The winners are:

  • Marcus Oldham Flock Leader of the Year - Jason Trompf
  • FarmGate Auctions Industry Innovator - Mark Ferguson
  • Meat & Livestock Australia Sustainable Producer of the Year - Susan Finnigan

You can read about each of the winners below.

Marcus Oldham Flock Leader of the Year - Jason Trompf

Prominent Victorian sheep producer and consultant Jason Trompf has won the inaugural Marcus Oldham Flock Leader of the Year award.

And one of the judges of the award, Marcus Oldham Centre for the Study of Agribusiness director David Cornish, said it was Mr Trompf's drive to help the industry that made him a stand out.

"He's taken it upon himself with his vision to increase the number of sheep in the industry and not only has he put it out there, but he's taking actions to make a difference," Mr Cornish said.

"It's not just about his business, it's about how he's going to work with the industry as a whole to improve the outcomes for both farmers and sheep."

He said Mr Trompf's ability to take science and make it understandable and usable for everyday farmers was an admirable quality.

"I reckon that's a really great and underestimated skill and something in the extension world that we've got to continue to work hard at," he said.

Mr Trompf said it was great to be recognised.

"But at the end of the day, my role in this industry is to assist producers and their families to improve their lot in life, and hopefully in the time I've got in working in the meat and wool industry, I can make a real impact on lots of people," he said.

Reflecting on his time in the industry so far, he recalled advice his father gave him when he was first starting out and how that shaped his approach to consultancy work.

"When I went off to uni, my old man said to me 'the last thing we need is a bright spark coming home with new ideas, we need someone to work with the everyday farmer to help them adopt known technologies and change their practices on their farm', and I made that almost a bit of a mission or mantra of mine," he said.

"I'm trying to impact individual producers and communities and the industry as a whole to improve their knowledge and skills and decision making and performance."

He said growing up on sheep properties was what inspired has passion for the industry.

"And this has provided a solid base for the extensive knowledge acquired through graduating with a degree and PhD in agricultural science," he said.

"I have a background in understanding the drivers and motivators of sheep producers and have designed and delivered programs that support and enable significant practice change."

He has established extensive networks within the Australian sheep industry among producer communities, producer groups, with leading researchers, research organisations, industry bodies, meat processors, wool brokers and service providers.

"These networks have enabled successful engagement and interaction with the entire sheep industry, particularly in the area of sheep reproduction and lamb survival, across all sheep producing states of Australia," he said.

FarmGate Auctions Industry Innovator - Mark Ferguson

A livestock consultant in New Zealand who is passionate about the role genetics and technology can play in transforming the industry has taken out the inaugural FarmGate Auctions Industry Innovator award as part of the 2020 Lambition Awards.

Mark Ferguson, who grew up in Victoria's Mallee and founded neXtgen Agri with wife Nisha Powell in 2017, was honoured to have his work recognised.

Mr Ferguson said neXtgen Agri was a highly innovative company that provided services across research and innovation on behalf of industry organisations, direct consulting to leading seed stock producers, and online support and information.

"I'm very proud of our team and it is great to see their hard work recognised by this award," he said.

"It is great to have opportunities to celebrate success, there are plenty of challenges in agriculture and it is easy to focus on these but there are also some great things going on and awards like this one provide the opportunity to celebrate these."

He said his passion for the industry came from growing up on a family farm and "all of the opportunities that brings".

"I'm passionate about the industry because of the amazing people I get to meet and work with, the lifelong friendships, the amazing places it takes me, the perennial challenge of breeding a great sheep and the knowledge that we play a part in producing something that is real, that consumers really value," he said.

"There are few better feelings than when someone tells you they implemented some of your advice on farm and that it made a material difference to them and their sheep.

"In reality it has been their hard work and commitment and willingness to try new things that has resulted in the outcome but it is great they let you share in their success."

He said his advice to producers was that success didn't come from not taking risks, it came from lowering the error in a risky decision.

"The way to reduce the error is to gather information about the likely outcomes; the decision is then based on calculated risk," he said.

"Using breeding values in your genetic decisions and implementing technology to help gather data both dramatically reduces your error and improves your likelihood of success.

"We are just getting warmed up with technology in the sheep industry; the next few years will see a proliferation of technology opportunities in the sheep industry."

Mr Ferguson said looking forward, neXtgen Agri would continue to service their current and future clients but would also be cranking up the online training component of the business.

"Our new virtual course 'Farm-fit ewes' hits the web on 7 July for its debut airing, our course 'Fly free farming' will follow a few weeks later, and The Sheep Breeding Masterclass a month after that," he said.

"We are also running at the opportunity to apply machine vision to the livestock industry; achieving sheep facial recognition in a paddock scenario is high on the agenda for the rest of 2020 and a whole range of innovations will flow from this when we nail this."

FarmGate Auctions national sales director and award judge Jock Gosse said the genetic research Mr Ferguson and his team had done in Australia and New Zealand had inspired innovation within different industry organisations.

"They've done a lot of direct consulting with leading seedstock producers in both countries which is very important and the online support they offer is a major focus," Mr Gosse said.

"Their networking is really important and all their technology is working very well."

MLA Sustainable Producer of the Year - Susan Finnigan

The Meat & Livestock Australia Sustainable Producer of the Year in the Lambition Awards is a south-west Victorian farmer who has been prioritising sustainability in her fine wool operation since the early 1990s.

Susan Finnigan, who operates Kia Ora in Winslow, Victoria, with her husband, son and daughter-in-law, runs 10,000 Merino sheep with fine wool grown for the Italian weaving market.

Ms Finnigan said the win was a delight for the whole team and that it was "great to have people look at what we're doing positively".

She said sustainability had always been a focus.

"It's in the DNA of a lot of wool producers to do things in a way that is earth and animal friendly because we want to grow good quality wool and to do that we have to have an animal that's happy so we've got to do it properly for the long term," she said.

"It's a conscious choice; we don't want to be in a business that's not viable or not looking after the environment."

She said the efforts on farm could benefit the entire supply chain.

"There are lots of players in the chain from sheep to shelf, including the consumer and their expectations are that we deliver them white, bright wool with high yield and that it's grown in a sustainable way," she said.

"Mills can use less water processing wool if there's low vegetable matter in it so managing your pastures well can actually help them."

She said there was still a lot of work to do on the farm but they were content with making their product using ethical and sustainable systems.

"It provides a layer of quality and provenance for our consumers," she said.

One of the judges of the award MLA sustainability and CN30 program manager Doug McNicholl said Ms Finnigan's commitment to sustainable farming practices was outstanding.

"She is a tremendous advocate for technologies and practices that promote environmental stewardship, sheep health and welfare, community benefit, and the drive to continuous improvement," Mr McNicholl said.

"Her story is relatable for many, and her approach to sustainability innovation is translatable to others."

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