NORTHERN TERRITORY veterinarian Charles Vaughan was north of the central Arnhem indigenous community of Beswick conducting pregnancy tests and selecting feral buffalo heifers and mickeys to be exported to Indonesia when a voicemail was left on his phone with the news he was a finalist in the Zanda McDonald Award.
Along with NSW's Mitch Highett, founder and managing director of farm management company Bullseye Agriculture, and Sarah Groat, development officer for government agtech program Farms of the Future, he is in the running for the 2023 Australian crown in what is one of the most prestigious agricultural badges of honour.
What Dr Vaughan did between that call and delivering his award speech to judges a month later probably best tells the story of why he is a finalist - and just how much can be packed into a career in agriculture.
He returned to Katherine to inspect some cattle trucked across from Western Australia for export to Malaysia; then drafted and trucked 18 decks of feral-caught buffalo under Indigenous land use agreements for both Indonesia and Malaysia.
Next day he was back down on the edge of Kakadu National Park selecting bulls and commercial cattle on a traditional owner's block for live export, returned to Darwin to butcher a steer to supply colleagues and friends with beef and completed the required drafting and departmental paperwork for a mixed consignment of cattle to Indonesia and Malaysia.
At week's end, Dr Vaughan picked up an Indonesian selector from the airport before assisting him to individually tag the animals set aside for him, of which there was 100 per cent acceptance, including some crossbred and Brangus animals for a trial in his feedlot.
Next job was to load an export vessel with 700 buffalo and 1100 cattle before flying to Adelaide to inspect a 2000 head Holstein breeder consignment destined for China.
He then boarded the MV Galloway Express to act as an onboard veterinarian on secondment for another exporter and arrived in China 18 days later with all animals in good health.
He signed off in Busan, South Korea, flew to the Philippines to discharge a consignment that had been loaded in Darwin, consulted at a customer's feedlot in Manila for two days and inducted fresh cattle straight off the boat.
A meeting with company principals focusing on value-adding aged bulls and cows in the current challenging economic climate finished the job before heading to Sydney for his award duties.
A lot of people say they have a job where no two days are the same but few people would fit as much into one work life as Charles Vaughan.
At just 29, he is the Queensland operations coordinator and group veterinarian for Australian Cattle Enterprises, along with running his own business, Charles Vaughan Veterinary Services.
ACE is an exporter of both cattle and buffalo to a myriad of markets in South East Asia and most of Dr Vaughan's time is spent in that role.
This year, with the threat of foot and mouth and lumpy skin disease, biosecurity consulting has been a big part of his work.
He says the effects of the initial slow-down of trade to and within Indonesia are still being felt.
However, the faith producers have in the cattle business is still very strong, he believes.
And there are big opportunities emerging as the herd rebuilds.
The winners of the 2023 Zanda McDonald Award will be announced at a special Impact Summit in Brisbane in March.
Three finalists are also vying for the New Zealand arm of the award.
Both the Australian and the New Zealand winner will each pick up an impressive personal development package, including a fully personalised mentoring trip in both countries, $10,000 worth of tailored education or training, media coaching and other mentoring and industry opportunities.
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