Young beef producer Dudley Harrington, from Queensland’s lower Gulf region, has taken out the prestigious Rabobank Business Development Prize for 2016.
Selected from a group of Australia and New Zealand’s most progressive young farmers, graduates of the 2015 Rabobank Farm Managers Program, Mr Harrington was recognised for the strategic business planning approach he now takes in his family’s extensive beef cattle operation.
Mr Harrington was presented with the award in front of the current crop of Farm Managers Program participants and industry leaders in Adelaide for his management project – which demonstrated how he implemented the learnings from the program to assess different marketing opportunities for his family’s beef. Designed for up-and-coming farmers, the Rabobank program focuses on the development of business management skills with an emphasis on self-awareness, leadership and strategic planning.
Presenting the $2,000 management prize, Rabobank Australia national manager Country Banking Todd Charteris commended Mr Harrington for applying the tools and skills he had learnt on the program not only into his business, but also in the way he manages himself and others.
“Through the process of completing the project, Dudley really put himself and his business under the microscope which has given him a clear plan of how he can grow the business into the future,” Mr Charteris said.
Since graduating from the Farm Managers Program, Mr Harrington said, he no longer does things “the way they have always been done”, but runs through the figures before making any business decision.
“This mindset saw me embark on a project that analysed if we were chasing the right market for our cattle, and which market – the meatworks or live export – generates the best return for our business,” he said.
“I had always wanted to look at our herd structure, but it came to the fore during the early stages of the drought in 2013 when the prices at the meatworks dropped dramatically as the market was oversupplied.”
Mr Harrington, who together with his family, runs a beef-grazing enterprise near Julia Creek, said the program not only developed his financial management skills to undertake the benchmarking project, but also gave him a greater insight into the global forces driving the beef market.
“The industry is changing so quickly that we need to keep on top of what is driving those changes and how we can adapt accordingly,” he said.
Mr Harrington said while his comparison between the two cattle markets concluded that the current structure of his family enterprise – value-adding their weaners to sell direct to the meatworks at two years of age – was the most profitable, the process of analysing their business structure was extremely beneficial.
“The volatility of markets – together with the option to offload young, lighter cattle during dry periods – will see us continue to evaluate our business as market dynamics change,” he said, “and I now have the software to reassess our position on an annual basis.
“But what I found really interesting from the analysis, was that running more cattle –which we would have done if we had gone down the live export track – wasn’t necessarily more profitable for us, given the additional costs of production from increased reliance on labour.”
Mr Harrington said while his project focused on the best market for his family’s beef, he had also made a lot of personal changes as a result of attending the program.
“When I presented my project, I was asked if I had made big changes to the business as a result of attending the program,” he said, “but the biggest changes have been in the way I manage myself.
“There wouldn’t be a day where I don’t use the learnings from the program, as I know how important it is to keep on top of what you are doing, and to be accountable in all you do. This has seen me focus on the ‘little things’ like sitting down and planning the day and focusing on better communication – which has increased my work productivity.”
Now in its eleventh year, the Farm Managers Program covers topics including global trends in agriculture, business planning, financial management, leadership and succession planning. Producers interested in further information on the program should visit www.rabobank.com.au/bmp or contact Rabobank business programs manager Nerida Sweetapple on 02 6363 5910 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 115 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 40 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.6 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading rural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 94 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Head of Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: 02 4855 1111 or 0418 216 103