Grand Champion Heifer – Cloverlee Secrecy J321 Exhibited by Helen Decosta.

Recently I had the great pleasure of judging the heifers at the Herefords Australia National Youth Heifer Show; held in Melbourne – what an honour – but more importantly what a fabulous event!

I remember attending and being part of heifer shows and junior judging and parading competitions during my childhood; but its only now as an adult returning to these events that I can really appreciate what I learnt and took away from these experiences. In fact 20 years later; and in reflection on these days’ I now know that I learnt so much more than just the skills of parading and judging cattle. I learnt about responsibility and leadership; my industry network grew at every event as did my self-confidence. These are all traits that I now call on daily in my life – how valuable is that!

 Over recent years we have really seen the ‘heifer show’ concept take off around the country and we are seeing both an increase in the number of events being held and the number of participants at each event. The outcome of this; is that the benchmark has also been lifted; and the calibre of young people continues to get higher; and this was certainly also the case the Herefords Australia heifer show. To me this is great to see – and really indicates that there are a lot of young beef industry enthusiasts out there. But – the challenge is – how do we keep them in the beef industry!

 We are hearing that the agriculture industry in general is really struggling to attract young people to take on a career in our sector. I really question at what stage are we loosing these keen passionate young people; is it towards the end of high school or during university? Are we not showcasing the abundance of rewarding careers that our sector offers? The challenge is – how do we engage these bright young people beyond the heifer show? How do we embrace that enthusiasm which is so vibrant at a younger age? How do we capitalise on the skills which they are developing and keep them involved in our industry for the future? This is a real challenge and one that I know is hot on the radar in the agriculture sector.

 The Herefords Australia National Youth Heifer show; was not just about the show ring; over the 3 days the participants also attended a number of demonstrations and presentations by industry experts. Also – I was so pleased to see that there was a session on the program that did showcase some of the career opportunities in our sector – this is exactly the message we need to be sharing with these groups – well done Hereford Youth!

 Brandon Sykes one of the young organisers of this event said We received a lot of positive feedback about the event, in particular the hands on demonstrations on parading, grooming and cattle selection. From all reports, the show was enjoyable and educational for all participants’. I should also note that this event was solely organised by the Hereford Youth Group – and this was led by Brandon Sykes who is now a Youth Ambassador for the breed. Tick – another set of skills being developed by our young people ‘leadership’ and ‘teamwork’.


I hope that you enjoy this little insight into another one of our clients beef operations.

 AJM Livestock Solutions Client Profile


Daniel Fitzell


“Flowerburn” Peelwood NSW north of Crookwell, in the NSW Southern Tablelands.


I run a commercial self-replacing shorthorn herd of 150 EU breading cows and their progeny, made up of Sprys and Ronelle Park Bloodlines. My objective for the herd is to produce progeny that preform on grass and in the feedlot. My main market focus is to turn off steers at 450kg directly to the feedlot market. Any surplus heifers are sold to either feedlot, direct to abattoirs or as breeding females.


 In 2013 I could see the demand for EU Accredited cattle, and the premium that was being paid for them; so I decided that I wanted to open up my market options; and therefore should apply. I contacted AJM Livestock Solutions (Alison McIntosh) to help me put together an application and particularly to help me get my NLIS database up to date. Doing the PIC reconciliation, which is part of the application process was a little daunting at first, but was made easy with Alison’s expertise and help in doing this. Alison completed the PIC reconciliation for me, which then made it easier for us to work through the application process. Applying was made easy with Alison on the job doing most of the work for me, for a minimal cost that would have taken me days or weeks to do Alison did in a few hours. Time is money and by Alison doing most of the work allowed me to focus on getting the more important jobs done on the farm.


 Becoming EU accredited has really opened up a new marketing option for me, and especially when things are tight this will be a great advantage. There seems to be a better price for cattle sold into the EU market, so I am also looking forward to better returns. Now that I am EU accredited all I need to do is a PIC reconciliation once a year to maintain this status, and I will get Alison to help with this aswell. Going forward into the future I hope to maintain a sound, profitable herd that will suit a wide range of markets and I hope to take advantage of any new up and coming markets that may open in years to come.


If there are markets out there offering you a better price, then why not get on board and take advantage of this. If the application process and the NLIS database reconciliation are holding you back from applying, I would highly recommend that you contact AJM Livestock Solutions – Alison McIntosh, she was very easy to work with, quick and got the job done efficiently; which saved me time and allowed me to do the more important jobs in the paddock.  

Tuesday, 04 February 2014 08:39

Do you do what you love?

“The best part about my job, is seeing my clients and their business evolve and flourish while knowing that I may have had a small role to play in their success.” Alison Hamilton

Let’s face it, we all spend a heck of lot of our time at work, so it’s important that we love what we do. An agricultural university student  recently asked me ”What is the best part about your job?” To my surprise I really had to stop and think about my answer because there are lots of things I love about my job, but identifying the ‘best’ was a little more tricky.                                  

In reflecting on the past few years where I have consulted with many producers in our industry, I felt humbled in realizing that the answer to this question was actually pretty simple. It’s the ‘people’ that I get to work with and the best part of that is having the opportunity to see my clients evolve their beef businesses and achieve their goals.

So from time to time I would like to share some of their stories with you. This month I am profiling Jacqui and Jess Impey from Crookwell.  Last year Jacqui and Jess participated in one of my Beef Breeding Basixs workshop series, and here is a bit about them and their beef business.

AJM Livestock Solutions Client Profile:

Beef Producers

Jacqui and Jess Impey (Jess is Jacqui’s daughter)


Crookwell, which is in the NSW Southern Tablelands.

About the beef operation

Jacqui & Jess are both involved with Simmental cattle. Jess with her sister Jen own Lucky Clover Simmental stud while Jacqui and her husband Jason own Mala-Daki Simmental stud. Together as a family they run stud and commercial Simmental cattle consisting of traditional and also red and black Simmentals and more recently have introduced SimAngus. In total they are running about 100 breeders at Iron Mine Road and on 400 acres of leased land in the local area. The Impey family are primarily breeding bulls for the commercial and Stud market with some weaner and female sales, and they are committed to producing moderately framed, structurally correct cattle with ideal temperament and carcase traits.

Mala-Daki was established in the early 1990s and Lucky Clover was started 10 years ago when Jess was just 8 years old. Mala-Daki Simmentals started from a shared interest Jacqui and Jason had for Simmentals, introduced to them by a Swiss friend. Jacqui grew up on an Apple Orchard in Oakdale which also ran a small commercial Hereford and Hereford cross herd. Lucky Clover Simmentals evolved from Jess and Jen growing up and working on the family farm and ‘acquiring’ their own calves and cows (usually from favourite Mala-Daki cows). They joined the Simmental Association as Junior members and decided to start their own Stud. Both Studs are active on the local Show circuit and Sydney Show promoting Simmentals and the cattle industry.

Why did you sign up for the Beef Breeding Basixs course?

Jess – ‘I was completing my HSC and thought the 3 parts of the course fitted nicely into my interest in beef cattle and it was an opportunity to learn and improve some beef industry skills’.

Jacqui – ‘I saw it as a chance to update my skills and information base for the beef industry’.

What did you want to achieve through the Beef Breeding Basixs course?

Both Jacqui and Jess said ‘I wanted to develop more confidence in animal selection and also wanted to gain a better understanding of the potential which tools such as Breedplan and EBV’s can bring to breeding and marketing our cattle’.

 What skills / knowledge have you taken away from the course?

‘We feel better prepared in identifying and selecting bulls and females and we learned how to read and understand market reports and we both now have a better understanding of the value in using EBVs and Breedplan for selection and marketing’.

 As a result of the course what changes are you making on farm?

‘We are using the livestock marketing skills and tools to improve marketing of our cattle in the short and long term, we know more about what we want to get out of our cattle enterprise. We have also continued to submit heard management data into Breedplan; but now with a better understanding of what this means to us and also to clients who come to purchase our cattle’.

 What impact are these changes having on your operation?

‘We have seen benefits in being able to better market our stock at the right time which has given us healthier returns. We have also valued having full EBV data available on all livestock which enables us to meet the demands of buyers who request specific traits and data. As a result, we are improving our output and productivity’.

 What do you want your beef enterprise to look like in the next 5 to 10 years?

The Impey family are aiming to increase their number of breeders, focussing on ensuring that they are structurally correct and sound. They are aiming to produce a consistent line of bulls that are a guarantee of quality to the beef industry.

 The Impey family – Jen, Jacqui, Jason & Jess.

Tuesday, 05 November 2013 14:05

This inspired me. What inspires you?

Have you ever thought about what it means to be an active citizen? Do you share your perspective with decision makers within your industry or are you actively involved in your community creating change for a better future?

 Just a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the national presentation of the RIRDC Rural Women’s Award at Parliament House in Canberra. I found myself amongst a room full of motivated rural women from across Australia all doing their bit to positively contribute to their industries and communities.  What an amazing group of inspirational women and the 4 hours of networking just wasn’t enough.

 I learned that it doesn’t matter what type of business you are in or what type of work you do it is important to love what you do. The 7 state finalists came from all walks of life and different sectors of our primary agricultural industries. They shared with us a deep passion for what they do, day in and day out. In hearing a small part of their stories including their hopes and dreams, their challenges and successes, it was enough to fill every heart will encouragement and pride. The 2014 winner, Giovanna Webb, is a crocodile farmer from the Northern Territory and she empowers indigenous women to expand their skills and knowledge of the crocodile industry. This year’s runner up, Isobel Knight, is from NSW and runs a business dedicated to succession planning for family farm businesses. Diversity builds strength and these women are only 2 examples of the outstanding opportunities within our Australian rural sector.

 After attending this fabulous event, I could not sleep because my mind was bustling with the energy these women had poured out. In addition, this was the first chance I took to reflect on my time as the 2010 NSW runner-up for the RIRDC Rural Women’s Awards. It dawned on me how lucky I was for the experience and what it meant to me both in my personal and business life. Being a part of this award process was the platform which gave me the drive and confidence to pursue my passion and achieve my dream to start my own business. Today I am proud that AJM Livestock Solutions has been in operation for just over 5 years now.

 This is what inspires me, hearing from inspirational and passionate people who are making a difference and who love what they are doing in life. These people empower me with that burst of extra vitality and give me the push that I sometimes need to get going. I am reminded that where there is a will there is a way and through hard work, dreams really do come true. Being in a solo business and for many of us in rural areas, I think it is important that we sometimes make that extra effort to surround ourselves with inspirational people and challenge ourselves in situations to learn and grow.

 What inspires you? Whatever it is I recommend that you go out and get a good dose of it every now and then. It will not only recharge your batteries but it will help you achieve those things that sometimes just keep getting pushed to the bottom of the ‘too hard’ file.



Photo Credit -

Middle: Westpac State General Manager Queensland Commercial & Agribusiness Rod Kelly (left), Westpac Head of Agribusiness Susan Bower, Westpac Senior Agribusiness Manager Steve Badgery, RWA Alumni Alison McIntosh and Westpac State General Manager WA Commercial & Agribusiness Ben Marini

Bottom: Isobel Knight (2013 Australian RIRDC RWA Runner-up) with Minister Cash, Giovanna Webb (2013 Australian RIRDC RWA Winner) and Minister Joyce @ the Inspirational women at the 2013 RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Dinner, 16 October in Canberra 

As farmers, how many times have you sent your cattle to market, with your fingers crossed hoping that you receive a good price at the end of the day?  With many of the commodities we sell as farmers – we are often in the situation of being ‘price takers’, meaning that we accept and take the price that is offered for our product on the day. And in reality the value of our product is reflective of what our customers are prepared to pay ‘on the day’, how does this nature of ‘risk taking’ sit with your business? This as we know can be frustrating, disappointing at times and pleasing at other times, but what ever way we look at it, being a farmer of any kind is a risky business. 

Monday, 02 September 2013 09:00

Getting Bang For Your Buck Out Of NLIS

Getting Bang for your Buck out of NLIS

Recently I have had the chance to speak at a couple of field days in both Temora and Holbrook on the topic of electronic data capture and record keeping in a beef cattle operation. This is a topic I am very passionate about; having been heavily involved in the introductory days of the cattle National Livestock Identification System (NLIS); I could see that the system had a lot more to offer than just as a traceability system for our industry.

 We know that NLIS is an extremely important system for our industry, in terms of traceability, biosecurity and maintaining market access. I can also tell you first hand that our Australian NLIS system is world class – and we are defiantly leaders in this field; but many other countries have taken our lead and have also adopted electronic traceability systems.

 So what is the opportunity?

Did you know that approximately 75% of all of the beef we produce in Australia, in some way will be destined for an export market? One of our key export destinations is Japan, and annually they take between 20% and 30% of our export product annually, so our relationship with this market is vital. Back in early June, I was lucky enough to be a part of a producer delegate from Australia, hosted by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA); we spent a week travelling from one end of Japan to the other meeting with farmers and industry groups and officials broaden our knowledge of their industry and to build on the relationship between the 2 countries.

The key objective of the Producer to Producer (P2P), program is for us to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the Japanese cattle industry, and in return for the Japanese beef farmers to enhance their knowledge of our Australian industry. Last year there was a delegate of Japanese farmers who travelled to various beef operations around Australia, which was the beginning of this relationship building program.

So you ask ‘what was it like in Japan??’ 

This week I had the great pleasure of joining Cattle Council of Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and NSW Farmers Association, as the facilitator of an industry forum in Casino as part of Casino Beef Week

I love the concept of Casino Beef Week, a whole week, where people from right across the region come together to celebrate ‘Beef’ and the ‘Beef Industry’. The program across the week really has something for everyone, and at the same time provides such a great opportunity for our industry ‘the beef industry’ to deliver and share some key messages with the public, I think that there should be more ‘Beef Weeks’ across Australia!!

Although I have grown up on my family’s beef cattle farm in Southern NSW, over the past 10 years I have established a very rewarding career path in agriculture, which has taken me to many parts of the state, country and the world.

My first job, upon leaving university was for the industry body of Meat and Livestock Australia, where I was based in North Sydney. For a country girl this was a fantastic place to launch a career in agriculture away from the farm. I learn't to work with many other people in a very busy corporate environment, what I also really learnt was that agriculture is really not just about what happens on the farm.