A few weeks ago I got a phone call informing me that my peers in the Australian livestock export trade were awarding me the Young Achiever of the Year. It was quite a shock given I didn’t even know I had been nominated.
After overcoming the surprise, I have had a bit of time to reflect on my last 13 years in the industry. I have learned a lot in that time and one of the first things I realised is that no two days are ever the same in this business.
I see the variety of work as a major positive, because it means I’m constantly challenged and looking for ways to improve. There aren’t too many jobs which allow you to develop such a diverse and valuable range of skills, while exposing you to a unique and exciting range of work settings.
I got my start in the livestock export business when I was just 14. I would be dropped-off at the Fremantle port during school holidays and earned $2 an hour unloading sheep trucks. The meagre hourly rate was offset somewhat when I was handed a can of Coke at the end of each working day.
Since then my career has progressed in leaps and bounds in a way that would have been almost impossible for a 14-year-old to comprehend.
It is an industry that is confronting, challenging and sometimes even painful to work in. On the job, I’ve managed to dislocate my shoulder while unloading sheep trucks, came close to losing a finger to the dehorners and had a nasty reaction when I accidentally rubbed backline on my face and spent a week looking like the ‘elephant man’.
I believe we are getting better at dealing with the issues that arise
I also remember trying to explain to the doctors and physios in Perth how I’d come to tear the ACL in my knee for the second time. Needless to say, they were shocked to hear it happened while trying to side-step a cranky cow in Broome.
Over the years I’ve witnessed a lot of changes to the way exporters operate and I believe we are getting better at dealing with the issues that arise with a focus on continually improving our practices.
As an industry, we are better able to answer the call-to-action on animal welfare building into our day-to day business activities. We are proving that ever-improving animal welfare and profitability are compatible.
I’m extremely proud of the fact that Australia is the only country which provides in-market training and education to all markets importing our livestock. However, our commitment to welfare isn’t the only way we are continuing to set the standard in the global livestock export trade.
Australian exporters and livestock producers are regarded as among the very best anywhere in the world. The health status and genetic quality of our livestock is unsurpassed and the industry’s efforts in maintaining its reputation as a preferred supplier of livestock cannot be underestimated.
The industry’s future is bright. Trade is strong and steady, and global demand for protein isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. A sustainable and profitable livestock export trade means producers enjoy valuable buying competition for their animals and economic activity in regional Australia and right across the country receives a shot in the arm.
I’m very encouraged by the significant number of young people working in the livestock export sector who share my passion for our industry and the work we do. Just as our trade depends greatly on the quality of the animals we export, our success also relies heavily on the men, women and families working in the industry. Their enthusiasm and dedication to continually improve our product and service is vital to the trade’s success in the future.
For those of us working in the livestock export industry, there’s much to be positive about. We are enjoying strong demand from existing and emerging markets, which is being helped by the weaker Australian dollar.
The health status of Australian livestock, and our reputation as a reliable and regular supplier of consignments helps ensure we remain a preferred trading partner. And of course, Australia’s unrivalled investment in supply chain infrastructure, including modern shipping, demonstrates our absolute commitment to animal welfare.
These positives are tempered by the sheer cost of doing business in Australia, especially compliance costs which hurt both producers and exporters. We need to continue to state the case for government to provide businesses with some relief from burdensome over-regulation which adds material costs but could and should be significantly streamlined.
Through all the changes and challenges the live export trade has faced in the past decade or so, the industry has continued to mature and strengthen, successfully adapting to whatever hurdles it has faced along the way. All the while, exporters have always been proud to work with Australia’s livestock producers and overseas trading partners and are very grateful for the level of support and cooperation across the live trade.
We can never be complacent but I’m confident that through hard work and collaboration with all supply chain stakeholders, Australia’s livestock export industry will make the most of what is set to be a very exciting future.
- Ben Stanton is an export manager with Emanuel Livestock, based in Perth. He was was recently crowned the livestock export industry’s 2015 Young Achiever of the Year.