Ag teachers get a taste of feedlot life at Smithfield

Beef Central, 15/07/2021

Don and Barb Madden (nee Shearer-Smith), far left, show some of the 35 agriculture curriculum teachers around the pens at Smithfield feedlot this morning.

A group of 35 agriculture curriculum teachers and their assistants got a better appreciation of how a typical Australian grainfeeding business operates during a visit to Smithfield feedlot near Proston in southern Queensland this morning.

The networking event for teaching staff from schools offering agriculture subjects across the Wide Bay region provided a first-hand look at what is involved in running a feedlot and why feedlots play an important role in the beef supply chain.

Smithfield has a long-standing partnership with Proston State School spanning multiple generations.

“Three generations of the Shearer-Smith family having been educated at the school, and we see the important connection our feedlot business has with our local community,” Smithfield’s Barb Madden said.

Almost two decades ago, Smithfield helped establish the Proston State School’s rural studies program, which enables students to study subjects directly related to the agriculture sector.

“Smithfield sees providing students with an opportunity to learn more about agriculture and where their food comes as being very important,” Ms Madden said.

“The partnership combines classroom learning with real industry experience – the combination allows students to understand agriculture both in theory and in practice, which cements learning outcomes for the children.”

From Bundaberg and Monto, west to Mundubbera, east to Kilcoy, Gympie and Noosa, the Wide Bay Ag Teachers network brings together teachers and assistants from more than 20 schools across the Wide Bay region.

Many of the schools represented in the group participate in an annual Hoof and Hook event, which rotates around the Wide Bay region every year. The 2022 Hook and Hoof event is scheduled to be held in the South Burnett, hence why Proston is hosting this year’s networking event.

Proston State School’s ag science teacher Katrina Hayward said the visit to Smithfield was about giving practical business exposure to teachers, who for many, may be seeing a feedlot for the first time.

“They want to gain an understanding of the business production systems, the skills required to work at a feedlot and potential career opportunities for school leavers,” she said.

“Smithfield is excited to be showcasing its feedlot to promote the amazing career opportunities available to students within the feedlot industry,” Ms Madden said.

35 year milestone

Smithfield feedlot earlier this month celebrated 35 years in lotfeeding.

On 2 July 1986, Robert and Sandra Smith, drove the first peg into the ground at their Proston site, marking the beginning of an exciting journey for the Smith family.

The very first client of Smithfield was the Briggs family from Mt Perry who placed 120 head on feed. From these humble beginnings, the feedlot grew and reached its current 18,500 SCU capacity by 2012.

There were however some significant hardships that Smithfield Feedlot had to endure during this time, including the devastating beef crashes of 1990 and 1996, which had severe impacts on Smithfield and the entire beef industry.

Founding owner, Sandra Shearer-Smith remembers a traumatic phone call she received from the bank, during the 1996 crash, telling her she had to stop writing cheques.

“It was a phone call no business ever wants to receive from their bank manager” she recalled, “but through sheer hard work and a little divine intervention, Smithfield came through the crashes on a mission to expand”.

In 2016, the Smithfield family acquired Sapphire Feedlot, a 6000 head feedlot near Yelarbon.

CEO Andrew Shearer-Smith said purchasing a feedlot close to the NSW border was a strategic decision which had given the business access to a greater supply of southern feeder cattle.

Over the past five years, the Smithfield family have expanded this feedlot to be a state of the art 20,000 head facility.

From humble beginnings of 120 head on feed, to having two feed yards with a combined licenced capacity of 38,500 head, Smithfield remains a family in business, who respect the hard work and determination of their pioneering men and women, while continually expanding their knowledge and reach within the industry.





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