Over the past few years I’ve noticed growing interest from many young people keen to make their careers in agriculture. It’s exciting to see so much enthusiasm and excitement about cattle, cropping and agriculture in general. I think it’s a great to see people with passion and excitement looking to make their careers in the industry.
I’m often asked for some tips and advice from young people taking their first steps towards an agricultural career. I know every job is slightly different, and every person approaches situations from a slightly different level of skill and ability, but I reckon there are a few basic tips that might be applicable to anyone heading out to the stations.
There are plenty of tips for young people heading out to stations. One of the best is from the regular blogs that are shared by the stations contributing to the Central Station Blog. So if you are keen to make your way, check those tips out as you prepare. Having said that, a few things have struck me and I think are worth sharing as well.
Tip 1: Be polite and courteous! You’d think that would be a given! But a lot of people these days seem to believe that a resume with their educational achievements and previous employment is all that is needed to secure a position. Actually, your manner and your interaction with your new employer carries so much more weight than the CV. I reckon its important to remember that the opportunity to start your career shouldn’t be taken for granted. Appreciate the opportunities and be respectful of the working environment you hope to enter.
Tip 2: Present yourself well & look after your gear: As much as we would all like to believer that appearance isn’t everything, how you present yourself is often seen as reflection on how you care for yourself and any of the gear you might be trusted with. If you are prepared to take a little time to be neat, tidy and care for yourself, it indicates you’re probably going to look after the equipment you’ve been trusted with.
Tip 3: Learn to Listen and Pay Attention!! No one expects you to know how to do every job straight away! But equally, no one wants to explain how to do things over and over. So when you get a new job given to you, pay attention the first time. Watch, listen and ask questions. Don’t pretend you understand if you don’t get something. If you don’t get it, ask then and there. Its better to ask the first time, then to go off and half do a job or stuff things up because you weren’t paying attention and you didn’t understand.
Tip 5: Don’t expect people to look after your gear! In any job you are going to be trusted with equipment. Some of it might be brand new. Some of it might be older. It doesn’t matter. If you are trusted with something, look after it and respect it! Secondly, if you are using it, you’re responsible for it. So don’t expect the boss to have to re fill water containers, charge radios, or check you have everything for the day.
Tip 6: Look for the jobs you can do to be useful: In any job, there are often little things you can do to make the job a bit easier or quicker for the rest of the team. It could be setting the gates and yards up before the cattle are bought close to the yards. It might be putting on the lunch billy or switching over water troughs. Get used to looking for the little jobs and doing them without being asked to. It helps the team and it makes the job a bit easier for everyone.
Now I know there are plenty of other tips and suggestions. But I reckon these few can be boiled down to the simple ones of be respectful, listen, learn, and ask; help each other and take responsibility for yourself. Be part of a team. These are the skills that you can build a career around. In any job you go to, regardless of it being on a farm, a station or any other field of agriculture, these are the ones that will help you make your mark and lead you to a more rewarding and enjoyable career.
I really enjoy working with cattle. Getting cattle to move through yards, or into new paddocks does take some skill. I firmly believe there is no such thing as a born animal handler. I reckon the skills you need to work with animals are developed, like any skill, through practice, observation and continually trying to do better.
What I think some people may be born with is a higher degree of patience, as they develop their skills. I think some people are also more empathetic to cattle or animals, and are willing to work with the animals, trying to understand the animals movements and directing them in the desired direction. It is important to be patient and to understand the animals you are working with.
Being patient doesn't mean your work has to slow down to a crawl! Patient in my mind means taking a mental breath and thinking through what you are trying to achieve with the animals you are working with. It means responding to their actions and anticipating what the animals are likely to do or want to do in response to you, to other people or to their environment.
I reckon its also a bit of self awareness. Are you actually prepared to take some time, a few breathes to think about things. To consider the impact your actions might have, and to learn from mistakes or from the past.
Some people just don't seem to be willing to be patient. And this has created so many issues for them, for their cattle and for the people around them.
If you really want to develop better skills in working with cattle it takes patience, understanding and practice. I've talked about patience. So what about understanding?
There are some basic things to understood with cattle. Firstly cattle are prey animals. Which means they are used to running away from danger. They need to be with others, so they can all look for danger, and if they can't get away from the danger, then they will use their size and speed to attack the predator.
Its not rocket science! We all know that, and everyone wants to talk about flight zones. The area between an animal and a source of danger or threat. Some animals have a bigger zone than others.
Its pretty clear what happens when you step into that zone. The animal either moves away or does its best to get away.
But some animals will react differently. There may be past history or circumstances that cause that animal to take on the source of threat. It could be a cow with a new calf. A bull with some cows in a mob. Or it could be a cow kept in a pen on its own and it is so frightened that everything is a threat.
In the last few months I've heard of two people in NSW seriously injured by bulls. Now I'm not sure what the circumstances are for both of those incidents, and I reckon its not for me to make an assumption. What I will say is that often injuries occur when people switch off to their cattle.
When I say switch off, its not paying attention to what the animals are doing in response to you. Maybe you switch off because you take things for granted. Maybe its because you assume your skills are excellent! Maybe you haven't even switched on because you don't think about the animals as much as you should. What ever the reason. All I know is that you shouldn't switch off.
If you are using the animals responses, moving in and out of their flight zone in order to direct them to another place, then changes are you are switched on to the cattle and you can react to animals that might not want to move away and instead want to take you one! On the other hand if your approach is to push, shout and intimidate your animals, being unaware of how they perceive you as you force them into complying with you, then one day you could find yourself in a dangerous or unpleasant situation.
So next time you're out with your cattle, try and be more switched on. Be a little patient and think about your skills and the animals reactions to you. That mental pause for a breath might be enough to turn your cattle chore into a good day out for you, your cattle and for everyone else!
I have to admit I get excited when I talk to people about social media and using it in business. When I say social media, most people seem to roll their eyes as if to say, whats the point, or suggest the only value in social media is to have an online gossip or waste time.
I reckon that is a big underestimation of the usefulness of social media, particularly in business. A quick look at some of the numbers in Australia, suggest that of the people who have internet access, 60% have a Facebook account. The average use of Facebook is about 4 times a day and most people use it every day. Other social media tools like Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube and Trip Advisor all have significant use by Australians in all walks of life.
The simple fact is, we are an age where people expect to access information and a connection with trusted sources of that information immediately. If it is sharing family pictures or searching for information on the weather or a place to eat, people are turning to social media to get that information.
This is the opportunity to tap into that demand. Smart businesses see social media as a way of connecting with their customers and potential customers in a way that has never really been an option in the past. It is pretty obvious that people want to connect with businesses and products. They like to see images and stories of business and products they support doing well in the marketplace.
The best social media strategies encourage clients and other people to engage with a business. That engagement needs to lead to a recognition of the business as a 'go to' for information and ideas.
Well, thats what I am trying to achieve with RaynerAg and I have been teaching businesses how to do this in their own social media programs.
What does surprise me is how little though people give to the things they post and share on social media. I've seen all sorts of things from tweets that contain swear words, to nasty comments, negative observations or criticism of businesses or government policy. It seems some people confuse their ability to share their thoughts with the the impact their thoughts might have on their businesses recognition as a 'go to' source of information and ideas.
I reckon it is very unlikely that people are going to go looking for advice or to support a product when they see a series of negative posts or comments.
Many people think it is just common sense that you don't post negative material or comments. Yet every day I see them on Twitter, Facebook or on other sites. So I reckon there is a gap between common sense and what really happens!
Ideally when I am teaching businesses how to use social media as part of their brand awareness, I want them to see the excitement that comes from sharing ideas and information across a much broader range of people than they could access from traditional advertising. I really hope they become businesses that develop a reputation for information that is trusted and useful. More importantly I want to help businesses or individuals avoid posting something that makes me ask "Did you just tweet that?"
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