98 episodes

Mark Ferguson from neXtgen Agri brings you the latest in livestock, genetics, innovation and technology. We focus on sheep and beef farming in Australia and New Zealand and the people doing great things in those industries.

Head Shepherd Mark Ferguson

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 38 Ratings

Mark Ferguson from neXtgen Agri brings you the latest in livestock, genetics, innovation and technology. We focus on sheep and beef farming in Australia and New Zealand and the people doing great things in those industries.

    Actual to Ideal. Achieving Operational Excellence with Neville Brady

    Actual to Ideal. Achieving Operational Excellence with Neville Brady

     This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have Neville Brady of Browsup Consulting, a consultancy company "...providing management support for groups, organisations and corporate businesses seeking to develop and implement structures that improve Leadership, Management, Staff Engagement, Continuous Improvement and Operational Excellence. "

    After having the opportunity to hear Neville speak recently, Mark thought he'd be a great guest for the Head Shepherd podcast- and he wasn't wrong! 

    Nevilles background is in the advertisement industry with studies in marketing. "I was always interested in buyer behaviour. As an adult student I also did some study in psychology." He says. "I was really interested in a theory proposed by Professor Higgings called 'Self Discrepancy Theory". It's as follows
    Actual - This is what I'm actually doing.Ought- This is what I ought to be doing.Ideally- This is what I could do.The team of three at Browsup Consulting have been applying that to businesses across Australia "to move them from 'actual' through to 'ideal', so that they can achieve operational excellence."
    Browsup have worked with a range of businesses and industries. From feedlots,  to Toyota, John Deere and Ruralco/Nutrien "...but it's mainly in rural Australia where we work" says Neville. 

    Mark and Neville go on to discuss conflict. Something Neville says we should embrace. "If we as an organism didn't suffer from conflict, we wouldn't be here. Conflict's fun"

    "Wherever you have people living, working, socialising or playing sports together, there is always conflict. Usually we're called into businesses because of the AVOIDANCE of the conflict, rather than the conflict itself."

    The root cause of conflict is always one of, or multiple of the following reasons:
    Structure,ResourcesCompetencyCommitmentFirst, Browsup review business structures and resources before they go blaming anyone’s competency or commitment.  "Following this process, we have a farm business input audit that clearly measures their starting point, their actuals... leadership, staff engagement, succession and so on."

    Once they've established the root cause of the conflict, they can aim towards being in their "Ideal", rather than their "Actual".

    Mark and Neville also discuss emotional maturity and management. Mark asks "How do you get people self aware enough to be aware that they're part of the problem/solution to conflict?"

    Neville says, "If you had snot on your nose, wouldn't you like someone to tell you?" It might not be an easy conversation to have. "One of the first steps is to confront the truth."..."and look... It's never come as a surprise, when people rate someone poorly for emotional maturity"

    "If you talk about it, it takes some of the heat out of it" says Neville. This allows a plan to be made to solve the issue.

    To finish off the podcast Mark and Neville discuss Mens Mental Health, a topic very dear to Nevilles heart. "The suicide rate in male farmers in Australia is 400% greater than females. So get into the conflict early," Neville says. "Conflict isn't like a bottle of red wine, it doesn't get better with age."
    And a final note from Neville.

    "Please go to the doctors once every 12 months guys. You service your tractors, you service your vehicle. Go to the doctors for a check up every year. Nothing will shrink if you do. Get checked over boys"

    Thanks Neville for a fantastic podcast.

    If you'd like to contact Neville you can reach him on

    • 28 min
    Meeting Export Market Demands with Atkins Ranch

    Meeting Export Market Demands with Atkins Ranch

    This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have Pat Maher, CEO of Atkins Ranch.

    Atkins Ranch supplies premium New Zealand Lamb to Whole Foods in North America and Canada, supplying 95% of their lamb, plus they supply a handful of other traders such as Trader Joes and Costco from time to time.

    Mark and Pat discuss the starts of Atkins Ranch, which has great story behind it. Started in 1989 by two farming families frustrated at the returns from the meat works at the time, they came up with the concept of Atkins Ranch. Then they tossed a coin over who would move over to America to start selling their premium product.

    33 years later, there are now hundreds of suppliers to Atkins Ranch.

    A key selling point of Atkins Ranch is supplying grass fed lamb 52 weeks of the year, because New Zealand grows grass year round.

    Atkins Ranch looks to be ahead of the trends. They were doing antibiotic free 20 years ago before it became a thing. They moved onto "non GMO products", then GAP (Global Animal Partnership) which is an higher animal welfare standards audit, and Atkins Ranch was the first meat company in the world to get that accreditation.

    "Now we're really looking at regenerative farming very very closely. We've aligned ourselves with an accreditation system called "Land to market verification"... we see that as being the next big thing."

    Genetics wise, Pat says they like more intramuscular fat because it means theres more chance of the consumer cooking it well. How much IMF? Well, "If the consumer can't see it (IMF), they wont pay a premium for it. So it needs to be visual." Pat says. Atkins Ranch also look for heaver carcasses, around the 25kg range as opposed to the 18kg standard in New Zealand.

    The whole ethos of the business is to get the market premiums that they generate though their customers, back in into the pockets of the farmers.

    There tends to be a waitlist to become an Atkins Ranch supplier with processing labour limitations. "There is a definite desire to grow, though, because of how successful the business model is." Pat says.

    If you would like to learn more about Atkins Ranch, visit their website below:

    • 21 min
    50 years of breeding seedstock at Lawson Angus with Harry Lawson

    50 years of breeding seedstock at Lawson Angus with Harry Lawson

    This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have Harry Lawson of Lawson Angus.

    Harry goes through the progression of the Lawson Angus business, a pioneering family for performance recording cattle. His parents started performance recording in the late 60s and they recently held their 50th Bull Sale. They currently farm in 4 states of Australia.

    When Harry and his brother returned to the family farm in 1994, they were running 300 cows. Over the next 10 years, Harry and his brother upped that to 2,500. They went from selling 50 bulls a year to 1000.

    Mark and Harry compare the change in genetics and traits Lawson Angus have been chasing over their 50 years of recording. They started with recording maternal ability and growth.
    It wasn't until mid-80's when the US bulls came into Australia, that they focused on birth weights.
    They also started ultra-sounding in the late 80s as they wanted to start selecting on carcass and marbling. They then focused in on mature weight as they got bigger growth.

    Harry says that not enough people are paying attention to their mature cow size.

    "No seedstock herds are weighing their cows even though it drives so many things. Fertility, ability to handle socking rate/seasonal fluctuations and postpartum anoestrus intervals."

    "If you're big, lean and high milking in our system, you're gone" Harry says. "Milk is a very misunderstood trait. We're getting more and more milk and we don't need more and more milk. It's a massive energy drag. You're not pumping out four calves, you're pumping out one"

    Mark and Harry discuss other traits like marbling, fat and feed conversion and how they effect the maternal cow and essentially the bottom line of the business.

    A great podcast between two genetics enthusiasts. It's also great to hear the history behind such a successful operation.

    If you'd like to find out more about Lawson Angus you can visit their website below:

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    Thanks to our Sponsors
    Allflex Livestock Intelligence is the leader in the design, development, manufacturing, and delivery of animal monitoring, identification, and traceability solutions. Their data-driven solutions are used by farmers to manage animals. By putting intelligent, actionable information into farmers’ hands, their solutions empower them to act in a timely manner for optimal outcomes.
    A big thank you to our sponsors, Allflex Livestock Intelligence and MSD Animal Health Intelligence

    • 47 min
    Building successful farm teams with Drover Ag.

    Building successful farm teams with Drover Ag.

    This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we are discussing employment in the Ag sector. Mark chats with John Boote, CEO of Drover Ag, specialists in Ag recruitment.

    John has been involved in Agriculture his entire life working his way up through senior management roles. He'd always seen recruitment as a major issues in the Agricultural Industry.  To solve that problem, three years ago, he started Drover Ag. They now has over 1000 clients Australia-wide.

    "Putting the right people in the right jobs is what keeps us going"

    "Personality matching is the most important thing" John says. Sometimes it's not always about their qualifications or experience "We'll promote exceptional characters to roles where they may not have the desired skill set" Skills can be taught, a personality is hard to change.

    Mark and John go through what makes a good employer AND a good employee.

    John says that there's so many choices for employees now that employers have to make sure they're offering something above the usual. "Everyone in your neighbouring community are looking for the same person as you, to fill the same role."

    "It's about inclusion, support and furthering skills" Not necessarily offering an extra $30k

    John also says "It's your challenge as a business owner to accomodate an employee as they progress in their career... if the ladder stops within your operation you can't blame them if they want to keep climbing"

    Mark and John also discuss what it takes to be a great employee and how to get the job of your dreams. Cover letters, research into businesses and prompt communication can go a long way.

    If you would like to know more about Drover Ag you can visit their website below


    If you'd like to find out more about working for neXtgen Agri, visit the link below

    • 35 min
    What does success look like to you? with Nathan Scott

    What does success look like to you? with Nathan Scott

    This week on the podcast we have Nathan Scott.

    With a background in Prime Lamb production, Nathan started his own consultancy firm, Achieve Ag Solutions, eight years ago.   

    "We work with a range of producers, looking for the low hanging fruit within their business and applying the latest science and technology, in a practical way that means something to their business"

    Nathan is passionate about knowledge transfer in the Agricultural industry.

    "Coca-Cola didn't come out with just one advertisement, they came out with a campaign to appeal to a range of different audiences" and there's no reason why knowledge transfer from experts, to farmers, should be any different. 

    Nathan says if we keep providing "Fact sheets" and hoping something will change, nothing will.
    "Times wont always be as good as this", Nathan says. He says we should be using these good times to set ourselves up for when times are harder.

    Nathan says for a lot of people it's not always about making more money, but simplifying their system to make it easier on the people and animals.

    "There isn't enough critical reviewing of farm business practices. And it doesn't need to involve a third party" Nathan says. "I think having an argument with yourself about why you're doing something is a damn good place to start"

    Why are you lambing on that day? Why are you using those genetics? Ask yourself that. If you can come up with a justified reason, then move on.

    A great podcast to get you thinking about what, why and how you do things on the farm.

    If you'd like to find out more about Nathan's training or Achieve Ag Solutions, click the link below:

    Check out The Hub
    Our community where our members have the opportunity to keep up to date with everything we are working on. 

    • 31 min
    Profit from pasture allocation with Tom Fraser

    Profit from pasture allocation with Tom Fraser

    This week on the Head Shepherd podcast we have a guest from our recent event, the neXtgen Agri Muster. Tom Fraser is a scientist at AgResearch. 

    Tom spoke at the muster about pasture allocation and making the most of your genetics. It was such a great talk we decided to get Tom on the podcast to share the knowledge with our podcast listeners. 

    Tom talks about Body Condition Scoring and how "your hand is the cheapest tool you have".  Mark says "it's the most profitable thing you can do on a sheep farm".

    They also run through pasture quality throughout the year. Summer and early Autumn period is the time to consider the ME of the pasture, once they've started loosing quality. "We only have to worry about the quality of our pastures for about three months of the year" (in New Zealand), says Tom. 

    The biggest driver of profit on a sheep farm is Kg of weaned lamb per Ha. "Wether that's done by high scanning, or high lactation growth rates, it's the way to make money," says Tom.

    Mark and Tom then run through the Muster and the general state of the Agriculture Industry. "There are some unbelievably capable exceptional farmers out there that are doing an magnificent job, and luckily, almost without exception, they want to share their knowledge" says Tom.

    • 23 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
38 Ratings

38 Ratings

B Bolt ,

A must listen!

For lovers of agriculture, genetics, sheep and technology. I have loved listening to this podcast and can’t wait for more episodes! The guests have consistently been really interesting to listen to and each have unique stories and insights into the industry. It’s exciting to hear from such passionate professionals!

J boo ,

Excellent Podcast

Very informative!! Audio quality great!

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