Smithfield Feedlot in Queensland is proud of their work in connecting students and teachers to the feedlot industry.
Smithfield Feedlot have entered this initiative into the inaugural ALFA Community Heroes Award 2021, proudly supported by Lallemand Animal Nutrition. The winner will be announced at the ALFA SmartBeef 2021 Conference in October. Read on to find out more about how this feedlot is going above and beyond to support their local community.
Tell us about your community initiative...
Proston is a very small rural community nestled in the picturesque South Burnett region in Queensland. The local school has played a vital role in educating the township’s rural children since 1923, and in that time, three generations from our family have been educated there. During this time, our Smithfield family have played a pivotal role in fundraising to ensure the children attending this school were given exceptional educational opportunities, with one outstanding fundraiser in the 1980’s; building a 25 metre swimming pool so our rural children could learn how to swim!
Following my brother, Jason Shearer-Smith completing the Australian Rural Leadership Program in 2004 he decided to support the school in starting a Rural Studies program and so the Proston State School Rural Studies Program began. Jason identified not all children learn the same way and many children are practical, hands-on learners. His vision to provide an avenue to support all children to reach their full potential through experiential learning outcomes, came to fruition.
Fast forward almost twenty years and the program has assisted hundreds of children to reach their full potential, while nurturing and caring for animals and land. In an era where animal production and the ethics associated with raising animals for human consumption is being questioned, this rural studies program is playing an even greater role in linking children back to the basics of where food comes from.
In 2020, the School reached out to Smithfield asking if we could help choose and purchase a stud animal to assist the Rural Studies program compete in local cattle shows. Smithfield’s Group Livestock Manager attended the Blue Ribbon stud sale and picked out two steers for purchase. Smithfield felt having two top quality animals would assist with greater participation amongst the school children. The school children have been caring for these animals ever since, learning all about health, welfare and nutrition, grooming and general care for these cattle, priming these animals for the show circuit of 2021.
In early 2021, the Rural Studies Program selected five local shows to attend, with a view to then travel to Beef Week in Rockhampton in May, and then onto the Brisbane Ekka in August. Of the five local shows attended, the two cattle had 10 wins, 4 Grand Champions and 4 Reserve Champions. The team then travelled to Beef Week in Rockhampton in early May and finished with a 1st and 2nd within their classes and overall Beef Week Grand Champion.
This result was simply unbelievable. Winning Grand Champion at Beef Week was like winning the Olympics of cattle judging. Emotions overflowed, with students, teachers and support crew struggling to believe their hard work and dedication to these animals had resulted in such a phenomenal win.
What impact is the initiative having on the local community?
Shaping the lives of children
One of Smithfield Feedlot’s goals in supporting the local school is to have a positive impact on the future of the children of Proston, and to showcase the important role agriculture plays in growing families and the economy. With three generations of our own family having been through Proston School, we are fully aware that rural children can miss out on many opportunities their city counterparts take for granted. There are no after school sport, music or dance lessons on offer, but through the rural studies program, we are assisting in providing co-curricular activities with meaningful life lessons that the students truly enjoy.
Teaching children where food comes from
Our support towards the rural studies program also works towards giving children a deeper understanding of the role animal production plays in feeding the world and the vital link feedlots play in the beef supply chain. Smithfield have helped facilitate school visits onsite, so children can see first-hand what a feedlot does, why they exist and where beef comes from.
Promoting Careers in Ag
Through this partnership with the Proston State School, we have been able to show children first-hand, the many and varied meaningful career options available to them.
Promoting positive Community Spirit
At a time when the world has been rocked by COVID-19, our community project has brought tremendous joy and pride to the entire South Burnett region. As the children and cattle competed in each show, the news travelled quickly of their success and soon we had local and state based media outlets sharing the good news story. The win at Beef Week received huge publicity and the impact of this amazing story reached thousands of people.
Leadership in Action Influencing Education Qld
One of the greatest achievements of our rural studies program and partnership with the Proston State School, has been our ability to influence 35 Ag Teachers and Ag Assistants from 20 schools across the Wide Bay region. Smithfield Feedlot allowed these Education Qld staff to participate in a full tour of the site and conduct a Question and Answer style session. The impact from this visit was profound and all staff conveyed how much they had learnt and were eager to share with their students. I have been approached by a feedlot in South Australia wanting to know how they can provide a similar experience to the South Australian Education Department. Standby for future updates!
Feedlot Industry Fund Raiser
In May, Smithfield held a fund raiser and promoted it widely through our feedlot industry channels. We managed to raise $5,500 to help support the rural studies program and their journey to the Brisbane Ekka. The support we received from businesses right across the feedlot industry was overwhelming. With the Ekka cancelled, the School is now going to use those funds to purchase another stud animal, so the feedlot industry’s involvement will live on.
See the initiative in action:
About the ALFA Community Heroes Award
Australian feedlots are vital to the fabric of rural and regional Australia by creating jobs, supporting families, and contributing to local economies and the environment. This award recognises and rewards those feedlots that are actively nourishing their local communities and environment by going above and beyond to support their community, that ‘give-back’ and better the environment around them. The winning initiative will receive a $5,000 cash donation towards a local charity, business, or feedlot initiative to assist in further development and impact of the initiative.
How to Enter:
Entries close 31 August 2021. To enter, complete the online entry form at https://www.feedlots.com.au/communityheroes
With thanks to our ALFA Platinum Member sponsor, Lallemand Animal Nutrition for their support of this Award.