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Thomas Foods International opens its gates to the next generation

Last year at the Australian Lot Feeders' Association (ALFA) Conference, BeefEx22, Thomas Foods International's (TFI) Southern Cross Feedlot took home ALFA’s beloved Community Heroes Award for their highly successful Rural Pathways Program.

Aimed at attracting young, enthusiastic people looking for an entry level opportunity in the agricultural industry, the program was well deserving of the award and the $5,000 prize money.

The team at the Tintinara based feedlot further demonstrated their commitment to nurturing the next generation of agricultural professionals by utilising the prize fund to provide secondary school students with an invaluable introduction to the grain-fed beef industry.

The TFI Community Heroes Feedlot Tour involved nearly 40 students and teachers hailing from five schools across regional South Australia who were enthusiastic about careers in agriculture.

The Feedlot Tour's aim, spearheaded by Southern Cross Feedlot's business administration manager, Kelly Nankivell, was to shed light on the diverse career options available at the feedlot which has recently doubled its capacity to 30,000 head - making it the largest in south-eastern Australia.

"We decided to inject the money back into the program, especially targeting those students coming of age to be eligible for the Rural Pathways program, so they can be exposed to lot feeding," Ms Nankivell said.

"A lot of kids may have some idea of agriculture on farm but very few have a good understanding of the intricacies the lot feeding industry or have even visited a feedlot" she said.

The interactive program included activities such as visiting the induction area to compare cattle fed for differing durations and participate in a 'guess the weight' competition on a mob of steers. Following the next stage of the tour at the feed mill, students were given the hands-on opportunity to mix their own rations, further enhancing their understanding of the process.

The students then travelled to the Tintinara Football Club where Callum Hann, former Masterchef contestant and co-owner of the renowned Sprout Cooking School in Adelaide, prepared a delectable lunch featuring various beef dishes.

During the culinary session, he explained the different cuts of beef on a carcase, the best cooking techniques for each cut, and the importance of red meat in a well-balanced diet. After Callum’s session, the students then received a run down on the entire TFI supply chain including backgrounding, processing and more from TFI’s Assistant Livestock Manager Ben Davies.

Participating schools, including St Martins Lutheran College in Mount Gambier, were overwhelmingly positive about the experience, with St Martins’ agriculture teacher Jason Cameron saying it was an experience his Year 11 students would long remember.

"Any agriculture business that wants to open their doors to young people is definitely worth setting aside a day to visit," Mr Cameron said.

"I think it is great that TFI opened their facility to students to see first hand the operations of one of the big red meat producers in Australia."

Ms Nankivell said there had been strong interest throughout the year for the 2024 intake of the Rural Pathways Program, which is a stepping stone for school leavers looking for a career in agriculture. Plans are in motion to welcome four young individuals into TFI's agricultural division, with three placed across Southeast properties and one at the feedlot.

"The successful participants will be exposed to and gain experience across several production systems and at the end of the 12 months they will be well equipped to continue into a successful career with TFI," she said.

For more information on the Rural Pathways Program, contact Kelly Nankivell:


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