After more than a decade working abroad and tired of having few people to sympathise when Australia lost the rugby, Shana Wilkinson has landed on her feet back in Oz as the new Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange (TRLX) operations manager.
The ex-Sydney girl brings with her a master of agricultural business management, four years in Canada’s beef industry, and seven years in the NZ dairy industry.
There, she was in a key account role and also headed up the farm services division for a large-scale operation.
In Tamworth, she will head up the TRLX facilities and people, her main goals in welfare, public engagement and value-adding.
“A big focus for my job is maintaining the company’s really well-established work health and safety frameworks that they have, as well as their animal welfare protocols,” she said.
She was “really impressed with how progressive they are in both of those spheres”.
“It’s really important for us that we operate above any fault or criticism – not just for appearances’ sake but also ethically, because it’s the right thing to do.”
There were some “really exciting” possibilities with ancillary services, such as incorporating feeding facilities – although not on the scale of a dedicated feedlot.
“It’s such a fantastic facility ... the infrastructure that we have here and the scale of it lends itself to being appropriate and suitable for so many other things that we really have a great opportunity to add further value for our clients.”
Challenges included coming out on top of drought and helping clients to do so, too.
“It’s something that we all have to manage as well as we can, so we’re obviously addressing how the drought will affect our business, what’s coming through our yard, and certainly preparing for, possibly, numbers that are lower than what’s been seen – and what that looks like for the business but also for our clients.”
Believed to be one of few women in the nation’s saleyard management roles, Ms Wilkinson said it was more due to a “residual cultural role” than any glass ceiling.
“In my career so far, and coming into this role, I’ve certainly been really fortunate to never have met any sort of sense that I may be at a disadvantage,” she said.
She said there was a view women could be more effective animal handlers and more inclined to work safely with equipment.
“From a labour perspective, across the primary industry it’s always been male-dominated traditionally because of the physical aspect of the work, but as what we do becomes more automated and mechanised, that requirement for physical strength and endurance is less.
“There’s really less and less, increasingly, that men can do that women can’t.”