After more than 20 years in the feedlot industry, Tess Herbert’s resume reads of hard work, self-investment, and being open to opportunities when they come knocking.
From humble beginnings as a teacher in rural New South Wales, Tess has worked her way to the top echelons of the Australian beef industry.
She was the first female President of the cattle feedlot industry’s representative body, Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA); chaired the independent, grassroots group responsible for steering the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework; and is now involved in mentoring feedlot industry up-and-comers.
Despite all this, Tess maintains that her favourite part of lot feeding is being on the ground, where the connection between cattle and people is evident in each and every action, and passion for the industry flourishes.
“Lot feeders love watching animals up at the bunk eating,” Tess said.
“In this environment you can provide them with a balanced diet, you know exactly what they’re eating and how much weight they’re gaining.
“You’re intimately involved with these animals every day, watching your animals in a pen and asking yourself, ‘what else can I do for them’.
“And then on the other hand, we’re thinking about the product – are my customers happy with the quality and the consistency of what I’m producing – so it’s not just the production system, it’s the product as well.”
Alongside her husband Andrew, Tess is the co-owner of Gundamain Feedlot which is part of the family’s wider Gundamain Pastoral operation in the Eugowra region of central New South Wales.
Their feedlot has a capacity of 6000 head, and they employ 20 staff members.
“Even though we’ve expanded out to more farms and sheep and cropping, the feedlot is the heart and soul of Gundamain Pastoral and it’s what we do all day, every day,” Tess said.
“There are a lot of good things about lot feeding, but I love the people who work in the industry.”
This love that Tess has for the people, and the industry as a whole, is something that she and Andrew have passed onto their children, and it’s something she could quite easily convey to you, if you were to ask her about what she does.
Tess would tell you about the care that lot feeders have for their animals and the environment, how the industry is low emission, and the technology that’s involved in what lot feeders do.
“Intensive animal industries can be run efficiently, in an environmentally-conscious way, with animal welfare at the forefront of everything we do,” Tess said.
“We’re genuinely such an important part of the supply chain that if we were to disappear, the beef industry would be in crisis.”
In fact, Tess invites people to ask her, or any other lot feeder, what’s involved in the industry they are so passionate about.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about what we do in the industry,” she said.
“We can all provide that clarity and show you that you can trust us to produce your food safely and treat the animals and the environment well.”