ALWAYS be watching for exactly what customers are asking for and seek out the ways those demands can be turned from challenges to opportunities.
This is the advice the reigning Queensland Country Life Beef Achiever Tracey Hayes has for anyone who derives a living in the beef industry.
It's advice that works from the farmgate to the processing plant and from the live export ship to the agribusiness board room, she believes.
"There are always challenges coming at us over the horizon. Right now, the challenges in the climate and emissions space are among the largest," she said.
"At the same time, our industry is transitioning from traditional beef farms to more complex, multifaceted businesses.
"A stronger social agenda and climate concerns are playing a big role in that.
"The important thing is to remain on the front foot.
"Our ability as an industry to find solutions and to be innovative will stand us in good stead for what's ahead, however challenging.
"There are always early adopters and fast movers, and also those who don't want change, but it is fair to say beef is a progressive industry and finds a way through challenges."
Ms Hayes, an agribusiness executive with a northern beef production background, has spent the three years since winning the prestigious award in 2021 continuing to focus on rural and regional areas with strong connections to the beef industry.
Her executive roles today include head of corporate affairs for AAM, an Australian-owned strategic investment, asset management and operational management services provider.
That role takes her all over the country dealing with a large number of northern Australia beef industry assets.
She is also chair of the federal government's Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, a development financier with a $7 billion appropriation.
Here, she has worked with barramundi farms, abattoirs, large scale hydro projects and critical minerals.
And in a non-executive role, Ms Hayes is the federal chair of the Royal Flying Doctor's Service.
She said the Beef Achiever Award provided a terrific platform to champion and showcase the achievements of an industry she was passionate about.
One of the main pieces of work which earned Ms Hayes the award was the role she played in the monumental Federal Court case in which cattle producers and beef businesses took on the decision by the 2011 Labor Government to ban live exports to Indonesia.
The court's finding that the decision was illegal has seen the lead litigants compensated to the tune of $3m and paved the way for substantial compensation for other members of the class action.
Ms Hayes was the chief executive officer of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association when she began work on the court case but continued on with it long after that role finished.
Today, more than a decade after the event and close to four years after the ruling, the class action members are still waiting for their due compensation.
Ms Hayes described this as the single biggest disappointment in the beef industry in recent years.
"Obviously it's quite personal to me but that those people are yet to receive compensation legally due them is a tragedy," she said.
"There has been a failure by the Commonwealth to act as a model litigant.
"Misfeasance in public office is such a high bar and it is only just the compensation be paid with urgency."
On the other side, Ms Hayes listed the return of youth to beef as the greatest satisfaction for the industry in recent years.
"There are many things our sector can be proud of but to see young, educated, ambitious, driven and passionate people coming back in droves with so much optimism for beef's future is incredible," she said.
"Add to that the increasing participation of women in beef.
"The industry is in good hands going forward."
Do you know someone who could be next?
We're on the hunt for the best and brightest individuals in the red meat game with nominations now open for the Queensland Country Life Red Meat Achiever of the Year and the Rabobank Young Beef Ambassador award.
Nominees must have a minimum of three years of on-farm experience in either leadership or decision-making capacity, and currently be working in a successful and progressive farming business.
Nominations close March 16, 2024.