Report Synopsis

Attracting and Retaining Young People in the Sheep Industry

Jamie Heinrich

For the sheep industry to reach its greatest potential, it needs to have the right young people in the right places to help drive it forward. This report features a wide range of examples and opinions of young, driven and passionate people on the ground in the sheep and other agricultural industries. The aim is not to provide an academic or organisational solution to the issue, but to build on success stories and explore how, why and what is working for youth in the industry.

  • The report is split into three main sections:
  • Attracting: How can the sheep industry improve its image to ensure it is attracting large numbers of capable young people?
  • Developing: How can the sheep industry continue to develop young people who are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture?
  • Retaining: How can the sheep industry get people to not only stay in agriculture, but succeed and help the industry move forward?

Examples of the findings are as follows:

Attracting

The sheep industry needs a new and improved image. A major factor in this is the mindset of many farmers. Positivity is important, rather than publicly playing victim. The current state of the industry should be celebrated, it compares well against most other industries.

Sheep farming is and should be promoted as being ‘cool’ and trendy. It can provide fulfilling careers through it’s positive social, environmental, and economic opportunities i.e. the ability to work with animals while benefitting the environment.

Exposing young people to agriculture early is vital. Presenting it as a career opportunity alongside firefighters, police officers and doctors. Social media, school programs, farm visits and technology (such as virtual reality) are examples of tools that can be used.

Successful farms are run professionally as businesses, not just as farms. If a farm is run professionally it will treat its employees properly with all the appropriate wages and perks. Debunk the myth of limited opportunities for good employment in agriculture.  

Developing

There is a growing need for a range of skills in a range of industry positions. To fulfill this, a full spectrum of clear study and career paths needs to be presented. The idea in schools that agriculture is for ‘less study inclined students’ needs to change. The future of agriculture requires the best and brightest. There are endless opportunities throughout the industry, not just on farm.

Retaining

Financial constraints are one of the biggest hurdles for getting into the sheep industry, especially for people who want on-farm businesses. Thinking outside of the box can provide solutions. It is no longer necessary to own land to be a sheep farmer. Encouraging connections between generations can go a long way towards providing solutions. Some of the options include: leasing, share farming, agistment and management positions. Forms of finance other than typical bank loans can also play a role in helping break the financial entrance barrier.

Getting off farm experience, handing over responsibility and using formalised communication methods are great starting points in making generational farms more attractive and less likely to fail.

There are always unique factors that make the sheep industry challenging for new and developing participants (as with any industry), but hopefully, this report provides some ideas and examples of what can and has been successful.

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