KIRSTY McCormack's enthusiasm for the beef industry packs a punch.
The spirited and smart 22-year-old, who works for OBE Organics Australia as a sales and production executive, is determined to make a long-term career for herself in agriculture.
Choosing to work in the cattle industry has already seen her move to Brisbane and make trips to China, the Philippines and Cambodia, all while sneaking in a few campdraft runs at the weekend.
However, if Kirsty had listened to her guidance officers in high school, none of this would have been possible.
"My career advisors expressly told me that agriculture was a dying industry, and that there was no future for young people in the industry,” she said.
"They told me I should do law, a degree where you come out with an occupation.
"I felt strongly in the opposite direction of that.”
Lucky for her, Kirsty seems to love proving people wrong.
This year she was named as the Cattle Council Australia's NAB Agribusiness Rising Champion for 2017, a prestigious title that will see her bumping shoulders with key players in the beef industry.
With her new role she is keen to continue to promote her industry, as well as educate young people on the pathways agriculture can offer them.
"I recently spoke at the Farming Futures school day at Armidale and the new careers advisor at my old school was there and he asked if I could Skype in and talk to the Year 12 kids. Every opportunity like that I get I just love,” she said.
"I want to try and change the perception of ag, show how wonderful we are and show that what we do is world class.”
Growing up in Inverell in northern New South Wales, Kirsty spent her time riding horses, campdrafting, leading cattle at local shows and meat judging.
Her dad, Danny McCormack, is a contract musterer, so on their small property she was surrounded by their best camp horses and about 20 working dogs.
"So I grew up working on other people's properties,” she said.
"I think it gave me a really great grounding on the fact that sometimes we were chasing sheep, other times we were droving cattle on the road, or we were helping out with the breeding programs of some F1, F2 wagyu export cattle.
"I got to see a lot of over-the-fence action.”
With top marks in her high school subjects, and a love for animals, an obvious choice for her was to study veterinary science.
"But I felt I could contribute more to agriculture through rural science than I could with vet science,” she said.
Not a person to do things by halves, when she was studying at the University of New England she threw herself into work experience positions to get a feel for the industry and to build up some networks. The organics sector soon caught her eye.
"I think the point of difference organics brings and the innovation happening in the beef industry at the moment is what attracted me to OBE,” she said.
Her role is fast-paced and challenging.
"We take ownership of the animals at the knocking blocks,” she said.
"Day to day that means managing the cattle numbers coming in, looking after the orders for different products, making sure we manage for those animals to be cut up and boxed in the right way for the right people in the right codes from the abattoir.”
The job sees her regularly communicating with people working on all levels of the beef supply chain: the farmers, processors and even the customers at the final stage buying the steaks.
Kirsty said she still felt overwhelmed by being named the Agribusiness Rising Champion.
"I am still ecstatic,” she said.
"There are already doors opening in speaking opportunities and board opportunities.
"It's been a fantastic experience so far.”
Settled into Brisbane now, Kirsty said her school friends are still a little surprised she scored a capital city job by studying ag science.
"It's nice to be able to tell people there is so much more to do in agriculture,” she said.
With the help of her friends and family, Kirsty still makes it to a few drafts a year.
"I have friends who have horses around Brisbane so I can go to drafts with them, and mum (Margaret) and dad are pretty nice, they let me rock up on the weekend and have a couple of runs,” she said.
She joked that she was getting the best of both worlds without "having to rug and feed horses” every night.
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