Second time the charm for determined pen rider

Cailin O'Connor, from Gundamain Feedlot, Eugowra NSW, won the Zoetis Education Medal 2016 at Beef Ex.
Cailin O'Connor, from Gundamain Feedlot, Eugowra NSW, won the Zoetis Education Medal 2016 at Beef Ex. Andrea Davy

SHE is determined, well-spoken and has bucket-loads of enthusiasm for the beef industry.

With attributes like that, it's no wonder Calin O'Connor was announced winner of the Zoetis Educational Medal at the BeefEx conference.

The 22-year-old rising star, from Gundamain Feedlot in New South Wales, said she was feeling overwhelmed with taking home the medal.

"I have only been in the industry for 18 months,” she said. "So it's quite unexpected to be honest, but I was really hoping for it.”

Calin put her hand up for the award last year, as did this year's runner-up Brendan Orr, who is from Grassdale Feedlot in Dalby.

"He is a really good candidate, and a really nice fellow so I wasn't expecting to win,” she said.

Calin grew up in Coonamble on a small cattle property and learnt about the beef industry from a young age.

Her dad, Peter O'Connor, is a stock and station agent.

"I realised I was more interested in the intensive production side of things with agriculture. I am interested in the performance of beef in particular,” she said.

These interests led her to job as a pen rider at Gundamain, which is owned by Andrew and Tess Herbert.

"It's rewarding for me to maintain the health and welfare of the cattle,” she said. "I get satisfaction when I notice a sick beast early on, treat him, then see him bouncing around the yards.”

This year her role quickly stepped up into a leadership position, when two of her livestock managers were overseas on study tour.

"It was a hard at first. I found it bit challenging only because I am so young,” she said.

"I was leading people who have been in the beef industry 30 years longer than me.

"But I had to step up, and I took a lot away from the experience.”

Calin did not hesitate to weigh in on some of the bigger issues facing the industry.

She would like to see lot feeders on the front foot in quashing any misconceptions about the industry.

"Not everyone is fortunate enough to grow up with cattle, and to see what we see,” she said.

"They just go off the stereotypes. I think it's really important to get that publicity out there, get the media to show we love our cattle and we love our industry.

"We are here to feed our country and do it as humanely as possible. We do this job because we love it.”

Zoetis' feedlot and corporate account manager Andrew Malloy said the Zoetis Education Medal was important to reward the critical role production level workers played in the Australian feedlot industry.

"We need to encourage these people to regard the feedlot industry as a worthwhile and rewarding career, either through further development of production level skills or through progression to management positions within the sector,” he said.

As well as her shiny new medal, Calin also took home some bright pink RM Williams gear as part of her prize.

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