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Head Shepherd

Author: Mark Ferguson

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Mark Ferguson from neXtgen Agri brings you the latest in livestock, genetics, innovation and technology. We focus on sheep and beef farming in Australia and New Zealand and the people doing great things in those industries. 

187 Episodes
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Send us a Text Message.From direct organic lamb sales to a firewood business and developing algorithms for drench recommendations, the Cotter family pretty much do it all. This week we have Nick Cotter of Cotter Agritech on the podcast to chat about their farm in County Limerick, Ireland, and the various inventions and innovations they have come up with. In Ireland, sheep farming is considered the least profitable, behind beef and dairy. This prompted the Cotter family to convert to organic f...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have Nancy Crawshaw, Extension Manager for Angus Australia and winner of the New Zealand Zanda McDonald Award 2024.The conversation kicks off with Nancy’s reflections on the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle in her home region of Gisborne. “It brought communities together,” says Nancy. “When you're completely cut off, you've got no outside communication, you can't get anywhere. It's only your neighbours and your community who you've got.” &...
Send us a Text Message.Nigel Kerin returns to the podcast this week to discuss profit drivers, decision rules, staying curious and the importance of science and technology in farming.Nigel has a great way of thinking about the business of farming and no decision is made without analysing it first. Nigel uses a triangular model to help him make these hard decisions.“Down one side of the triangle, you've got business growth. Down the bottom, you've got cash flow. And up the other side of the tr...
Send us a Text Message.Are you heading to Lambex this year? If you’re not already going, you’ll want to be there after listening to this week's podcast! Our guest this week is Jason Schulz, chair of Lambex. After a six-year break, Lambex is back and better than ever. For those not familiar with the event, Lambex is a three-day event that celebrates and promotes Australia’s sheep and lamb industry, with more than 1,200 people attending. Speakers range from the likes Dr Tim Elliott talking abou...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have one of the fantastic winners of the 2024 Zanda McDonald Award, Tessa Chartres, to discuss her career, how she manages her work-life balance and much more.Tessa grew up on a farm in Bathurst. She became an accountant, specialising in agribusiness and farming, and later moved to Deniliquin to be with her husband. There, she joined Murray Irrigation, where she is now the General Manager of Business Development. With Muray Irrigation providi...
Send us a Text Message.Breeding values are something we discuss a lot here at neXtgen Agri. We decided to do a podcast episode explaining exactly what they are and how they are ‘built’.Today, Daniel Brown, Principal Scientist at Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), joins us to discuss what breeding values are, how they are developed, their role, the impact of genomics and the future of genetic evaluation.Mark and Daniel begin with the basics of breeding values and the benefits of genomic...
Send us a Text Message.Understanding the rumen is a key part of being a top-performing producer. While we might think of them as herbivores, Rob explains it’s a little more complex than that.“They're more what we'd call a ‘fermentivore’. What they actually digest is the sludge and the byproducts of bacterial fermentation,” explains Rob. “If we think about everything in the context of what we put down an animal's throat and how it impacts fermentation - how does it influence bug populations an...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast we have Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at Cornell University, Alan Bell, discussing his recent paper ‘Animal science Down Under: a history of research, development and extension in support of Australia’s livestock industries’. In this paper, Alan discusses how back in 1788, as you may have guessed, “There wasn't any real systematic research done on the livestock side,” with the advances in the industry being achieved by the producers....
Send us a Text Message.When the going gets tough on farm, it's the tough who get going. But what fuels that resilience? This week on the Head Shepherd podcast, we have Kane Brisco of FarmFitNZ to discuss mental wellbeing, farm fitness and community.In his late twenties, Kane found himself in a tough spot. He’d stopped participating in his local rugby team and his passion for farming had faded, so he didn’t know what to do with himself. Instead of packing up and changing careers, Kane too...
Send us a Text Message.Replacement rates in your sheep flock are determined by your ewe losses and your culling decisions. For every ewe lamb you choose to keep, that’s one less to sell. In this week's podcast our guest, Associate Professor Anne Ridler, discusses the findings from her recent study on ewe wastage in New Zealand sheep farming. Anne’s research found that, on average, 28 to 30 per cent of ewes leave the flock annually in New Zealand. The study aimed to understand when and wh...
Send us a Text Message.In this current climate, should you be looking for ways to save money on farm? Or should you be looking at upping your production to cover rising costs?This week on the Head Shepherd podcast, we hope to answer those questions for you. Our guest this week, Tim Leeming, is well known for his precision lambing and we’ve had him as a guest on the podcast before (go check that one out here). In this episode, Tim discusses his strategies for farming success. “When it com...
Send us a Text Message.Our guest on the podcast this week is Bonnie Skinner. Bonnie is the CEO of Sheep Producers Australia (SPA), a levy board that advocates for a better future for Australia’s sheep industry. They do this in a multitude of ways: connecting farmers, consumers and government bodies. They advocate for better outcomes for farmers and direct levy investments towards research, development and industry services.In this episode, Bonnie and Mark discuss the current challenges f...
Send us a Text Message.With greater unpredictability in our weather patterns, managing pastures is an ever-evolving challenge for farmers. This week on the podcast we hope to help with some handy advice from consultant, Darren Gordon.This week we cover:The importance of pasture and feed-quality testingThe genetics of fat and feed efficiency Maximising profit from pastureDarren emphasises the importance of testing your pastures and feed, including the neutral detergent fibre (NDF). “Just ...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, we’re talking about Flexolt®, a revolutionary new oral treatment for lice control in sheep.Our guests are Dr Jane Morrison and Dr Hamish Pike from our fantastic sponsors, MSD Animal Health.Flexolt is the first-ever oral lice treatment for sheep, giving you the ultimate flexibility when it comes to treating your flock. It can be used rain or shine, with any length of wool, revolutionising how and when you can administer a sheep lice treatment.Fl...
Send us a Text Message.What are breeding values? And why do you need a breeding objective? Our guest this week, Dr Jamie Courter, Mizzou Beef Genetics Extension Specialist, explains why they are so important for reaching our breeding goals. Do you have a breeding objective? This is the first question Jamie asks every producer. “I don't care what your breeding objective is if it makes sense for you,” says Jamie, “I just hope that you have one.” With no farm being the same as another, a br...
Send us a Text Message.Tune in to our latest podcast episode as Emily Riggs, the founder and creative force behind Iris and Wool, shares her inspiring journey. Emily and her husband live on a sheep property outside of Burra, South Australia. “I fell in love with my farmer and also fell in love with wool,” explains Emily. “I don't actually work hands-on on the farm. So, I thought, how can I contribute to the industry?” Out of this, Iris and Wool was born, offering 100% certified Australia...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, Darren Spencer, President of the Western Australian Shearing Industry Association (WASIA), discusses some of the key issues faced by the wool industry, as well as how wool producers and the shearing industry can work together more effectively in the future.First up, Darren runs us through what WASIA has done to address the much talked about “shearers’ shortage”. In the wake of COVID, it was obvious to WASIA that there were not enough new e...
Send us a Text Message.The agricultural trading sector faces challenges with volatile prices and increased government regulations. Our guest this week, David Cornish, explains how strategic planning is crucial to position your business to successfully navigate these issues. In the current environment, “We've seen businesses that were quite profitable or quite sustainable, even 12 months ago, now making a loss,” explains David. With high inflation, high-interest rates, potentially low cap...
Send us a Text Message.This week on the podcast, we’re discussing technology adoption and genetics with Dr Penny Schulz.Penny farms in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia (SA) with her husband Jason. She is a livestock technical specialist at the SA Drought Hub, as well as holding several other advisory positions. “My role here with The (SA Drought) Hub is very much focused on farmer adoption,” Penny explains. “I do a lot of farmer-facing workshop work or developing new project...
Send us a Text Message.Are you passionate about breeding robust and resilient animals? If so, this is the podcast for you.Our guest this week is Dr Wendy Rauw, a renowned expert in animal genetics and breeding. Wendy's career has taken her to various corners of the world, working with a diverse range of species, from sheep and cattle to chickens and even fish. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table.In this episode, Wendy and Mark explore topics ranging from 'genotype by ...
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