The rural/agricultural workforce has a high proportion of family-owned and managed businesses. Commercial farming is a small part of the total industry. It is mainly, but not entirely, in the dry-land pastoral regions of Australia.
There has been development towards specialisation in intensive animal industries. In the past many mixed farms were varied and grew relatively small amounts of several products, including plants and animals. It is currently commonplace to focus on a minimal number of business activities that harmonise each other. This has helped to create more visible and rewarding career paths for a higher proportion of highly-skilled staff.
The specific character and high costs of farming machinery have created opportunities for people to specialise. Contract harvesters and sprayers are examples of highly skilled operators using modern equipment to provide a service at a cheaper rate and in a more timely fashion than the farmers themselves.
Industry sectors are beef, cotton, crutching, dairy, goats, grains, horse breeding, irrigation milk harvesting, poultry, production horticulture, rural business,rural business management, rural merchandising, shearing, sheep and wool, sugar cane, wool harvesting.
The rural production industry offers a diverse and interesting range of rewarding career opportunities. People wishing to pursue a career in the industry can chose to work in the following careers.
Rural Business Manager
Mixed Crop and Livestock Farmers
Beef Cattle Farm Worker
Dairy Cattle Farm Worker
Mixed Livestock Farm Worker
Poultry Farm Worker
Sheep Farm Worker
Livestock Farm Workers
Heavy Vehicle Motor Mechanic
Rural Heavy Vehicle Operator
Stock and Station Agent
Primary Products Inspector
Beef Cattle Industry
Beef cattle production is a major industry. In northern sub-tropical areas and in arid inland regions cattle graze on native pastures on extensive properties. Cattle are often the sole product and most are exported as manufacturing beef or as live animals to South-East Asia.
In settled areas, cattle graze on improved pastures and are slaughtered mainly for the high-quality domestic market. This production method is often combined with other enterprises within a farming enterprise. Beef production is also a sideline from the dairy industry.
Milk is used for immediate fresh consumption or for manufacturing as butter, cheese, milk powder, yoghurt and dairy desserts. Fresh milk sales are proportional to the local population in each state and territory and excess production is used for manufacturing. Herds in excess of 1,000 cows are relatively common with some exceeding 2,000. These dairy farms require expert management and skilled staff that in turn provide new opportunities for careers in the industry and new opportunities for investors.
Production includes coarse grains, pulse crops, oil seeds, rice and wheat. Collectively, it is a huge industry employing thousands of people and generating billions of dollars in export income, to which can be added a substantial value-added industry.
The grains industry has successfully competed against continuing adverse terms of trade and subsidised production in overseas countries. It has become more efficient through increased productivity per unit of labour, by adopting new technology and the judicious use of chemicals. The rate of increase in productivity for the specialist cropping sector has averaged in the order of 3.6 per cent per year over an extended period.
The necessarily expensive equipment and machinery used in the grains industry requires skilled operators and excellent maintenance. Much of the employment and training focuses initially on these aspects of production.
Horse breeding underpins the thoroughbred and standard racing industries. However, a surge of growth in equestrian activities near population centres has greatly expanded the size and scale of the horse-breeding industry.
The pig industry is experiencing strong production growth to satisfy expanding export markets. Pig production, sometimes associated with the grain industry, requires precise management of animal nutrition, health and genetics. The specifications for pig meat must meet high standards, particularly regarding fat thickness. Most pigs are marketed directly to a meat processor and graded for carcass-fat content at slaughter. Piggeries are located right throughout rural Australia and on the fringes of the city they are often fairly sophisticated sheds.
There are a small number of large-scale enterprises specialising in meat or egg production. These sectors are serviced by hatcheries producing the chickens to be used for meat or egg product. Specialisation and the large numbers of birds produced by each business have led to a high level of automation. However, there is still a need for skilled labour with emphasis on the care and health of birds.
Production horticulture includes fruits, vegetables, beverage crops and nuts. The industry is widespread and product is grown in high rainfall regions.
Horticulture is a labour intensive industry, particularly when harvesting and packing. Mechanical harvesting has been developed for some areas but many fresh-market fruits and some vegetables must be handpicked and treated carefully to avoid bruising and maintain a good appearance.
The horticulture industry has adopted new technology such as new irrigation techniques to allow more precise and efficient water use. Cultural practices are changing to make the industry more efficient, reducing costs, increasing yields, and improving fruit and vegetable quality.
There are many options and career opportunities including starting as a farmhand, working as a pack house operator, an agronomist (the science of field, crop production and soil management), working in irrigation, research and development, transport and logistics.
Horticulture also has the need for administrators, office managers, sales and marketing staff and occupational health and safety officers.
Sheep and wool
The optimistic outlook in sheep and wool has stimulated growers to introduce new technologies for improved productivity and quality. With meat prices at profitable levels and the wool stockpile eliminated, there is a forecast of industry stability Sheep are usually run in conjunction with other enterprises mainly sheep/wheat. The sheep and wool industries rely heavily on exports of wool, meat and live sheep sent mostly to the middle east with China and Europe being major purchasers of raw wool.
Rural Business Management
Traditionally, farms in Australia have been owner-operated and the farmer self-employed. Such properties have often been owned by the one family over many decades.
As product markets have changed and new technologies have been introduced, many properties have merged into bigger farms, often run by employed farm managers. For all farmers and farm managers, the business of running a farm has become more complex and sophisticated.
You can work as a farmer or farm manager without formal qualifications, although skills in farm management, crop management and/or animal husbandry are considered essential. You may learn these skills from an experienced farmer or farm manager on a working farm or formally at an educational institution such as TAFE, or an agricultural college. Courses may focus on specific areas of agriculture or all aspects of farm management.
To find a Registered Training Organisation who delivers the AHC10 - Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package in WA, click here.