By Kirra Grimes

THE Victorian Livestock Exchange at Koonwarra has a new chief operations officer, with Outtrim’s Kim McMahon recently stepping up to the role after five years in management, and previous experience in livestock, farming, OH&S, and agribusiness.
Leading the way for the increasing number of women pursuing careers at the saleyards, we caught up with Kim at last week’s store sale for some insights into what it takes to make it to the top, and where she sees the industry heading.

What do you like about working at the saleyards?
“I’ve always enjoyed livestock and the farming industry, and VLE is a stand out in leading the way for development and operations within saleyards.
“It’s an organisation that’s driven by industry stakeholders with a bank of experience backing them, and we’re constantly researching and monitoring to guarantee we’re at the forefront of industry needs.
“Those are the driving qualities I believe in that make me want to work with VLE.”

What changes have you seen at VLE in your time there?
“Saleyards are a place of business, so there has to be ongoing change to make sure we’re always looking at the best way to do business for everyone, including vendors, agents and buyers.
“The NLIS [National Livestock Identification System] is an increasingly vital and ever challenging national necessity for our biosecurity and food safety; and being a part of a company that takes NLIS very seriously and is a front runner in saleyard possession and transfers is uplifting.
“The time and research that goes into cattle behaviours, weighing processes and saleyard software development… it’s definitely the right environment to be involved in if you’re serious about the industry.”

What’s it like being woman in a leadership position in what seems like a very male-dominated environment? Are there many other women stepping up to senior roles?
“It’s funny how often this question is asked. I know other women in the industry who do as good a job as any male, and I don’t think we should ever discount someone because of their gender.
“I don’t see very many women go into agent roles, and that’s a shame, but we’ve actually had a higher number of women applying for jobs within the saleyards than males over the last 10 years.
“Danni Klinkhamer, from the Korumburra area, is one of our key administrative figures within VLE, having started with operating scales, following sales, scanning, droving and everything in between, before she stepped up into an admin role to process sales and NLIS on sale days.
“She’s been in the livestock industry for 15 years and has developed extensive business relationships with agents and buyers. She’s more than capable of assisting in any queries that walk through the doors.”
Would you encourage more women to get into your industry?
“Yes, for sure. If you have an interest, go for it.
“You just have to keep putting your foot through gates and taking opportunities within the industry, no matter what, to get experience and develop skills.
“Nothing gets handed to you on a silver platter; you have to earn it.
“If something doesn’t work out the first time, just move on and try to get your foot through another gate with someone else. Agriculture and farming is a great place to start.”

What changes do you see on the horizon for the saleyards?
“The digital age is here and working its way into saleyards – there’s no denying that.
“We still need to do work with a minority of our farmers to get a solid handle on the identification and traceability system our country has.
“We have a competitive advantage globally with our NLIS but we still have people out there that don’t take it seriously.”