My career journey: Kelly Nankivell

Seven years ago, as the youngest of Kelly Nankivell’s three children walked through the school gates, she found herself yearning to get back into the workforce. 

What started as two days a week at Thomas Foods International (TFI) Feedlot in Tintinara, South Australia, has evolved into a full time career and passion for Kelly, who is now the Business Administration Manager at the feedlot, and a powerful force advocating for the continued success of the Australian lot feeding industry

Growing through education and networks

Kelly is a participant in the ALFA Margin and People Management (MPM) program – Course 13. The course is specifically designed to help lot feeders and industry professionals gain a greater understanding of managing a modern feedlot.

Kelly said getting out of her comfort zone, challenging herself and networking with like-minded individuals has been invaluable. 

“There are participants from all over Australia throughout different feedlots and different departments and it gives everyone security in the knowledge that everyone is going through the same issues, no matter where you are, and having that strong connection between our cohort is pretty special,” Kelly said. 

Kelly said all staff at Thomas Foods International Feedlot, Tintinara are encouraged to continue to add to their skill set through the various courses now available to the lot feeding industry. 

“We are very encouraging to anyone who puts their hand up for MPM or TRAIL and also to the Feedlot TECH courses because there’s such a wealth of knowledge in there and it adds value to their day-to-day role and what they have already learnt on site,” Kelly said. 

“Whilst we want all staff to complete the entire Feedlot TECH online course catalogue, we strongly encourage those working in the feedmill to complete the Fundamentals of Feeding and Milling Course and then move on to the Fundamentals of Livestock Handling Courses. We try to do it onsite during the quiet periods but people are also welcome to do it in their own time.”

In 2022 Kelly also completed the MLA Ambassadors for the Red Meat Industry program, enhancing her skills to build trust with consumers through community engagement and communication through media and social media. 

Next generation in good hands 

Born and bred in the country, Kelly has a long-held love for rural communities and the agricultural industry. She’s particularly dedicated to educating future generations of lot feeders, and with labour shortages an industry-wide issue, Thomas Foods Feedlots set out to think outside the box in its mission to attract new blood. In 2017 it launched Food Connect, a primary school-based program to teach students how their food – beef, dairy, honey and pork – is produced and its origins. 

At the other end of the school spectrum, the 2022 Rural Pathways Program is aimed at school leavers who are looking for an entry level opportunity into the agricultural industry. The innovative program won the ALFA 2022 Community Heroes Award and was recognised on stage at BeefEx 2022, the grain fed beef industry’s premier conference.

“I’m extremely proud to be involved in these programs to support our future generations because lot feedingis such an interesting and diverse industry. It’s certainly more than just feeding a few cows in a pen, the complexities behind everything from inductions to the mill really are incredible,” Kelly said. 

Jumping in, boots and all 

Kelly certainly walks the talk when it comes to her advice to young people entering the industry to “throw yourself out there and put your hand up to do as many different things as possible.” 

In 2019 she joined the ALFA Membership, Events and Industry Capacity Committee as an external representative. The experience has provided her with a behind the scenes take on organising webinars and various events, and has opened her circle to include many well-known contacts within the industry. Kelly is also the feedlot representative on the TFI Life Committee which was established to assist the business improve recruitment, attraction and retention strategy, wellbeing, amenities and employment conditions.

Outside of work she’s just as active in the close-knit community of Tintinara. You’ll find her as secretary of the Tintinara Tennis Club, board director of the Keith and Districts Bendigo Bank, and involved in the local football and netball club. Along with husband Simon, she also runs the family’s own business, Barefoot Contractor, and is a busy mum to Max, Sadie and Pippa. 

Professionals in the Australian lot feeding industry who are required to apply specialised leadership and management knowledge and skills are encouraged to undertake ALFA’s Margin and People Management (MPM) program or the Leadership Essentials virtual learning series available on the industry’s dedicated online careers and training hub, Feedlot TECH, by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM).