Efficient stock handling solutions

Host: Charles Darwin University, Katherine Rural Campus
Written by Alison Haines

Here at the Katherine Rural Campus and in the Agriculture and Rural Operations Team we strive to be at the forefront of industry best practice and this means regular training in areas that increase animal welfare and business productivity.

In 2017 and again in early 2018, Tom Shephard from Efficient Stockhandling Solutions came to the Katherine Rural Campus and conducted a 2 day cattle handling school with all team members who work with livestock, whether here at the campus or out on the stations during workplace assessment trips. There was also one ring-in from the Conservation Land Management team who has an interest in cattle and helps our team out a lot with chemicals training on the stations. The day we spent on horseback was definitely hard on this individual but still enjoyable (or so he says!)

“Excessive stress in cattle leads to reduced productivity, such as low liveweight gains, low conception rates, low milk yields, high pre-weaning mortalities and high susceptibility to disease.Pre-slaughter stress is known to cause meat quality problems, such as dark cutting.” Handling cattle – Dr Carol Petherick, https://futurebeef.com.au/knowledge-centre/handling-cattle/

Originally from North Queensland, Tom was based in the Victoria River district of the NT from 1997 to 2017, spending many years managing large properties for Consolidated Pastoral Company. Tom and his family returned to North Queensland just last year where they started his consultancy and training business, Efficient Stockhandling Solutions. Tom is well known throughout northern Australia for his expertise in cattle handling and training the young people in the industry in a relatable, down to earth manner.

Tom now works right across Australia, having recently conducted training days in WA, NT, QLD and NSW on cattle stations, feedlots, export depots and livestock handling facilities.

Although all experienced in cattle work in northern Australia, the CDU team members greatly enjoyed and learned a lot from the days spent with Tom, making the most of his knowledge to learn new (new to them) methods and improve old ones.

There was plenty of laughter, heckling and “helpful” comments when it came time for each group to take their cattle outside the yard and work them around an open area. As you may have guessed, this did not always go to plan and thus also involved plenty of jogging, which is very hard on those of us who spend a lot of time in the office and not enough in the yards (me).

It was also a fantastic opportunity for the team to work together as with all the time spent on the road for the workplace assessors and the various duties for other staff, we are not often all in the same place at the same time.

Taking the time to assess your work methods and to improve where you can is important whether it’s your first year in the industry or your tenth. I personally have done many clinics and school over the years and I still enjoy and get benefit from every one I attend, be it for horses or cattle or people skills (but that’s another story!).

Tom can be contacted at:
Efficient Stockhandling Solutions
0408 097 073
You can also check it out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/efficientss/

First the classroom – Tegan Dunn, Ann Pedersen and Tom Shephard.

In the yards – Tegan Dunn and Kayla Kurnof.

Trying something fancy (through a small gate) – Neil Harley, Keryl Crighton, Derek Smith.

The moment of truth! Leaving the yards…

Working in the open paddock – Russell Young, Fiona Plunkett, Tegan Dunn.

Success! Fiona Plunkett, Russell Young, Tegan Dunn, Noah Taylor.

Tegan Dunn, Kayla Kurnof and Fiona Plunkett working cattle through the back gates of the crush, at the ESS school in 2017 at Katherine Rural Campus. Tom Shephard talking.


Noah Taylor, Tegan Dunn, Fiona Plunkett and Russell Young completing their handling obstacle course by yarding their group of cattle at the ESS school held in 2018 at the Katherine Rural Campus.