Next generation of agricultural stalwarts learns tricks of trade at Waroona Low Stress Stock Handling School

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Low-stress stock handling trainer Grahame Rees, centre, with program participants Chevara Hogan, 16, and Liam Gall, 16.
Camera IconLow-stress stock handling trainer Grahame Rees, centre, with program participants Chevara Hogan, 16, and Liam Gall, 16. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

A WA family-run livestock transport company’s passion for animal welfare and educating the next generation has seen hundreds of students learn low-stress stock handling techniques over the past two decades.

The latest graduating cohort brings the number up to about 700, after Waroona-based Mitchell’s Transport held its annual Low Stress Stock Handling School on October 13 and 14, with about 30 students taking part.

The program has run at the facility for nearly 18 years, and was started after chief executive John Mitchell met low-stress stock handling trainers Jim Lindsay and Grahame Rees in Kojonup.

“I think I was the first carrier in Australia to do one back then and I just latched on to it,” Mr Mitchell said.

“I thought it was the greatest thing I have ever done and I couldn’t not pass it on and provide an opportunity for other people to get it within our business.”

The program has since broadened to the current school which is open to all interested parties, along with scholarships to attend funded by major players in the ag industry.

Mr Rees said the program was about getting people on the same page and getting animals in the right frame of mind to achieve maximum profit and production results.

“There are seven methods, and we teach people how to use these methods in pastoral areas, in paddocks, in the yards, right through the whole trade,” he said.

“It’s not making the animals do what you want, it’s understanding what the animals want, and when we understand what the animals want, we can actually get what we want.”

Mr Mitchell said the program teaches participants to work with their animal’s insticts rather than their own.

“That’s the major part, and it’s a shift in your own belief system,” he said.

“Whatever you walked in with, you come out with a different belief system.”

The practice of low-stress stock handling was developed by late American stockman Bud Williams, who first introduced it to Australia in 1999.

Mr Rees started teaching the practice after he introduced it to his sheep station in western New South Wales more than 20 years ago and the results it was achieving.

“I think today it is not just necessarily about the people anymore, it’s about the welfare of the animals and if we can help some animals have a better life through the chain, that would be better,” he said.

Alongside students from the Harvey and Morawa campuses of the WA College of Agriculture, this month’s school included young guns as well as those in senior positions within the state’s agricultural industry.

Mr Mitchell said it was the best demographics for the program since it started, and noted the impact it would have on the industry.

“It is always a challenge to get people that are in senior positions to come and spend their time here,” he said.

“This will change it up, there is no doubt and that’s why it’s the best one we’ve ever had.

“We’ve now got senior, senior people learning on the ground learning and it’s phenomenal.”

When asked why he continues to run the school year after year, Mr Mitchell admitted he would get a bit emotional.

“Animals are everything and you can see the difference in what happens when they are handled properly from the animal’s point of view and also from the owner’s point of view,” he said.

“They’ve got two things going on, they’ve got a happier animal and they are more profitable, immensely different than you would be in you didn’t use the practice so we’re going to have an influence over a lot of cattle and a lot of people.”

About 700 students have been through the program since it first started, with Mr Mitchell keen to keep growing the initiative.

“I think this is a launch, it’s the next level and we’ll keep doing it,” he said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails