Shannon Landmark visits New Zealand as part of Zanda McDonald program

25 November 2019

Australian pair visit New Zealand By: Sally Rae, Otago Daily Times, New Zealand. 

When 2019 Zanda McDonald Award joint winners Shannon Landmark and Luke Evans visited Omarama last week, it truly was a flying visit. The Australian pair flew into the Waitaki Valley township on a Pilatus aircraft that had been chauffeuring them around the country on a mentoring trip, as part of their prize package.

The Australasian agribusiness award was launched by the Platinum Primary Producers (PPP) Group in 2014, in memory of Australian beef industry leader and PPP foundation member Zanda McDonald, who died in 2013 after an accident at his Queensland property.

The award — which had been driven by PPP founder Shane McManaway — was centred on helping agriculture’s future leaders further their career paths for their own personal development, as well as for the benefit of the industry.

Both down-to-earth and engaging — and from opposite sides of the beef industry — the pair were relishing the opportunity to learn more about New Zealand farming systems.

Passionate about genetics and genomics, Ms Landmark is co-ordinator of the Northern Genomics Project at the University of Queensland, where her work focused on improving genetic selection and reproductive technology. It meant she worked with beef producers, beef extension officers from state governments, consultants, vets, university researchers and scientists.

She co-ordinated the programme, which involved about 30,000 head across 54 properties in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The goal of the project was to develop a DNA test that was suitable for northern Australian cattle, and achieve widespread adoption.

Born in Mt Isa, northern Queensland, to a mining family, she grew up moving "around the globe" and initially focused on Aboriginal studies, having missed out on getting into veterinary science the first time.

Always interested in animals, from the age of about 6 she either wanted to be "a Spice Girl or a farmer", she quipped.

During a period in which she deferred her degree, she worked on a cattle station in the Northern Territory and while she initially found it very tough — "I didn’t know anything; everyone came from an ag background and I was straight out of the city" — but she soon fell in love with agriculture.

Her veterinary career initially involved mixed and dairy practice and beef extension work; she got sick of cats, dogs and horses — "basically anything other than cattle" — and that led to her starting ovarian scanning in cattle.

While she never thought she would be involved in research, the Northern Genomics Project was hugely rewarding, as she saw how it could change the industry.

When it was suggested she enter the Zanda McDonald Award, she did not think what she was doing was particularly impressive.

"Who else is excited by data, seriously?" she laughed.

By the time she had been shortlisted and was down to the final three, Ms Landmark was also nine months pregnant.

The day after she and Mr Evans received the award, she and husband Luke, a builder, welcomed baby Fred.

Describing herself as "a bit of a workaholic", she even did some radio phone interviews from hospital.

She had not stopped working since Fred’s arrival, but she was fortunate she had a very flexible job and Fred was also a very "chilled" baby.

He and her husband had accompanied her on the New Zealand trip and Fred had become so well known that if she turned up at a property without him, people were disappointed, she laughed.


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