Pilbara farming couple scoop Rabobank award

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Mark and Narelle Bettini have scooped an award for business development. Mark and Narelle Bettini have scooped an award for business development. Mark and Narelle Bettini have scooped an award for business development.

Husband and wife team Mark and Narelle Bettini from Western Australia’s Pilbara region have claimed this year’s Rabobank Dr John Morris Business Development Award.

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As graduates of the 2015/16 Rabobank Executive Development Program, the couple have received the accolade and a $5000 cash prize for the strategic business plan they completed to boost the productivity of their cattle farm.

The focus of their plan was on better staff management and an infrastructure project to improve pasture efficiency. Narelle oversees the staff management side of the business, while Mark focuses on infrastructure and operations.

"The course made us have a long, hard look at ourselves and our business to ensure we are playing to our strengths and utilising our core assets," Mark says.

"I focused on improving pasture utilisation, by reducing grazing radiuses and increasing stocking rates — in an effort to increase the amount of beef we produce.

"Cattle walking long distances to watering points reduces their weight gain potential, and does not efficiently utilise the pasture — with some areas being underutilised and others heavily grazed.

"This prompted me to look at rolling out an infrastructure program and we are now in the process of installing an additional 55 watering points on our property."

This water infrastructure project is expected to help them increase their herd by an additional 1,200 head, once complete.

"It will be an ongoing process to check and assess our pastures to ensure our stocking rates are sustainable," Mark says. But now we have the business plan in place, it is something we can look at in the future for our other stations."

Given the scale of the Bettinis’ operation, spanning four properties with 25 permanent employees and up to 20 seasonal employees, they also reviewed their staff management processes.

"After returning home from the first module of the course, I examined our HR policies and procedures to see how I could better structure this side of the business," Mark says.

"While we don’t have trouble getting staff, and have a great pool of people that return to our business each season, we want to reduce our staff turnover by enticing quality staff to stay longer than one season.

"Work-life balance is really important and we want our employees to have the time off and leisure time so they enjoy where they are working."

Running since 1999, the Rabobank Executive Development Program aims to develop and enhance the business management skills of farmers seeking to take their enterprise to the next level. More than 600 farmers from across Australia and New Zealand have graduated from the program to date.

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