Humans of Agriculture

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Charlie Vaughan was told “you’ll never just work with cattle” throughout his veterinary science degree, years on and Charlie has shown the doubters that anything is possible. Today he not only runs his private beef vet service but is also the Queensland Operations Coordinator for Australia Cattle Enterprises (ACE).

Growing up on the Murray River between Cobra and Echuca, Charlie was exposed to agriculture, primarily mixed farming, throughout his childhood.

He left school and dabbled in architecture at University in Melbourne before turning his hand to working on merino studs and cattle properties in the western Riverina of NSW.

“I like boots on the ground stuff, I’m definitely not an academic. I’d rather be sweating it out in a set of yards preg testing than mucking around with cats and dogs in a clinic,” Charlie said.

“I’d already ditched uni once and I knew I needed a ticket in something to get ahead in the world we live in, so I decided to give this vet gig a crack.”

Charlie completed vet school in 2020 and was earmarked to enter a live export-based vet position, however as is the common complaint, the Covid-19 outbreak derailed those plans.

“I took some time off to help a mate with a development project at the base of the cape where we chained some country and planted cotton, but I became a bit jaded by state government hurdles and roadblocks and the lack of apparent future in that world of intensive farming,” he said.

“I always wanted to get back into live export in any capacity so I applied for the position with ACE, with a move to Darwin planned in the next couple of months.”

Charlie inspecting a pen of cattle.

Charlie’s dedication to the beef industry and northern cattlemen and women is irrefutable, managing to kickstart and operate his vet service alongside yet separate to his role with ACE.

“I got hats and stubby coolers printed and took out an ad in the free local rag in the Etheridge Shire and the phone started ringing,” he said.

“I was pregnancy testing boat heifers. One thing led to another and I started talking to people about lotfeeding a few cattle and feedlot induction protocols and it all worked hand in hand.”

Charlie said his role with ACE centred around procurement, operational support and logistics.

“I handle anything from selecting cattle to meet export specifications to the mountains of paperwork that’s involved, to organising stockmen and fodder and vet kits on boats to physically loading the vessel at port,” he said.

“I held onto the old romantic ideal of having a plane, a bottle of lube and a box of gloves and heading north preg testing- I wasn’t willing to bide my time castrating cats.

“I knew I just had to offer a good service and be approachable and I’ve been lucky to tick off some vet goals and live export dreams almost simultaneously.”

Charlie said his passion for agriculture lay in protein production.

“It’s a corny cliché but we’re feeding the world. We’re growing a product, and protein is the limiting part of anyone’s ration whether you’re an animal or a human,” he said.

“There’s so much scope in the beef industry and from all points on the live export supply chain- we can increase our growth and our efficiencies to increase best practice outcomes.”

“It’s no secret we work for the money but increasing welfare outcomes increases the bottom line so the better we do by the animals the more money is made.”

Charlie also explained the correlation of working with indigenous communities for environmental benefits, where taking buffalo off country for export into developing nations turned what is generally a waste product into a viable protein source.

He said years of regulation bordering on persecution over the live export industry had only resulted in a “big band of merry men and women.”

“Everyone is sticking together for a common goal and trying to do their best by the animals and the industry to make a quid,” he said.

“From the grazier to the trucking company to the kill floor in Indonesia or Vietnam or the Philippines there’s millions of people involved and they’re all working towards a common good – bad practice just doesn’t survive in the current market place.”

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