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Thomas MacDonald




2019 Joint Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Shannon Landmark, joint winner of the 2019 award considers herself lucky not to have a 9 to 5 job every day. As coordinator of the Northern Genomics Project at the University of Queensland, her work focusses on improving genetic selection and reproductive technology, and sees her working with beef producers, beef extension officers from state governments, consultants and vets, and university researchers and scientists. Shannon coordinates the program which involves about 30,000 head across 54 properties in Queensland, NT and WA.


Some days she might be driving ten hours to get to a property, and other times she’s lucky enough to get flown out to collaborating farms and ovarian scanning cattle. In 2018 Shannon did a total of 36 different trips, covering over 60,000km. When she’s not on the road or in the yards she’s processing data, analysing it for reports and staying in touch with producers.


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

Shannon says, "fertility is one of the big drivers of profitability and productivity in the north so we need to focus on that a bit more. I'm really passionate about genetics and genomics and I'd love to see that through to adoption. I think it's a tremendous thing for our industry."

Shannon feels lucky to have learnt an incredible amount from each collaborator, researcher and scientist that she works, and knows that there’s plenty more to come.


Outside of work Shannon likes to tinker around with her own cattle, is an avid reader and runner. But after becoming a first time mum of son Fred just two days after being co-crowned with the title, she’s had to put those things on the back burner.


Shannon’s mentoring trip is scheduled to take place towards the end of 2019, where she’ll focus on increasing her knowledge of the entire beef supply chain in Australia, and understanding what end results drive the breeding and genetic selection. Intensive agriculture on both sides of the Tasman is another key area of interest for her.


When asked what winning the award means to Shannon, she said “I am still on a high from winning the award and it has opened up so many more opportunities than I ever thought possible. The PPP Group are a huge pool of mentors that are eager to help and impart their knowledge. It is without a doubt the most pivotal event in my career and I am really focused on making the most of every opportunity presented.”


Shannon along with her husband Luke, and their son Fred base themselves between Brisbane and Mareeba in Far North Queensland.

2019 Joint Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Luke Evans, joint winner of the 2019 award has the job of running of Rockhampton Downs cattle station, a 450,000 hectare property in Australia’s Northern Territory. He’s involved in land development, including significant irrigation and solar projects on the property, and general station duties. His aim is to achieve this as efficiently and effectively as he can, and has his sights set on further progressing his agricultural career in this line of work.

For seven years, Luke has been at the helm of Rockhampton Downs, running about 20,000 to 25,000 Brahman females, breeding predominantly for the export market. Luke not only runs the significant operation, but also mentors' youth, and provides on-the-job training and employment opportunities at the property.


Luke is hard working and down-to-earth, with a philosophy around rolling up his sleeves and getting on with it, and he expects the same from his team. As he sees it, he wouldn’t expect others to do what he doesn’t to himself, and leads from the front.


When asked about what he loves most about farming, he says “What’s not to love? Working outside with animals, doing different stuff every day, and then there’s all the machinery, like dozers, helicopters, and planes. In comparison, doing anything else would be pretty boring really.”


Outside of work, camp drafting and other related horse sports are a real passion, as is spending time with his partner Emma - a primary school teacher at an aboriginal community located on the station - and young son Riley, who is already showing strong signs of following in his father’s footsteps.


Luke was at a crossroads in his career when he won the Zanda Award, but he says the connections he's making through the award are propelling his knowledge forward years in advance.

For his mentoring trip, Luke is looking forward to seeing the distinct differences between Australian and New Zealand farming, particularly intensive farming operations in New Zealand, and how every aspect of production can be measured.

2018 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Winner of the 2018 award, Thomas Macdonald is a third-generation dairy farmer raised in Gordonton, Hamilton. Macdonald is the Business Manager for Spring Sheep Milk Company in Taupo. There he heads up the management for Farming Systems - Sheep Horizon 3, a New Zealand MPI Primary Growth Partnership program for the NZ sheep dairy industry.


Macdonald is tasked with running the farm development, farm operations and on-farm R&D programs for the 3,5000 sheep across the company’s farming group. He is also involved with a number of key projects at Spring Sheep Milk including the establishment of a farmer supplier co-operative, the development of a pilot farm (research farm) and publishing a technical manual to increase industry knowledge.


At just 24 years of age, Macdonald has a strong vision and desire to see New Zealand agricultural products championed on the world stage, and believes connections in the industry between NZ and Australia are critical to further developing a stronger agribusiness sector.


Other achievements include completing a Masters of Management (First Class Honours) in Agricultural Economics, having four published papers, being a committee member of the Rural Business Network, and also being involved with the NZ Fieldays as a past Sir Don Lewellyn scholar.


Macdonald feels privileged to have taken out the 2018 award, and sees it as a huge opportunity to spend time with some of agriculture’s top business professionals, and expand his horizons and networks.


Thomas is married to wife Megan, enjoys water skiing during the summer months, and flying his recently acquired drone whenever he gets a spare moment.

2017 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Morgan Easton, the 2017 recipient of the award, hails from NZs Waitaki Valley, where both his father and grandfather were mixed farming and cropping farmers. The original property was converted to dairy in the early 1990s and sold, after which the family bought another sheep and beef farm on the northern side of the Waitaki River and also converted it to dairy. The current Papakaio property Twin Terraces was bought by his parents, David and Clare, in 2008.


Easton completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science Degree at Lincoln University, spending his last year at Cornell University in upstate New York.

On his return to New Zealand, he worked for Dexcel (now DairyNZ) for 18 months, based out of Dunedin. He was then awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and obtained a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, in Indiana.

While in the United States, Easton’s parents told him they were looking at the Papakaio property and discussed the possibility of him returning home to help them develop and run the property.


In 2013, Easton and his wife, Hayley, won the Canterbury-North Otago Sharemilker-Equity Farmer of the Year title, and went on to be runners-up in the national competition. That year he also attended the US-NZ Pacific Partnership Forum in Washington DC.


Easton, along with his wife and parents have subsequently bought a neighbouring farm which they have redeveloped. The couple, who have three young children, are now sharemilking the two properties, milking a total of 1750 cows, and the synergies between the two - including sharing staff and machinery - worked well, he said.

Thrilled to have taken out the 2017 award, Easton was particularly attracted to the tailored mentoring provided by PPP members. He is using the opportunity to tap into their expertise on how best to continue growing and thriving in a family business. 


Not one for resting on his laurels, he also has his private plane licence, and is a registered Marriage Celebrant.

2016 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Dean Rabbidge, a sheep, beef and dairy farmer from Wyndham, Southland was the winner of the 2016 Zanda McDonald Award. Dean is married to Sarah, and together they have two children Ted (3 years) and Ida (5 months).

Rabbidge is passionate about his agricultural responsibilities – not least running the family farm – and found the award a superb opportunity to talk through any challenges with some of the most knowledgeable producers in the business.

“Just knowing that I can contact any one of the PPP Group to talk through issues gives me a great sense of comfort. I now have a strong support network that will help me unleash my potential, as well as that of my business, realise my ambition of encouraging more young people into agriculture, and help me to promote a positive perception of agriculture across urban areas” he said.

The 32-year old Southland farmer has already crammed much into his life but he is not ready to relax, intent not only on improving and growing his business but defending what he views as a bad rap that farming is receiving from some quarters.

Rabbidge’s CV includes placing third in the 2014 Grand Final of the Young Farmer of the Year and fifth in 2013. He is now chairman of the National Young Farmers Contest, is a member of the Wyndham A&P Association and former member of the Wyndham Community Board. He also recently become a trustee and founding member of the "Three Rivers Catchment" group, established to engage with all sectors of society and educate around the management of fresh water. 

In addition, Rabbidge has overseen the conversion to dairy and the day-to-day management of 72ha on his family’s Wyndham farm, run in conjunction with a 406ha sheep and beef unit. 

He took the opportunity with the award to study farm succession, business growth and business structure, which he found invaluable. Dean and Sarah have recently purchased the property off the family - a process that was assisted with the advice and experiences of PPP members.

Community involvement is a real passion for Rabbidge, and he still (some say foolishly) plays rugby for the Wyndham Division 1 Team.

2015 Zanda McDonald Award Winner

Emma Black, a Beef Extension Officer from Western Queensland took out the inaugural Zanda McDonald Award in 2015.  Emma is from Colanya Station near Longreach and works for the Queensland Department of Agriculture.. 

Black has a diverse range of agricultural experience, including animal nutrition consulting, beef production systems, grazing land management, meat science, innovation and new technologies, and analysis of beef performance.  


Contribution to the industry has been a key focus for Black, having developed an agricultural science program at her local school, spending seven years on the committee for the Australian Intercollegiate Meat Judging program, and coaching the Australian National Meat Judging team for four years. She has also been recognised for her contribution to the industry, by receiving a UNE Young Distinguished Alumni Award, and being listed as one of the 100 most influential women in Australian agribusiness.


Winning the award opened a number of doors for Black, by way of professional development and career opportunities. “The Zanda McDonald Award provided an incredible opportunity for me through a tailored mentoring program. This allowed me to be mentored by some of the most successful, innovative, knowledgeable and well respected people in the Australian and NZ agriculture industries. While the mentoring program was for 12 months, the networking and mentoring is now ongoing with the PPP Group, which provides me with a comfortable environment to learn, to discuss future ideas, challenge my thoughts and develop my career moving forward.” she said.


Black is passionate about paying it forward, by mentoring the next generation of young producers. She is particularly motivated by those who share her love of agriculture, and working in the field. 


Since winning the award, Black has studied a Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness, and has some exciting opportunities on the horizon. But for the moment, she’s focusing on motherhood, having had her first child Corey in April this year.

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