Geoff Pearson takes WAFarmers livestock council reins

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Cally DupeThe West Australian
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There’s a new grazier heading the WAFarmers livestock council and he’s keen to sink his teeth into all aspects of the sheep and cattle industries.

Geoff Pearson officially took the reins from Kendenup sheep farmer David Slade last week, with the pair swapping jobs and Mr Slade stepping into the vice-president role.

Mr Slade spent five years in the top job, joking half a decade “was quite enough” and he was leaving WAFarmers members “in good hands” with Mr Pearson.

Mr Pearson is well-known for his family business TW Pearson and Son, producing Angus, crossbred and Wagyu cattle for domestic and export markets at Myalup.

The business includes a 10,000 head breeding herd on 40,500ha on WA’s South West coastline and a lot feeding facility at Lake Preston.

The businessman and Cattle Council of Australia board member has stepped up to the president’s role when Australian cattle prices are red-hot, fuelled by an overall supply shortage.

Mr Pearson said broadly, WA sheep and cattle producers were “really happy” and focused on managing their businesses.

“Things are looking good in the agriculture sector at the moment,” he said.

“We are not dealing with a crisis so we are just looking to the future.

“We are just looking to sustain the high prices of livestock, and working out how we can invest in the industry.

“And while things are going well and we are making a bit of money, we want to make sure we are looking to the future.”

WAFarmers livestock council president Geoff Pearson.
Camera IconWAFarmers livestock council president Geoff Pearson. Credit: Countryman

Mr Pearson steps up after more than 20 years with WAFarmers, including more than 15 years on the livestock council, and joked it was “about time” he “did something”.

He comes to the role with six years on the Cattle Council board, but said a restructure of that organisation could mean his time there was up later this year.

“The Cattle Council role has helped me to be able to see what the rest of the country is up to,” Mr Pearson said.

“I’m ready to sink my teeth into this with Dave by my side.”

Mr Pearson said he had been “prompted” to take the president’s position and was looking forward to the role.

During his time at the helm, Mr Slade led the organisation as it defended live export when a proposed live sheep trade ban loomed over the $136 million industry.

He also helped to spearhead a 1000-strong rally defending the trade at Katanning in 2018.

We are just looking to sustain the high prices of livestock, and working out how we can invest in the industry.

Geoff Pearson

Mr Slade said one of his proudest achievements was helping to lead a campaign to change the definition of Australian lamb, which finally happened on July 1, 2019.

The change allowed sheep producers some breathing space for lambs breaking permanent teeth.

Both Mr Slade and Mr Pearson have set their eyes on attracting young blood to the WAFarmers livestock council.

“We have a couple of young ones on the council and we are mentoring them to take up our positions because we won’t be around forever,” Mr Slade said.

WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington and president John Hassell thanked Mr Slade, saying his committent had been “second to none”.

“There is a lot of time and commitment that goes on behind the scenes, and to have the time and commitment to be available and talk to the media,” Mr Whittington said.

“We really appreciate the work.”

Mr Pearson said he had written a list “a mile long” of things to start dealing with and is prioritising biosecurity, animal welfare, live export, red tape and costs.

“There is a lot to get stuck into,” he said.

Mr Pearson said he had a good relationship with WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan and believed she was listening to farmers.

“Alannah and I have spoken on regular occasions, and I think we have her ear. She is definitely receptive to the conversations we have had with her so far,” he said.

“She has made the point that she is listening and she is not out there to push her own barrow but she is representing us.

“She wants us to talk to her and make her well informed before she makes decisions.

“It is our role to make sure we are informing the politicians fully before they go and make decisions.” Mr Pearson’s appointment was the only major shake up to WAFarmers councils.

Wittenoom Hills grower Mic Fels retained his role as president of WAFarmers grains council and Williams farmer Mark Fowler remains vice-president.

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