2022 Emerging Leader in Agriculture Victoria - Matt Cooney

Young cattle breeder takes out esteemed leadership award at Melbourne Royal Show 

At just 24, Matt Cooney is already making his mark on Australian agriculture, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s setting a high bar through his love of Lowlines.  

The principal of Cann Valley Lowline Stud was awarded the Melbourne Royal Emerging Leader in Agriculture Victoria Award (ELVA) at the 2022 Melbourne Royal Show.  

Recognising an individual who is making a significant contribution to their respective agricultural field over a 12-month period, the award also saw Matt collect $5000 to further his development, and the opportunity to work with the leadership team at Melbourne Royal Show to mentor other young, rising individuals in the agriculture industry.  

Matt was nominated for the award by a fellow Australian Lowline breeder for his innovative work in establishing the Lowline breed overseas; his efforts in improving connectivity for regional farmers through his position as manager of an Optus store in Shepparton; promoting the Lowline breed through his role of treasurer of the Southern Region Promotion Group (Victorian Lowlines); and his unwavering dedication to hosting the Feature Breed event at the 2022 Melbourne Royal Beef Competition. The event attracted the most entries seen in more than a decade, with half the competitors first-time exhibitors at Melbourne Royal Show.  

Matt topped off a successful week with a personal high, selling a Lowline heifer at the Royal Rumble All Breeds Sale for a record-breaking $11,000. While the young cattle breeder doesn’t do it for the glory, the recognition gained from the ELVA award is valued –  and the chance to support others even more so.  

“It’s really validating to know that you’ve made a difference in the agricultural industry as a whole,” Matt says.  

“It’s so important that people nominate others because there’s so many quiet achievers doing amazing things for Australian agriculture and we need to know about them. 

“I’m so passionate about mentorship and leadership for young people because we need them, we won’t have an industry without them. I’m really focused on recognising up-and-comers and helping them however I can.” 

Without the mentorship of others, Matt openly acknowledges he wouldn’t be where he is today. His aunt, Vicki Gilbert changed his path when she opened her home to the then 13-year-old from Melbourne’s busy eastern suburbs, welcoming him to Rotherwood Lowline stud in East Gippsland. More than 10 years on Vicki is still a valuable mentor for Matt, along with Melbourne Royal Show Beef Cattle Committee chair David Bolton. 

Matt has big plans for his ELVA winnings, starting with exporting the sustainable, feed efficient Lowline genetics overseas. The initiative has been in the works for 12 months, and while it’s a costly process, Matt’s buoyed by calves already born in Belgium, France and Germany, and semen and embryos currently en route to the United States.   

Back on home soil Matt is eagerly anticipating an exciting 12-months ahead, utilising his newfound position as a mentor for other young people in the agricultural industry – starting with David Bolton’s words of wisdom.  

“He always says you’re only as good as those around you, and I wholeheartedly agree,” Matt says. 

“I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge with others because after all, if a kid originally from the city, on just 30 acres today can do it, nothing’s impossible.”

2022 Melbourne Royal Rising Star Award - Tess Runting

Meet the 23-year-old rising star who put sheep back on the agenda at Pakenham Show  

Some people find their passion early in life and at just 23, Tess Runting is one of the lucky ones. The Mornington Peninsula resident owns and manages Moralla Corriedales and works tirelessly on the Pakenham Show Committee, all while balancing her job as horse team manager at local tourist attraction, The Ranch.  

Her commitment to Australian agriculture was honoured at the 2022 Melbourne Royal Show where she won the prestigious Melbourne Royal Rising Star award. The scholarship awards $2000 to an individual aged between 16-30, within agricultural shows in Victoria who demonstrates Melbourne Royal Show values at a local or regional level.

Even at a young age, Tess has already made a remarkable impact on the Pakenham Show. When the show relocated to a new location in 2015, the sheep section didn’t survive the move. Two years later it was back in force thanks to Tess’ unwavering resolution to see sheep shine at her local show.  

Tess began showing sheep at the age of 11 and travelled around Victoria with her high school’s sheep showing team. She’s now a judge at several shows and started her own stud, Moralla Corriedales after finishing school. But come March you’ll find her at the Pakenham Show where she coordinates the sheep and fleece section. From rallying sponsorship to hosting a popular parent and teacher handler class, and inviting associate judges (youths aged 12-18) to work alongside experienced judges, Tess is dedicated to ensuring agricultural shows thrive.  

“I have always thoroughly enjoyed talking to the public at these events and promoting the importance and need for agriculture within our schools and local community,” Tess says.  

“Youths are the future of our industry and we have to keep the spark alive. I love helping new studs get started both at their farm and in the show ring and encouraging youth to get involved in all aspects of the show ring.”  

Tess has a promising initiative in the works, with a program she founded set to be up and running in the Mornington Peninsula region in early-2023. The Young Farmer program will connect up-and-coming young people with an interest in farming with those more experienced in all aspects of agriculture, horticulture and showing. It’s a venture Tess is very excited about and will benefit from her Melbourne Royal Rising Star scholarship.  

Embodying the Melbourne Royal Show values of fearless, innovative, respectful, successful and together, Tess is carving out a vibrant future for herself and other young people in the agricultural industry.  

“I am a firm believer in having your own back and supporting yourself 100 per cent of the way,” Tess says.  

“I go into everything I do with the mindset of growth and I learn from every experience which allows me to pass that knowledge on to the next young person coming through.”

2022 Melbourne Royal Rising Star Award, Highly Commended - Abbey Hanks

Since Abbie was four, she has attended local shows showing her dairy cattle and has travelled Australian showing cattle since, including to Sydney Royal and Royal Adelaide to volunteer her time to assist breeders, particularly older farmers exiting the industry, ensuring their cattle are optimally marketed for sale. She has been a guest speaker at her local Rotary Club on showing cattle and what is involved to be successful at the local shows.