Neil Odgers retires from a long-standing career since 1988

Posted By NHIA  
11:20 AM

Conversation Corner - Conversation with NHIA CEO, Sara Merckel and Neil Odgers from HICO

In honouring our industry, we spotlight the individuals whose dedication and unwavering commitment have left an indelible mark. CEO Sara Merckel had the privilege of talking with Neil Odgers, a stalwart of HICO, who now embarks on his well-deserved retirement, culminating a career spanning nearly four decades and leaving a profound legacy in herd improvement.   

It was a truly inspiring experience to converse with Neil, a man whose journey began in September 1988. His deep-rooted connection to the dairy, beef, and sheep industry of the Korumburra region ignited a profound passion for herd improvement within him. From his humble beginnings at the Murray Goulburn Milk Factory to his long-standing tenure at HICO, Neil's trajectory was marked by a pursuit of excellence, always striving to provide the best service and support to HICO and its customers.  

Starting as a lab technician at the Murray Goulburn Milk Factory, Neil then transitioned to HICO, where he spent his first 8-9 years driving trucks, contributing to the lab team, and organising sampling officers. In 1999, he assumed the role of General Manager of South Gippsland Herd Test Association, which later evolved into Gippsland Herd Improvement. His career then moved to herd test/lab Manager and continued in Management roles for 17 years. In 2017, Neil pursued other areas within HICO outside of Management, working in the lab and with machines.  

In Neil’s expertise, he says there is a big challenge on the herd test side, where there are fewer and fewer farms, but the ones remaining are getting bigger. There are all sorts of challenges which is resulting in business mergers.  

It is key to understand how to keep people in our industry, and Neil reflected on the longevity of his career, which is owing to being surrounded by great people in the business. He has been surrounded by staff dedicated to getting the job done, which he knows has been the fortunate part of his career. He believes the key to holding onto great staff is finding the people who want to contribute, which helps job satisfaction, as well as those who have farming in their background who are attracted naturally. As Neil says these words, I ask our members, how can we reflect and make our people feel a deeper connection to their roles? Neil accounts that his own success was his strong focus and looking after the customer, no matter what the challenge.  

There will be times we will all struggle with work/life balance, and Neil says he managed this  reasonably well, again he was always fortunate to have good people around him, but when he took leave and travelled with his wife, he took the deliberate intention to shut down and would turn his phone off. Being able to vacate from work and switch off helped him come back refreshed, so much so that he forgot his password upon returning to work. Neil says he came back positive and relaxed, Neil’s advice is no matter how important you are, take a break, also enjoy your people, staff, managers, clients, famers and remember everyone has bad days.  

Neil says his career is filled with good times, ordinary times and everything in-between, and fondly remembers a dim sim eating challenge in the office, they made the healthy choice of steamed dim sims, everyone brought in their cookers and stunk out the office. The winner got through 26 dim sims in 10 mins, Neil fell short at only 16. This shows how bringing some innocent fun to the office creates sometimes the most memorable moments.  

Industry is looking for good staff, I asked Neil his thoughts on why someone would give a career in herd improvement a go. Neil’s tips to anyone exploring a new career:

·        A lot of it is what you make of it

·        Make things happen and take ownership

·        It is also a 2-sided coin with the support of the people above you  

I asked Neil for our learning, what skills has he seen in good Managers and staff, his answer is communication, talking but mostly listening to what people are saying. Lead by example in attitude. Check in on people, and for the Managers, have an awareness of your staff, as they are getting the job done.  

If Neil had a crystal ball, what would he improve in industry? From a herd testing perspective, he said electronic metres have limited success and robots systems are successfully making it easier for farmers. Neil’s crystal ball would have a simpler way to herd test, making it more user friendly from farm to the lab.  

Neil's imparting wisdom is summarised that he's glad to have contributed. He has been supported by countless people along the way, too many to mention that he has immense gratitude for.  

Neil says time has gone by to quick, but with a big grin on his face now embraces retirement by looking forward to travelling through Australia by caravan, possibly some overseas travel, he plans to get back into tennis, you might find him at country week tennis.  

Neil wishes everyone at HICO the best for the future and passes the same wishes onto industry.  

To Neil Odgers, we express our deepest gratitude for his years of dedication and wish him a retirement filled with fulfilment and joy, embodying the same passion and zest for life that defined his remarkable career.  


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