Mentor2Elevate Program

Elevating Industry Excellence Together

The NHIA Mentor2Elevate program was established in September 2023 with the support of the Gardiner Foundation. The mentoring program connects herd improvement industry leaders who have undergone mentor training - who offer a wide range of skills to help facilitate learning, reflection and growth - with mentees.

This visionary mentoring initiative is a bridge that unites our industry's seasoned leaders, equipped with mentor training, with aspiring mentees looking for knowledge, growth, insight and connection.

NHIA has endorsed a recognition program for its approved mentors, recognising both their mentor training and their respective employers as advocates of nurturing talent and fostering employee growth and development. These organisations are not only enhancing their own business and culture but are also championing the progress of the entire industry, making their skilled mentors accessible to anyone within our dynamic field.

NHIA extends its sincere gratitude to the Gardiner Foundation, whose funding ignited this much-needed transformation within our industry.

Sara Merckel, NHIA CEO says “We have heard the voices of our members, echoing their yearning for guidance and mentorship. These sentiments were loud and clear during our membership forums and industry dialogues. NHIA proudly responds by offering mentorship at two distinct levels.”


2 Tiers of Mentors to Access:

  • Mentor2Elevate Leaders & Mentor Masters


Mentor2Elevate Leaders 

  • Seasoned industry professionals ready to share their wealth of knowledge and experience.
  • These Leaders are open to industry and ready to Mentor.

Mentor Masters

  • The pinnacle of mentorship, possessing unparalleled expertise and a commitment to guiding the industry's future leaders.
  • The Masters are open to industry professionals looking for further development.


At Herd 23, Barry Irvine, Executive Chair at Bega, emphasised the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people and the right knowledge.

Inspired by his words, it reminds us why NHIA’s mentoring program is significant to a person's development.

It’s a powerful way to connect with experienced professionals who can provide the guidance and insight you need.

Engage with our mentors to leverage their expertise for professional growth and success.

NHIA Mentors are experienced industry leaders who have undergone specialised training to guide and support mentees in their growth journey.

NHIA is proud to introduce its current Mentors below:

Step 1 - Review the Bio's

Step 2 - Contact NHIA with your preferred Mentor to work with - Email: [email protected] 

Step 3 - NHIA will organise an introductory session with a Mentor to make sure the match is the most suitable.


Ruth Barber

Total Livestock Genetics / Genetics Australia  

Ruth can help you master key skills in:

  • Team Building 
  • Prioritizing work demands/pressures 


  • Organisational Skills


  • Customer Service


With a scientific background as a bovine IVF embryologist, Total Livestock Genetics Victoria Operations Manager Ruth Barber’s experience encompasses a broad range of practical and management aspects of the herd improvement industry. Whether working in areas including bull health management, government compliance and procedures or managing live animal export and quarantine programs, Ruth is a firm believer that focusing on the people behind the roles and encouraging individuals to work together is the key to personal development and broader industry success. Having learnt from many of the founders of Australia’s herd improvement industry, Ruth is keen to pass on this knowledge, particularly the ability to build industry relationships while learning and developing the practical skills to succeed and instilling the required confidence and self-belief in individuals as they develop their careers.


Glenn Barrett

Jersey Australia   

Glen can help you master key skills in:

  • Business Strategy & Development
  • Change Management
  • Finance
  • Governance

Glen offers a diverse background spanning agriculture and the building construction industries. Starting as a dairy farmer in South Gippsland, Victoria, Glen shifted to accounting, where he managed finances for a piling and metal fabrication company in Sydney. He later served as Financial Controller for a Melbourne-based earthworks group, handling a turnover exceeding $100 million and managing a major fill site and exaction operation.

Returning to agriculture, Glen became Operations Manager at ADHIS, focusing on service improvements and software redevelopment and automation, before transitioning to Genetics Services Manager at DataGene. He joined Jersey Australia as General Manager in 2018.  

Committed to community involvement, Glen has held numerous leadership roles in youth and sports groups, including National President of Australian Rural Youth and Vice President of Victorian Young Farmers and President, Secretary and Treasurer at different times of the Korumburra Cricket Club and currently serves on the Board of Carinya Aged Care as the Treasurer. Glen also represented Australia on an agricultural youth exchange to Canada in 1999.  

Glen is married with three children and resides in Korumburra, Victoria, where he manages a property raising beef cattle and dairy heifers.



Cathy Bourke

NHIA, Independant Director

Growing up on a beef and sheep property Cathy’s experience encompasses almost every aspect of the herd improvement industry, from herd testing, artificial breeding and progeny testing to senior management roles in sales, customer service and logistics. A NHIA director and Churchill Fellow, she is passionate about creating opportunities for younger people from regional communities. Having benefited from mentoring throughout her career, Cathy believes that NHIA’s mentor program has a vital role to play in building an individual’s confidence and self-belief, and opening up pathways in an industry she loves.


Sharyn Collins

Numurkah Nugenes  

Having built a banking career in her native New Zealand and the UK, a desire for a fresh start saw Sharyn set out on her herd improvement journey with a milking job in the Waikato providing her first encounter with the industry. Now an established breeding advisor and field services representative in regional Victoria, her on farm experiences feed a dedication and passion for achieving great results for breeders. Her motivation in being a mentor is to reveal our industry’s best kept secret – commit, do the right thing by people, focus on team work, and you can have the most rewarding career! She believes the more you put in to the industry and its people, the more you get out on both a personal and professional level.


David Dunlop

Herd Improvement Co-operative Australia (HICO)  

As a former dairy farmer and artificial insemination technician in his native Northern Ireland, and now Operations Manager for HICO, David has a unique industry perspective from both sides of the herd improvement industry fence. From his first sales role, David has continuously developed his commercial and business skills with the support of informal mentoring. His own personal motto “every day’s a school day”, reflects his belief that developing the skills to learn, adapt and take on new skills is key to getting ahead in the industry. Having trodden an established career path, David’s motivation in being a mentor is to assist people in avoiding career pitfalls and encouraging them to gain a real understanding of how on farm challenges can impact artificial insemination and breeding program decisions.



Ken Lenehan

Nu-Genes Maffra  

Eighteen years as a dairy farmer prior to moving into the herd improvement side of the industry has provided Ken with a real understanding of the workload and pressures farmers operate under and how best to work with them to achieve their herd improvement goals. Working his way up from an AI technician to manager of Nu-Genes Maffra, Ken’s wide-ranging experience encompasses everything from AI, pregnancy testing and reproduction programs to people and staff management, developing and maintaining customer relationships and the commercial aspects of running a focused business unit. With his wealth of experience, Ken is keen to pass on his industry knowledge to help people at all levels of the industry develop their practical or business skills.

Sara Merckel


Sara can help you master key skills in:

  • Event Planning
  • Reporting Frameworks
  • Effective Meeting Planning
  • Mindset/Motivation
  • Collaboration


Creating development opportunities for herd improvement businesses through a focus on the people behind these organisations has been a hallmark of Sara’s career to date. A keen observer of human nature, as CEO of the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia, she applies her astute business management and problem-solving expertise across the full spectrum of industry issues. A firm believer in tackling tasks head on and the importance of clarity of purpose, Sara’s belief and passion for an accessible mentoring program is grounded in her own experience of how crucial the support of others is in personal development and achieving career success.


Mike Rose

Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) / NHIA  

Mike can help you master key skills in:

  • General Business Management
  • People Management Skills
  • Networking
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Dairy Genetics Knowledge
  • Listening and Logical thinking

LIC Business Development Manager Mike Rose has worked primarily in herd improvement management, sales and marketing roles, as well as owning and operating a number of small businesses within and outside of other agricultural sectors over the last 20 years. His areas of expertise include genetics, marketing and business management and he has an extensive domestic and international network having worked in New Zealand, the UK and Australia. Clear communication, honesty, trust and sense of purpose are key drivers for Mike, and he believes in the importance of empowering people to take work and personal opportunities when they arise. As a mentor, Mike is able to listen, problem solve and think laterally, using his considerable industry experience to help individuals grow and develop within the herd improvement space.

Adam Sawell

NHIA and Holstein Australia  

Adam has owned and been part owner of public relations, marketing and business consultancy businesses in the UK and Australia. He has advised and worked with commercial enterprises, state and federal government departments, with not-for-profits and social enterprises. Since 2016 his focus has been the dairy and herd improvement sectors working with breed associations, genetics businesses and industry peak bodies. His motivation in being a mentor is a passion for sharing knowledge, learning something new and inspiring people to be the best they can be personally and professionally.


Penny Welch

Total Livestock Genetics / Genetics Australia  

Penny can help you master key skills in:

  • Experience in Dairy 
  • Live Export 
  • Administration
  • Excellent Listener
  • Accepting and Motivating
  • Brainstorming


As a city kid in regional Victoria, Penny’s passion for herd improvement was ignited working on a dairy farm part-time while still as school. With a qualification in rural production, she has specialised in roles supporting the export of Australian dairy and beef genetics and managing animal husbandry programs. Penny credits her own mentors with helping build belief in her own abilities and creating personal and career development opportunities. In what can be a complex industry, she believes a focus on continuing personal and professional development, learning how to work with different kinds of people and the ability to take a ‘big picture’ view are key areas where she can assist young people, particularly women, as they set out on their herd improvement career.