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:


Ruth Barber

Total Livestock Genetics / Genetics Australia  

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.


Cathy Bourke


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 Joy 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


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  

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  

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.