Mike Stephens receives 2023 Howard Yelland Award

Sheep Central, May 24, 2023

The founder and director of Meridian Agriculture, Dr Stephens was saluted for his outstanding contribution to the livestock industry “above and beyond” his normal role.

ABIF president John Gunthorpe presents the 2023 Howard Yelland award to Mike Stephens. Click on image to enlarge

Both through his own consultancy business and his 15-year term as chief executive of the Beef Improvement Association of Australia – an influential agribusiness management improvement network popular across Australia from the 1980s – Dr Stephens supported and encouraged hundreds of people with a passion and vision for rural Australia to step-up, have a go, and take a role as a leader in their own right.

Under his stewardship, the BIAA gained a great deal of authority and respect as a leading provider of independent production and marketing information across the nation.

Working across a broad spectrum of industries and organisations, Dr Stephens was able to identify good ideas and adapt them for the use and benefit of other primary industries.

“Mike Stephens is well known for his work in rural areas across Australia,” Lower Gippsland farmer Jenny O’Sullivan, Malabar Farm, Tarwin Lower, said in her nomination of Dr Stephens for the award.

“Mike is an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution to Australian agriculture and especially the beef industry and throughout his life has acted as a mentor and inspiration for many others,” she said.

“Much of Mike’s work has been focussed on helping people in agriculture achieve their goals, and develop their skills. I’m sure he is responsible for saving many rural businesses through his work in communication, his support and training in farm business management, and helping farmers determine what is really important in planning their future.”

“Mike is a man who has always had a big vision for rural Australia who has empathy and respect for Australian farmers. He has understood the many problems facing farmers and ‘the bush’, and puts them front and centre as issues to be addressed and challenges to be conquered,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

In presenting the award, Sam Inglis from Marcus Oldham College said as a change agent within the livestock industry, Dr Stephens had been involved in the skills and leadership training of Indigenous youth through the National Indigenous Pastoral Enterprise, which then managed up to 100,000 head of cattle across northern Australia.

As deputy chair of the organisation, Mike took a strong interest in the training of the next generation of indigenous stockmen and managers.

“Not only was Mike involved in leadership and training of indigenous youth but the reason you are sitting in this room tonight is because Mike assisted his colleagues to establish MORLP in 1992 – Mike was involved in the development of MORLP and was a facilitator until 2019.  The ongoing program is a tribute to the vision and commitment to developing leaders within the agricultural industry,” Mr Inglis said.

Chairman of the Australian beef Industry Foundation John Gunthorpe said Dr Stephens’ outstanding service to many fields of agriculture and his continuing support for individuals needing guidance within agriculture entitled him to this recognition.

“We acknowledge his dedication and service and wish him every future success,” Mr Gunthorpe said.


Beef Central publishers James Nason and Jon Condon are former recipients of the Howard Yelland award, bestowed in 2019.


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  1. Paul Sowter, August 21, 2023

    As a young bloke starting out, a Jackaroo, I was employed by Mike. I dare not think how many years ago that was. He was and is an encourager, clear thinker, innovator and inclined to back his judgement. A more worthy recipient of this trophy you would be hard pressed to find. Well done Mike.

  2. Bill Bruce, May 25, 2023

    Well done Mike, but no mention of his bush poetry, move over Banjo.

  3. Ross Waller, May 25, 2023

    Mike Stephens, now there is a good man. I had quite s few phone calls years ago with Mike, mostly about employment opportunities and directions for young starters in the ag Industry. He is just a great thinker. A well-deserved award, Congratulations Mike, so appreciated.

  4. Kevin Bell, May 24, 2023

    Well deserved Mike, a major contribution to Australian sheep and cattle businesses.

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