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MLA Supply Chain Management Communication Strategy and BeefNet Final Report

BeefNet was a major catalyst for the amalgamation of almost two thousand cattle producers into 73 local and regional beef marketing groups throughout Australia to pursue supply chain initiatives under a national R&D program managed by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA). Many of these groups have been successful in establishing horizontal and vertical supply alliances with partners in the supply chain. It is estimated that as many as 265,000 cattle were slaughtered annually under the various banners of BeefNet groups, of which some trialed and adopted MLA-developed management systems designed to improve eating quality of beef and quality assurance for consumers.

Advanced producer alliance groups also provided the beef industry with commercial entities by which it could attempt to pilot R&D technologies including Meat Standards Australia (MSA), VIAscan and integrated product feedback systems. BeefNet indirectly and directly assisted alliance groups with the commercial development of various branded beef products targeted at both the domestic and export market. BeefNet groups pursued and succeeded in the establishment of nine recognised retail beef brands and a minimum of four wholesale brands at 30 June 2002, the completion of the five-year R&D program. Twenty-six producer groups were confirmed to be still fully operational at 30 June 2002. A further 12 groups were partially operational, and 14 groups had maintained a strong communication network between members, even though they were no longer recording sales through a formal group structure.

Attitudinal research from program participants confirmed BeefNet had achieved its overall mission of: providing a self-help support network for beef marketing groups to improve viability by fostering commercial developments through consistent delivery of quality assured product. BeefNet contributed to significant cultural change within the beef industry and has played an important role in building stronger supply chain networks throughout the Australian meat industry. BeefNet groups had considerable impact on the continuity of supply to their alliance partners, the eating quality of beef and, to a lesser extent, the safety of the beef they produce. Involvement in alliance groups aiming to develop large scale, long-term commercial objectives assisted many producers to develop the extra skills necessary to be consistently competitive in the market place, strengthening both individual businesses and beef brands created by alliances.

Fifty-eight percent of producers surveyed acknowledged that they had modified on-farm management of their beef enterprise as a direct result of their involvement in BeefNet by:   

  • Altering breeding patterns and cattle turn-off times to meet supply demands of specific markets and end-users  

  • Reviewing the carrying capacity of their property and modified cattle feeding regimes in the attempt to increase compliance with market specifications 

  • Embracing on-farm quality assurance in response to market signals from customers seeking best practice for eating quality and food safety

Other farm management practices adopted by BeefNet participants included profit comparative analyses (benchmarking), grazing management (Prograze), individual animal identification (NLIS) and elements of EDGEnetwork. BeefNet Beef Product Knowledge workshops. The educational benefit of BeefNet to producers was tremendous. Unsolicited producer feedback identified the self-help network, BeefNet Handbook and the annual BeefNet Conference as the most valued information sources.

Survey respondents attributed the following learning outcomes to participation in BeefNet group and/or supply alliance:

  • 88% gained a greater understanding of beef marketing  

  • 86% reported a greater understanding of market specifications

  • 82% increased networking with other beef producers

  • 69% enhanced their capability to meet market specifications

  • 65% felt they had greater control over their beef enterprise   

  • 57% recorded greater price stability on cattle sold Cattle producers participating in BeefNet achieved their personal objectives set at the commencement of the program.

Following are these objectives and the respective rate of achievement by survey respondents:  

  • 100% gained information on supply chains   

  • 84% received more consistent carcase feedback  

  • 89% increased networking with other producers   

  • 85% developed marketing objectives

  • 66% stabilised and secured cattle sales  

  • 60% created avenues for higher returns

Many respondents found it difficult to quantify any direct financial return on MLA levy investment in the program, but they had received significant social and managerial benefit. In terms of the return on MLA levies invested, 63% of producers surveyed valued the managerial benefit as six and higher out of 10, and 66% valued the social benefit as seven and higher out of 10. Commitment from members, sound group dynamics, internal communications and a strong, transparent relationship with a supply chain partner(s) that benefits all stakeholders were confirmed as keys to success.

These factors, coupled with the hard work and commitment of several individuals within a group, can result in a very successful producer alliance group. Attitudinal research from processors confirmed supply chain alliances are useful tools for abattoir operators to secure continuity of supply of suitable, quality cattle. Processors surveyed confirmed that a regular and reliable supply of a particular cattle consignment enabled them to pursue new markets and customers with confidence. Processor opinion of producer supply alliances was mostly positive. All processors that had been dealing with a producer alliance group confirmed new sales and marketing opportunities with customers had been created as a direct result of the alliance. All processors acknowledged supply chain alliances were important to the beef industry. Some, however, believed that producer supply groups often expected too much from the alliance, financial reward in particular, and guarantee of supply from the group was also critical to the success of a brand.

BeefNet was a valuable program which achieved most of the objectives originally set for it and delivered additional benefits outside these objectives. The report makes recommendations concerning program management and research and development issues for consideration by MLA in future programs of a similar nature.

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This page was last updated on 11/11/2014

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