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Western Australia 2020

The Western Australia Livestock Advisor Updates workshop was held in Perth on 28 October 2020. Presentation details ad recordings are available below.

1. Avoid magic, opt for science – Ian McLean, Bush Agribusiness

Ian is the Managing Director of Bush Agribusiness, a professional service firm providing independent analysis and trusted insights to pastoral businesses across northern and regional Australia.

Ian’s special interest is understanding and improving pastoral business performance, from family-owned through to corporate scale. Ian holds a Master of Business Administration and is accredited as a Chartered Agriculturist by the Ag Institute of Australia.

Agriculture is a complex, multi-disciplinary field, with proficient producers and advisors needing skills in people management, business, finance, agronomy, nutrition and genetics, to name a few. Having a working knowledge of these areas is a difficult task, although knowing what you don’t know is perhaps most important. On top of this, you need to stay on top of research that adds to your knowledge.

Arguably the most important disciplines are science and economics. In Ian’s opinion, the application of science in agriculture is the regimented application of critical thinking; asking why and how, and looking for evidence and demonstrated repeatability. Economics has many facets but is essentially about ensuring the incremental benefits exceed the incremental costs.

Add in the vagaries of seasons, prices and pandemics and there is a lot for informed producers and advisors to be on top of. This is why some of the systems that offer simple solutions are gaining popularity. ‘Simply apply this process and you will be profitable and in harmony with nature’ is a compelling argument and more appealing to some than being a multi-disciplinarian.

Ian explains that there may be merit in these approaches, however these merits must be supported by a scientific explanation, and the benefits must exceed the costs. Science and economics should not be dismissed in the pursuit of improving agriculture, they should underpin it. Nor should conventional agriculture be portrayed as archaic and unsustainable; as a whole it is neither, even if elements of it are.

For most agricultural businesses, understanding and having an unrelenting focus on the fundamentals of their production system offers the most potential gains.

2. Pain relief in sheep and cattle – what should be used when! – Professor Bruce Allworth, Charles Sturt University

Bruce is currently a professor in Livestock Systems and Director of the Fred Morley Centre at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW. Bruce is a veterinarian who operated a sheep and cattle consultancy business for over 20 years before joining CSU. Bruce is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, a diplomat of the European College of Small Ruminant Health Management and a Registered Sheep Specialist. Bruce’s area of expertise is in disease management and prevention. Bruce also operates his family sheep and cattle enterprise at Holbrook, NSW.

Given the increasing scrutiny of animal husbandry practices, the need to demonstrate best practice, and the opportunity to promote products from animals where pain relief has been used or painful procedures avoided, having a sound knowledge of the products and best practice management is essential.

A range of pain relief products are available for use in routine husbandry practices in sheep and cattle enterprises. This presentation will outline the specific uses of each product, and look at the way pain relief products can be best incorporated into sheep and cattle husbandry practices – specifically their use in mulesing and marking  for sheep, and marking of calves – as well as the cost:benefit of the products.  Alternative practices will be discussed.

3. Have your clients got the right animals for their system? – Caris Jones, MLA

Caris Jones is the Project Manager for Livestock Genetics at MLA. Based in Holt Rock, Caris manages the governing committees around the genetics program, as well as managing the R&D investments that are recommended by the National Livestock Genetics Committee. This is all done with the main aim of helping improve the rate of genetic progress the red meat industry can make.

What better way to prepare for a tough season than by making sure your client is building permanent improvements into their livestock business? Tools to help your clients breed more resilient and productive animals are available. Through producer examples and case studies, this presentation will demonstrate the tools available, how to use them and how to help your clients get them most value out of them.

4. Using the MSA index to make informed business decisions – Rafael Ramirez, The Meat Specialist

As a consultant to the meat industry, Meat Specialist, Rafael Ramirez has spent over 30 years working in all facets of the industry, both in Australia and international markets. A qualified butcher, Rafael also spent a number of years as Meat & Livestock Australia’s Business Development Manager for Western Australia.  He currently contracts to Meat Standards Australia (MSA), developing business and relationships with key stakeholders in WA. His knowledge and skills also include training and event presenting, marketing and brand development, overseeing cold chain management processes and commercial performance.

Meat Standards Australia (MSA) was developed by the Australian red meat industry to improve the eating quality consistency of beef and sheepmeat. The MSA system is considered the global leader in carcase grading and eating quality standards.

MSA considers all factors that affect eating quality from paddock to plate. Accredited graders collate information from the producer, supervise processing standards and collect individual carcase attributes using a uniform set of standards. Grading results are allocated to an individual carcase with an eating quality outcome predicted for individual cuts, in combination with days of ageing required and recommended cooking methods.

Producers can access MSA feedback for individual carcase traits including carcase weight, rib fat, MSA marble score, ossification score, HGP status, hump height and sex. However, it is difficult to assess the importance of these individual traits and the impact of breeding and genetics, or management decisions, on the eating quality of the carcase. Bringing these factors together, the MSA Index supports producers to make decisions and evaluate business changes in relation to carcase performance. MSA also provides a suite of reporting and benchmarking tools that enable producers to analyse and compare their cattle’s performance against other producers in their region, state or across the country.

This session aims to provide advisors with the skills and knowledge to support their clients when accessing and using carcase data and tools, to make informed and profitable business decisions.