MLA seminars draw the crowd at Beef Australia 2018

11 May 2018

Lisa Sharp

How MLA is helping drive productivity and profitability in the Australian beef industry both domestically and globally was the focus of MLA seminars during Beef Australia 2018.

Some 200 beef producers and industry stakeholders attended MLA’s Global Markets Forum where MLA’s team of International Business Managers (IMB) provided detailed insights into   international markets.

MLA General Manager – International Markets Michael Finucan spoke about the challenges and opportunities for Australian beef globally, and MLA’s global markets strategy.

He cited growing competition from South America, India and the United States as a threat, while other challenges included protectionism, particularly in the US, market access and changing consumer demands.

“South American and Indian product continues to get better market access and continues to enter our key markets, particularly in South East Asia," Michael said.

"We have to continue to watch our competitors – they’re getting better at what they do and getting better at telling their stories.

“In the US, our traditional competitor, production is significantly increasing. We’re expecting to see more beef come out of the US and that product typically hits two of our most important markets: Japan and Korea.”

On the upside

However, according to Michael, there remains opportunity in the marketplace.

“Australia has had some great success in recent free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China, and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. These agreements give us significant advantages in a number of markets over our competitors," he said.

“The US economy is tracking well, and that’s a good thing for us, because the stronger the US economy, the more money people have in their pockets to buy and eat their own beef. But it also means they’ll need some more Australian beef.”

Michael said the growing middle class in Asia presented great opportunities, with the number of households in the south-east earning more than US$35,000 expected to double in the next four to five years, hopefully increasing demand for imported beef.

From research to reality

MLA’s ‘Fostering beef’s prosperity: fork to farm’ seminar also attracted a full house, with attendees keen to hear from ‘best in their field’ speakers on innovation and marketing insights.

MLA Project Manager – Animal Health, Welfare and Biosecurity, Dr Johann Schröder, discussed MLA’s investment to tackle the biggest impost to profitable beef production in the northern beef herd – parasites, including cattle tick and buffalo fly.

“These parasites in combination were estimated in 2015 to cost northern beef industry $330 million,” he said.

Johann said microbes - germs, viruses and bacteria - such as pestivirus, three-day sickness, botulism and vibriosis, had a combined cost of $150 million to the northern beef industry in 2015.

Getting into genetics

MLA General Manager, Producer Consultation and Adoption, Michael Crowley, outlined progress on the National Livestock Genetics Consortium (NLGC) and a vision for the red meat value chain of 2025.

Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) Technical Director Dr Andrew Crombie discussed the genetic and productivity gains achieved by the Irish cattle industry through the establishment of a central data platform for all cattle breeds.

ICBF services 100,000 Irish cattle producers, with the central data platform producing terminal and replacement indexes.

The terminal index is the genetic merit rating  to describe an animal's genetic ability to be finished, as an indicator of productivity and profitability.

The replacement index comprises traits including fertility, meat, feed intake, milk, calving data and docility.

“Our terminal index has increased over the past 15 years, by 70 Euros per animal slaughtered, or 580 million Euros in total to our cattle farmers,” Andrew said.

He said among the many other benefits from the central data platform was the ability to run large-scale beef genomics programs, attracting significant investment from government and stakeholders.

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