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Producer case studies

Lachie Wilson and Simon Falkiner ‘Murdeduke Agriculture’ Winchelsea VIC

For beef cattle breeding operation Murdeduke, operating on close proximity to a high density urban population means running the business in a manner that is sensitive to its impacts and building a circular business that makes the most of all its resources and by-products.

Murdeduke Agriculture is a seedstock-stud Angus cattle, prime lamb and cropping operation, owned by the Wilson family located at Winchelsea in south west Victoria.

As stud cattle manager Simon Falkiner and owner Lachie Wilson explain, their focus within the business on improving the sustainability and performance of each enterprise; building a circular business that makes the most of the by-products of each enterprise and in harmony with the environment, has not been without its challenges, but is definitively paying off.

Christophe and Sylvie Bur, ‘Zeebra Plains’ Maryborough QLD

Five years ago, Christophe and Sylvie Bur started out on their sustainability journey and so began their investigations to become carbon neutral farmers, choosing the pathway set by the Emissions Reduction Fund, to pursue the potential business and income stream options available to them .

The Burs are first generation cattle producers in Australia, coming into the livestock industry from a totally different world as an engineer and management consultant in Paris. They are the first to admit that their operation Zeebra Plains is small scale, comprising of 100 head of breeders on a 750 hectare property outside Maryborough in the Mary Burnett region. So their priority was as much about ensuring their financial security as it was about building sustainability in perpetuity for their business.

As Christophe explains, they went in hard, starting with the development of a carbon account for their farm, investigating the various carbon abatement practice change methods they could build into their business, investigating the available greenhouse gas methodologies and accounting tools, before deciding on which methods made the most financial and sustainable sense to their circumstances.

Lynley Anderson ‘Anderson Rams’ Kojonup WA

Western Australian sheep breeder and lamb producer Lynley Anderson focuses on breeding a plain bodied and worm resistant sheep. She is committed to providing rams to her clients that are low maintenance, highly productive and meet the sustainability qualities that markets are increasingly commanding.

Lynley operates a mixed-sheep breeding, prime lamb and cropping operation outside Kojonup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Lynley is a third generation sheep breeder and their business, Anderson Rams, breeds from 5,500 ewes annually, and the enterprise includes 800 hectares of crops.

As Lynley explains, the family has a long-term commitment to breeding a sheep that does not require mulesing and is not only delivering solid all-round sustainability and productivity gains on-farm, but is also delivering a market premium for their stud stock.

Jessica Loughland ‘Greenham’ and Shane Harris ‘Harris Farms’ Dumbalk North, South Gippsland VIC

For Australian beef processor and branded beef business, Greenham, strong partnerships with producers are essential to meeting the animal welfare commitments set under their NEVER EVER (NE) Beef program, and to meeting the requirements of high-value customers, including those seeking to display a Certified Humane logo in the United States market.

More than 4,000 producers from across Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, and NSW are now accredited under the NEVER EVER Beef program, including Shane and Claire Harris and family, who own and operate ‘Harris Farms’, an Angus breeding and trade cattle and prime lamb operation, running 2,000 head of cattle, at Dumbalk North, south-east of Leongatha in Victoria’s South Gippsland. Developed in response to growing market demand for traceable, premium grassfed beef, the NE program includes a set of animal welfare requirements, including limiting the use of antibiotics, mandatory pain relief during animal husbandry procedures, adherence to specific age limits for marking practices, stringent record keeping, and participation in third party audits. Greenham is actively working to support industry’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 and is introducing an on-farm sustainability standard, which is aligned to the industry’s Australian Beef Sustainability Framework.

As Greenham’s Livestock Supply Chain Manager, Jessica Loughland explains that standing by your animal welfare and environmental stewardship claims demands a proactive and co-ordinated commitment across the value-chain.

Ivan Rogers ‘Kylagh Feedlot - Rogers Agri Group’ Tammin WA and Wayne Shaw ‘Harvest Road Group’ Perth WA

For WA beef cattle breeders and grain-fed beef producers, Ivan and Jill Rogers and family, a commitment to sustainability means a commitment to environmental, social and economic sustainability across their businesses and across their value chain from breeding to backgrounding to production through to processing and distribution.

Ivan and Jill and family are partners in the Rogers Agri Group, a diversified family agricultural group in Western Australia’s western wheatbelt, which includes a breeding unit, a crop and pasture production unit, Kylagh feedlot that services several grain-finishing programs and a new entity specifically focused on Wagyu beef production for the WA domestic market. The Rogers Agri Group works closely with WA processor, Harvest Road Group and their Chief Operating Officer-Processing and Livestock Procurement, Wayne Shawc, to meet their value chain supply demands and business commitments.

As Ivan explains by garnering commitment to sustainability across their businesses and the value chain, each player has been able to build their financial security, their climate and risk resilience and the inter-generational sustainability of their businesses.

Jon Wright, Coota Park Blue-E, Woodstock NSW

NSW Central Tableland’s beef cattle breeder and commercial producer, Jon Wright believes the beef cattle industry has a vital role to play in reducing its GHG emissions and improving carbon storage and being part of the climate solution.

 

Jon and his family operate a seed stock and commercial beef cattle operation, Blue-E Beef, outside Cowra on NSW Central Tablelands, compromising of 500+ cow composite herd - 50% Angus & 50% Shorthorn. Prior to moving back to the farm full-time Jon worked for many years as a beef husbandry and feed efficiency researcher at Trangie Research Station, so his research experience is deeply embedded in his focus on genetic selection for feed efficiency.  

 

The key tools that Jon is working with to reduce his impacts include focusing on feed efficiency in his genetic selection; grazing management to improve ground cover and support carbon sequestration; and utilizing feed additives to help reduce emissions.

Tim & Georgie Leeming, Paradoo Prime Pigeon Ponds Victoria

For Victorian prime lamb producers, Tim and Georgie Leeming, removing adverse animal husbandry practices and administering pain relief are huge priorities, deeply embedded in their personal beliefs and their business case.

The Leeming’s operate Paradoo Prime, a self-replacing prime lamb enterprise, comprising of 1,800 hectares and 9,500 head of ewes at Pigeon Ponds in south western Victoria.

At Paradoo Prime, lamb survival and lamb performance are the key profit drivers that inform all management decisions and business operations and as Tim explains they are quick to utilise every tool available to improve survival rates and deliver healthier and more robust lambs and higher overall productivity and profitability.

Mark Wootton & Eve Kantor ‘Jigsaw Farms’ Hamilton VIC

Western Victorian Merino wool, prime lamb and beef cattle producer, Mark Wootton’s belief that markets will reward livestock producers for their commitments to and practice change around animal wellbeing and carbon neutral farming, is starting to be realised.

Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor and their family own and operate Jigsaw Farms, a 3,500 hectare high input, high output livestock operation spanning 6 properties, north of Hamilton in western Victoria. The operation runs 25,000 Merino ewes, 620 head of cattle and the family have planted out 624 hectares to high value hardwood timber plantation.

As Mark explains the tools and practice change they have committed to and adopted have had to deliver multiple benefits and benefits across their business enterprises, to improve their productivity and sustainability, their climate resilience and financial bottom line.

Teys Australia – Condamine Feedlot QLD

As one of Australia’s largest meat-processors and exporters, Teys Australia recognised that to support the Australian red meat and livestock’s industry’s ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2030, their major emissions reductions would be achieved through a bold commitment to renewable energy. Their investment in a solar farm at the Condamine Feedlot has already offset fifty percent of their grid electricity needs and Scope Two emissions, and Teys plans to extend solar across its portfolio. 

 

Celebrating 75 years of operation this year, Teys Australia, is a global meat processing and food production business bringing the best of Aussie beef to the world. Teys now operates six beef processing facilities, three feedlots and three value add facilities, employing 4,700 people and supporting more than 13,000 jobs in regional and rural communities. To champion Aussie beef both at home and abroad, Teys partners with 7,000 producers and exports to over 60 countries around the world.  

 

As Carl Duncan, Group Manager Resource Efficiency & Sustainability explains sustainability is embedded in the company’s strategy with renewable energy providing Teys the opportunity to support the beef industry’s carbon neutrality and sustainability goals.

Adam & Jacynta Coffey - Miriam Vale QLD

First generation Central Queensland cattle producers, Adam and Jacynta Coffey run a pretty tight bar over every decision they make, it has to make a positive return and it has to increase their productivity and profitability, because that don’t have the capital reserves to fall back on.

The Coffey’s bought into the industry five years, purchasing a two and a half thousand hectare failed hardwood timber plantation, in relatively marginal country, outside Miriam Vale in Central Queensland and set about transforming it into a grazing property amidst three tough years of extreme drought.

And what the Coffey’s have demonstrated it that profit and productivity go hand in hand with ecological outcomes, that focusing on boosting organic matter and soil carbon is key to improving both productivity and ecology and that synchronising stocking rates with pasture density and rest periods has significantly improved their productivity and drought resilience.

Mick & Nola Alexander ‘Bindaree’ Garnant QLD

MLA’s new sustainability producer-led videos capture the innovation, tools and practice change producers are applying to their businesses to improve their profitability and sustainability. They are designed to support other producers wanting to make progress around sustainability and to highlight to consumers the commitment our industry has to the land, livestock and livelihoods.

For Central Queensland cattle producer Mick Alexander, the dung beetle is proving to be the linchpin in his grazing management regime. By activating the flow of nutrients, carbon and water into his soils it is radically improving both pasture rehabilitation and livestock production performance.

Mick and his wife Nola and two boys run a beef cattle grazing operation in the Fitzroy Basin in Central Queensland, running around 800 head of cattle annually in a paddock to plate operation.

As Mick explains, it was the attention to soil health and addressing soil nutrient deficiencies, coupled with the humble dung beetle and a shift to rotational grazing and flexible stocking rates that was pivotal to improving his cattle condition score, liveweight gain and drought resilience.

This is the eighth in a series being compiled by MLA, for which there is a short version for our consumer audience and a long version for our producer audience.

The short form videos feature on the Australian Good Meat website and via SM channels and are an important part of MLA’s Red Meat positioning work, designed for consumers and community, sharing the stories of sustainability and provenance of Australian red meat, with messaging reflecting how producers care for their animals, their land and the environment and are part of the climate solution.

The long form videos have an adoption focus and will be shared through MLA’s producer-facing channels and capture the tools and practice change that producers are implementing in their business around animal husbandry and welfare, natural capital, biodiversity and drought resilience, and carbon emissions and sequestration. This includes lessons learnt and results, helping support other producers who are wanting to make progress. These will be released through the MLA website and SM channels

Erica and Stuart Halliday ‘Ben Nevis’ Angus Stud Walcha NSW

For 5th generation beef cattle breeders, Erica and Stuart Halliday, it was the devastating drought and the depletion of their property’s topsoil that was the catalyst to switch their grazing management regime.

With the support of their agronomist, the Hallidays have switched across to no-till, multispecies annual and future perennial plantings and rotational grazing. And the results have been dramatic and include a significant improvement in the nutrient, organic matter and microbe load in their topsoils, a dramatic reduction in input costs and significant improvements in weight gain and reduction in metabolic and husbandry issues in their cattle.

The Hallidays believe that by switching their grazing management regime they are building their business to be more drought resilient and through multispecies plantings and a change in grazing management, they are managing their cattle to sequester carbon and will be on track to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Stuart Austin and Trisha Cowley – Wilmot Cattle Co, Ebor NSW

For Wilmot Cattle Co, it was a shift in grazing management philosophy that was instrumental to turning the beef production business around to becoming a more productive and financially resilient business and as a consequence has radically improved the ecological health of their soil.

As Manager, Stuart Austin explains Wilmot Cattle Co is first and foremost a beef production business with animal performance their driving metric, but by shifting their thinking on grazing management to work in harmony with nature, the business has reduced its stocking rate but increased turn-over and increased overall profits, and grown to become more ecologically and financially resilient.

And by utilising the best science and technology currently available and measuring all activities and actions, data has become a powerful decision making tool to track their performance and progress and respond according to changes in markets and seasons.

Melinee & Rob Leather ‘Barfield Station’ Banana Qld

Central Queensland grassfed beef cattle producers, Melinee and Rob Leather are unashamedly opportunistic in chasing the best available science and technology; and monitoring their performance through benchmarking and data to capitalise on market opportunities and ensure the practices they undertake are continuously improving their bottom line.

The Leather’s run three cattle properties in central Queensland spanning over 17,000 hectares and run around four and a half thousand head of beef cattle.

By investing in key programs and tools such as Breedplan, leucaena forage crops, best animal welfare practices and pain relief, ground cover satellite mapping, solar energy and water pumps, the Leather’s are pushing their herds productivity to the limits, improving their environmental footprint and preparing their business to become more drought and climate resilient.

Barb Madden and Jason and Andrew Shearer-Smith - Smithfield Cattle Co

For Smithfield Cattle Co’s partners, Barb Madden and Jason and Andrew Shearer-Smith, their clear business strategy was ensuring business profitability continued to grow to allow subsequent generations the opportunity to join the business and this required careful strategic planning around their expansion decisions along with a commitment to optimising cattle performance and providing superior customer service.

The partnership has grown and evolved over four generations and close to 100 years and is now focused on grain feeding cattle, operating two feedlots, Smithfield Feedlot outside Proston in the Southern Burnett and Sapphire Feedlot outside Goondiwindi on the Darling Downs, collectively custom grain feeding cattle from 100 up to 500 days and at a total capacity of 40,000 head. As

Andrew, Jason and Barb explain optimising cattle performance has required a commitment to operational excellence in the quality, nutrition and conversion efficiency of their feed rations; best practice animal husbandry and welfare which is infused in the culture of the business and the responsibilities of all staff; and major investments into state of the art technology and renewable solar energy.

Darren & Melanie Hamblin ‘Strathdale Wagyus’ Sarina Qld

As a cattle breeder, Darren Hamblin’s commitment to commercial producers is to breed an animal that delivers good fertility and reproductive capacity, good meat eating quality for consumers and sustainability traits including the polled trait and feed efficiency because he knows these traits will become increasingly important to both producers and consumers.

Central Queensland cattle breeders, Darren and Melanie Hamblin, breed Waygu cattle, running around 6,000 head across their three properties in Central Queensland and on the Darling Downs. The Hamblin’s shift into Wagyu’s was driven initially by fertility concerns, but the clear and resounding advantage has been the superior carcase and meat eating quality traits of the breed. The traits they are now chasing include the polled gene, fineness and distribution of marbling and Net Feed Intake because Darren believes the market will in the future financially reward these traits and as a breeder supplying commercial cattle producers he wants the industry to be ready to capitalise when that opportunity arrives.

Darren Hamblin has been a long-term user of BREEDPLAN but has moved into genomic testing and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNPs). SNPs provide Darren with the DNA markers that when linked with sufficient historical performance data increases the accuracy of his selection decisions. The production and carcase data he has collected over many years has been valuable in tracking historical trends and progress but when combined with SNPs become extremely powerful predictors of future selection outcomes. And it is that attention to capturing data to support his selection decisions, that has enabled Darren as a cattle breeder to breed an animal with superior eating quality and sustainability attributes and a significantly more valuable carcase.

David and Melissa Greig ‘ Bellevue Rural Enterprises’ Tottenham NSW

Tottenham sheep producer, David Greig faced the double challenge of lamb survival and lamb production in an environment, marked by tight climatic times and unreliable rainfall, with the need for a resilient and robust style of sheep that required little hands-on management.

David and his wife Melissa and two daughters, operate a mixed farming – winter cropping and merino sheep enterprise outside Tottenham in the central west of NSW. Their main enterprise is selling ewes, both first-cross ewes to prime lamb producers and merino ewes to first-cross ewe and wool producers.

As David explains a deliberate decision to introduce more robust, plainer bodied merinos through the use of Australian Sheep Breeding Values, coupled with learnings acquired through AWI’s Lifetime Ewe Management program, which taught him the importance of matching animal nutrition and condition scores with reproductive cycle; have been pivotal to addressing lamb survival with lambing percentages now double what they were eight years ago.