April 2015

Quality Assurance programs underpin viability of Industry

17 Apr 2015

Undoubtedly, the most talked about issue in the cattle industry after the weather is the price of cattle. Most discussions then focus on speculation about the future direction of both. For cattle producers in this country those two simple issues are the most critical to their long term viability, and they are the issues they have least control over.

The majority of our producers use a range of strategies to try to manage the wide variability in weather conditions, with varying success, but no-one can prepare for and come through prolonged drought unscathed. Of all our Natural Disasters, I have always believed that drought is the worst. It is like a cancer. It begins quietly and spreads and intensifies and before long , it has become unmanageable, and the tragedy is that none of our political parties even accept that drought is a natural disaster anymore. To me that is inexcusable.

Of course, one of the flow on effects of widespread severe drought is supply of cattle which allows our limited number of processors to manipulate the price. Because producers are the first link in the chain that ultimately supplies beef products to consumers in this country and around the world, there is no option for them to pass on a reduction in returns. Feedlots and live export have provided some completion, but again they dictate terms.

During my more than 40 years involvement in the industry, as a producer directly, and for some time as a representative for the industry, possibly one of the biggest advances has been in the quality and integrity of the end product. About 25 years ago the first steps towards guaranteeing the standard of our animal husbandry and eating quality were taken. The tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication programs were undertaken and achieved. The clean green image of Australian meat has grown from those times.

I support the timely review and possible restructure of the Cattle Council and Meat and Livestock Australia. The operating environment for both has changed significantly over time. Complacency tends to creep in. However, I don’t believe that all the protagonists in the debate are sincere about the outcome they are seeking. Our reputation as a consistent supplier of high quality product depends to a large degree on the result of the Minister’s decision, and the commitment of those involved afterwards. Any attempt to dilute the effectiveness of our assurance programs will only put at risk our hard won international reputation.

Governments at all levels continue to impact our industry through regulation and red tape. Further controls being foreshadowed by this new State government during and following the election could create havoc for producers already on their knees because of the severe drought and after effects of the loss of the live export market to Indonesia. The new Minister for Primary Industries has already said he does not support export of live cattle through Port Alma. Another avenue to increase completion for cattle is gone if he cannot be convinced to maintain an open mind. Previous Ministers representing the Mining Industry have always supported their industry. Why cannot the Minister for Primary Industry be a positive advocate for once?

Attempting to summarise these points. There seems to be common agreement that the market outlook for the cattle and beef industry is extremely positive. The challenge is for the producer sector to be in a position to take advantage of that situation. Those in severe drought need supporting in a practical and realistic manner. Any avenues to increase competition should be sought after and adopted. And we must at all costs maintain and increase the integrity of the industry through improved and expanded grading systems and quality assurance programs. The impact of any loss of our reputation as a clean green producer of high quality product will only further reduce returns to already struggling families.

In Other News

Suite Annie

Larry’s pride and joy, his race mare, Suite Annie was recently sold to one of the leading thoroughbred racing studs in New South Wales. She won four races for the Actons in Rockhampton, Gladstone and Emerald, but her breeding meant that she was more valuable as a brood mare. She was a half sister to one of Queensland’s best sprinting horses of the last three years, called Buffering.

The 2014 National Feature Show for the Braford breed was held at Theodore. Larry took down seven head of heifers for the prime cattle section, and won the Pen of Three Milk Tooth Heifers Class and came second in the Single Milk Tooth Heifer Class out of 14 mixed breed nominations.