Push to get livestock into farming mix

29 Feb, 2016 01:00 AM

WAFARMERS' new Livestock Council should engage with younger grain growers to encourage them to have livestock in their enterprise mix.

That's the view of the new Livestock Council president and Esperance grain grower and wool, sheep and cattle producer John Wallace.

"Probably the biggest challenge I see for the livestock industry in WA is land usage competition," Mr Wallace told last week's first Livestock Council session at the WAFarmers' annual conference.

"Whether we like it or not, we're competing with the grain industry in land usage," he said.

"Livestock have an integral part in the farming system, even if you are a through-and-through grain producer there's probably a certain proportion of your arable land which is pulling down your average return.

"Now, maybe we need to look at integrating livestock and grain enterprises as a system - look at putting livestock into those particular areas where you grid out (grain).

"A lot of people are just growing grain, they've simplified things.

"The livestock industry probably needs to think about how do we integrate livestock into a large-scale grain property in areas that are non-arable, whether it is along creek lines or whatever," he said.

Mr Wallace said "free kicks" from combining grain and livestock were the stubbles, as feed for stock, plus the benefit of livestock as part of an integrated weed management program.

Spreading risk exposure across enterprises was another benefit.

"There's some pretty exciting stuff happening out there," Mr Wallace said, in relation to livestock.

"Chaff cutting and chaff carts are a wonderful tool.

"Certainly in my sheep enterprise it has basically eliminated my hand feeding of ewes.

"Another of the things I've been involved in as a grain grower is using some crops for the autumn feed gap, so you get another free kick out of the grains industry.

"You can grow some biomass off your crops without hurting your final yield at the end, there's lots of ways of doing it.

"Done right, you can make livestock figures stack up with cropping.

"But it's not a whole-farm enterprise, it stacks up in those particular areas where integrating livestock into the farm system adds advantage.

"We need to probably work on, or think about, how we engage the younger producers to think about livestock as part of a whole farming system," he said.

Mr Wallace welcomed the merging of WAFarmers' wool and meat councils into the new Livestock Council.

"Beef and sheep with wool and meat, they are all as important as one another," he said and used his own farm enterprises as an example.

He and his brother Stewart farm 6000 hectares north-east of Esperance with about 80 per cent cropping and 20pc livestock.

A self-replacing Merino flock of about 4600 ewes is part of a 10,000-sheep wool and meat enterprise and they also run 500 Black Angus cattle.

Mr Wallace was president of the former meat council.

His new Livestock Council senior vice president David Slade, Mount Barker, and vice president Steve McGuire, Kojonup, also held those positions on the former meat council.

There were no nominations from the wool council.

Mr Wallace said a system was being "worked out" to ensure the expertise on the former wool council was retained.

Earlier at the conference, Harvey Beef general manager Wayne Shaw outlined new technology and operating efficiencies being introduced at its processing plant.

The biggest remaining bottleneck in the processing system was "a lack of cattle", Mr Shaw said.

He said WA's largest fully-automated plate freezer, capable of freezing 4500 cartons of meat a day, was being completed and would go live soon and a new freezer store was recently opened.

The new freezers gave Harvey Beef sufficient chilled holding capacity to store all product processed on site for the first time, Mr Shaw said.

He said a new retail packaging facility would be running by the end of May.

Harvey Beef was responding to its supermarket clients' demands for pre-packed beef and lamb cuts ready for retail display, he said.

Mr Shaw hinted meat requirements of the coming Aldi supermarket chain where one of the main drivers behind Harvey Beef introducing retail packaging as part of its processing options.

Mal Gill

Mal Gill

is wool and dairy writer for Farm Weekly


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