BEEF industry leaders gave South West beef producers an insight into the marketing opportunities on the horizon when they gathered at Bonnydale Simmental farms, Bridgetown, last Friday.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) director Erin Gorter, Butterfield Beef and Daniels Well Feedlot owner and director Paul O'Meehan, Steve Meerwald, WA Live exporters Association and Western Meat Packers chief executive officer Andrew Fuda discussed what the industry might look like in six months time and beyond.
Elders South West WA area manager Simon Wilkinson said the day was about bringing producers together to discuss the entire supply chain, markets, the domestic, export, live export and feedlot sectors.
"We are at the pointy end where it is all about to happen," Mr Wilkinson said.
"The take home message was it is all about communication."
He expected only 40 growers and was impressed with the response from 100 growers and 25 industry representatives.
Mr Wilkinson said the industry was looking strong.
"We have come so far already," he said.
"We had a fantastic season and the different areas all sounded positive."
Mr Fuda said though the United States had reduced imports of Australian boxed beef product it hadn't crippled WA business.
Alternative and niche markets had opened for Western Meat Packers, which were useful.
As cow and bull numbers decrease, traditional markets were getting hard to get, Mr Fuda said.
"Things are getting better, but our spring time was getting pushed back and getting delayed to what we are used to.
"We are a smaller processor, when you look at the world, but we try to find our place and that is in niche markets, with air freights into Singapore.
"Japan and Vietnam are our major imports so we are focusing on that.
"A lot of the big players can't do some of the things we do or supply those little niche products - so it works well for us and we will continue to do that."
In the domestic market, its new retail-ready facility in Bibra Lake processes 180,000 kilograms per week into a range of products through its Coles agreement.
Mr Fuda hopes to increase that to 370,000kg a week within the next 24 months.
He said the $13 million investment had paid off.
"It is a great facility, it does mince, hamburgers, prime cuts, veal, lamb and pork for Coles," he said.
"It runs five to six days a week, with five major lines that operate 20 hours a day."
Mr Fuda said an upgrade of the processing facility was on the cards.
"We are building a small boning room in Cowaramup, so we can apply for our Chinese and Malaysian markets," he said.
"We are looking to go with a 120-day program.
"With the north and southern seasons, we are also looking to supply a grass fed range, using both products and are working with the WA Cattle Council.
"It will be another string to our bow."
Event hosts, brothers Mike and Rob Introvigne, Introvigne Grazing Company, said the day was a huge success.
"We thought we would only get a few people, so to get 120 registered was good to see," Mike Introvigne said.
"It was something that had been missing within industry, so it was just a good opportunity to get some of the supply chain in one shed and discuss some of the issues."
Ms Gorter said she was keen to chat with producers to find out what they wanted from MLA and to update them on recent projects, including how they marketed beef.
"It is made up of four different areas - market knowledge and insight, getting to know the consumer," she said.
"MLA also looks at market access, the economic and non-economic barriers and business development to help the supply chains work more effectively, and consumer promotion."
Ms Gorter said there had been questions on how producer levies were spent.
She said a new online plan was available that outlined producer levies and urged people to read the MLA annual investment plan.
"It is very transparent, whether it was in the past or not, it is all up there now," Ms Gorter said.
The MLA also implemented a new consultative strategy in the past 12 months.
"The WA Research Council is in place to get out to industry to find out what R&D issues you have on farm and what you would like to see happening," she said.
"It's for the Southern Rangelands and the Southern Agricultural region and there is also the Northern Australian Beef Research Council, across the North, and the Southern Australia Meat Research Council which runs across the other southern States as well.
"It is funded out of grass fed beef and sheep meat."
Ms Gorter said MLA was keen to get out and find out what the industry wanted and to prioritise the big issues for WA producers.
From there the WA Livestock Research Council discuss those issues and feed them into the national priorities.
"MLA doesn't have any more money than before, it is just taking the trouble to ask what producers want," she said.