FIFTY pastoralists, stock agents, backgrounders, feedlotters and live exporters gathered in Perth last week for the Gascoyne Catchment Group’s Bullseye project workshop.
Held at the Pagoda Hotel, Como, the workshop gave stakeholders in the cattle supply chain from WA’s Southern Rangelands an opportunity to discuss how to improve cattle quality and supply, with the aspiration of developing an industry that is internationally competitive.
Small group discussions were held, which assisted in identifying key findings, while working out how information flowed along the supply chain and how it could be improved.
The workshop highlighted that there was a shortage of backgrounders, which was seen as a blockage in the supply chain.
The highly variable seasons in pastoral districts requires backgrounders in the agricultural areas to even out the supply of adequately finished cattle to the various markets – however, certainty of supply from the pastoral industry was identified as a barrier.
Recent improvements in the ability of satellite imagery to assess feed supply appealled to producers as this technology would allow them to plan turn off timing and body weights, which could be important information for backgrounders, feedlotters and processors.
Producers in districts that had recently changed from sheep to cattle faced difficult challenges as they needed to invest heavily in infrastructure to be able to improve the genetics of their herd and achieve mustering efficiencies – access to low interest rate finance was seen as a major requirement for these producers.
Participants learnt that to improve the functioning of the cattle supply chain it was important to make an effort to understand the nature of the businesses in other areas of the supply chain.
The discussions also identified that strong working relationships were based on trust and that it took time and energy to establish good working relationships – the secret being to focus on where they thought they would get a good return on their efforts and where they could build a long-term business relationship.
Rapidly developing export markets also meant that it is critically important for information about changing market conditions to be passed quickly back to producers so they could respond.
Producers wanted to know what the markets wanted, and how their product was performing in those markets.
However, there was limited market information of this nature in the public domain as it’s often held within commercial relationships.
Livestock agents were seen as important conveyors of market information, although some producers were going direct to buyers in export markets and to domestic processors.
More producers were signing forward contracts to enjoy the benefits of certainty about the quality of the product required and prices.
Alliances and partnerships along the supply chain were increasingly seen as critical to manage variability in seasonal conditions and most efficiently meet market specifications.
Others were investigating the potential for collaborating with other producers to form a direct relationship as a co-operative supplying pasture-fed beef to domestic processors.
The workshop began with participants explaining how the industry was changing, what was critical to the success of their businesses, and where they saw most potential in their own business for improving supply chain relationships.
Participants left the Bullseye workshop after the two days with a clear picture of the role they could play within their sector of the supply chain, to improve information flow which would benefit them individually and collectively to improve the whole pastoral supply chain.
During the workshop a facilitator interviewed a panel of members of the different supply chain sectors to capture the role that their sector played in the supply chain – including pastoral producer Clint Thompson, Wyloo station, backgrounder Craig Forsyth, backgrounder and feedlotter Nathan Lidgett and stock agent Richard Mahony.
The Bullseye project is funded by the State government’s Grower Group research and development program and administered through the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Agricultural Sciences Research and Development Fund.
It involves cattle producers from across the Goldfields-Nullarbor, Murchison and Gascoyne regions.
The workshop partnered with another Grower Group project, the North South Beef Alliance run by the Mingenew Irwin Group and the West Midlands Group.