INCREASING the cattle herd in Indonesia is not an easy task according to Indonesia-Australia Commercial Cattle Breeding Association (IACCBA) program director Dick Slaney.
Mr Slaney outlined the work the program had been doing to trial cattle grazing beneath palm oil plantations and in fattening up cattle in feedlots across Australia’s largest live export market during the LIVEXchange 2017 conference in Perth last week.
During his first opportunity as the program director of IACCBA to formally speak with the Australian industry, Mr Slaney said it only had one role – to see greater investment in cattle breeding in Indonesia.
Mr Slaney said it was trialling different cattle breeding systems, documenting solutions and then seeking to promote the successful models to industry and government for greater investment.
“We commenced in February, 2016 and have been at it for coming up to two years,” Mr Slaney said.
“The selection of partners would seem to be a reasonably simple task – it is not.
“We had something like 80 different proposals and from that we selected eight projects.
“Clearly we want to select project partners who will be potentially sustainable and commercially viable.
“We are in the implementation process at the moment, where we are out there breeding cattle.”
Mr Slaney said IACCBA expected to be able to promote the projects from next year.
“Clearly we will be promoting those models and systems that work well,” he said.
Mr Slaney said there were three broad systems – one is running cattle on palm oil plantations which included four projects.
The second system was semi-intensive grazing.
“A lot of Indonesia has great potential for grazing cattle – the dry land areas east of Java and east of Sumatra are primarily where grazing of cattle can be reasonably effective,” Mr Slaney said.
“There is great potential but it’s about logistics and fixing those logistics and creating investment.”
The third system was a “cut and carry” by largely small holders.
Mr Slaney said to date it had seven projects with cattle, with the eighth set to start next month.
“We kicked off with 1200 heifers and 70 bulls – so we have got some calves on the ground and we are weaning cattle as we speak,” he said.
“Some projects are going quite well and others are struggling.
“This was obviously inevitable.”
Mr Slaney said some of the challenges included the establishment and control of weeds on the grazing land and educating the palm oil plantation owners about the animal welfare issues required for a successful enterprise.
The IACCBA is in partnership with palm oil producers although they retained ownership of the cattle to be able to control animal welfare issues.
“We had to let them start to fail to galvanise action from the companies toward pasture production beneath palm oil for grazing cattle,” he said.
Mr Slaney said Indonesia lacked pasture seed which was an opportunity for Australian businesses.
He said Indonesian importers needed a way forward to engage in cattle breeding and “the government had been pretty tough on them” and had “coerced them to be engaged in cattle breeding”.
“There are some good signs that breeding cattle can be profitable but it is still early days,” Mr Slaney said.
The Red Meat Partnership co-chairs Louise van Meurs and Himawan Hariyoga also addressed the conference and participated in a panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities in Indonesia.
The main issues to arise from their discussion was the need to find the right locations to run cattle and to work out a good logistics chain in order to obtain good supply and market access.
They agreed that using the palm oil plantations was a good idea if they could make it work and skills training was vital to assist Indonesian workers to meet industry standards.
Dr Hariyoga said Indonesia did not have enough modern abattoirs to improve the industry standard.
Ms van Meurs said from 2016-2019 $9 million was invested in the IACCBA program and there was a $3m on-going commitment to a skills development training program in country.
She said next year there would be an exchange program into Indonesia with participants able to share their knowledge and skills with local workers.