STRONG growth in export markets and good growing conditions for most regions meant the mood was buoyant at this year's Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) conference held in Perth last week.
More than 100 delegates including growers, contractors, carriers, researchers, exporters and manufacturers from across Australia attended the five-day event, which was themed 'Discover the Difference'.
"To me this theme means thinking about what you can do differently in your business and the benefits it can have," AFIA chairperson Anne Collins said.
"We continue to see mixed fortunes for the fodder industry, with some regions seeming not to be able to put a foot wrong while at the same time others experiencing droughts and fodder shortages.
"The export and red meat sectors continue their positive run, but the recent issues in the dairy industry, which is Australia's largest user of fodder, is currently experiencing a very tough downturn and this will no doubt flow on to some AFIA members."
Ms Collins pointed to some wins for the fodder industry, including the introduction of the export hay levy to fund research into hay, however transport legislation remained a leading issue for the association.
The event started with a pre-conference tour to the Department of Agriculture and Food WA's Northam (DAFWA) laboratory, a field walk through DAFWA's oat trial sites and a visit to former WA agriculture minister Kim Chance's camel dairy near Dandaragan.
Key note speaker at the conference was Dr Andei Teixeira, who held the entrepreneur-in-residence roles with CSIRO and global R&D roles with Coca Cola and Campbell Soup.
Last month he took on the role as general manager for innovation and global business development with Bundaberg Brewed Drinks.
In his talk Dr Teixeira spoke about how innovation fits into successful businesses.
"Only 57 of the original Fortune 500 companies six years ago are still there today and only 50 of those companies are well-known for their innovations, which show that innovation has become a kind of survival technique to businesses," Dr Teixeira said.
"Australia has one of the highest outputs of science and technology in the world but one of the lower outputs of commercialisation.
"The issue is not the product of science or innovation, it is not aiming high enough and we let a lot of things in Australia escape.
"Wifi was invented here but not a single dollar was made by CSIRO, it is absolutely absurd.
"You look at contact lenses, plastic money, gluten free barley - what has gone wrong is that business has been considered a bad thing tainting the purity of science. But it is not that bad if you can make some money out of it."
Bureau of Meteorology Western Australia Climate Services Centre meteorologist Glenn Cook gave an overview of the Climate Outlook service.
"A study conducted a few years ago showing the value of climate outlook to various industries in Australia showed $1.5 billion dollar improvement for the agriculture industry from accurate climate outlooks," Mr Cook said.
The Climate Outlook service is set to receive a significant improvement to improve accuracy in 2017, with testing currently underway with a new 'supercomputer' named ACCESS-S.
"The current model runs at 250km resolution with limited compatibility and decision support models and no explicit climate change model, which can have an impact on outlooks over time.
"The new model will have a much finer resolution from 250km to 60km, which means we can provide more localised information and will better resolve smaller scale weather conditions and better prediction of future weather conditions.
"This will allow farmers to better predict seasonal conditions and reduce potential losses through better forecasting, but also able to capitalise on the good years."
UK dairy consultant and member of the Silostop global technical team, Dr Tom Chamberlain, provided an overview on the potential losses to silage from air damage.
"With the dairy price the way it is, silage is a big ticket item and is one of the things we need to get right and make the most of home-grown forage. When conserving forage it's all about keep the air out if you keep the air out, you have silage, if you let the air in, you might as well be making compost for the garden and there's easier ways to make compost."
Dr Chamberlain said the benefits of better baled silage meant there was less spoilage and aerobic activity and reduced dry matter loses from 7pc to 4pc, increased intake by livestock increased milk yields and less silage discarded.
"A 25pc loss in a bale equals 57mm of the outer layer, which means you're basically throwing away one in four bales," Dr Chamberlain said.
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) chain of responsibility manager Michael Crellin provided an overview of the current transport legislation and the proposed changes.
The Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) does not currently extend into WA and the Northern Territory.
The NHVR is seeking to amend chain of responsibility legislation to more closely align with occupational workplace health and safety laws.
Mr Crellin outlined one case where a woman was killed and the transport company was fined $24,750, the company director fined $4400 and the driver sentenced to six months prison and the company fined $5500 after failing to properly secure a load of empty gas cylinders.
The amendments would be broadened to include maintenance and executive officer liability.
Mr Crellin said the changes were primarily aimed at increasing safety in the industry.
"The real focus is on safety and that heavy vehicles are involved in 20pcon injuries and fatal incidents our roads and with freight task to double by 2030, it is important to get this right."