Conference explores pastoral future

Conference explores pastoral future


Agribusiness
More than 170 industry representatives touring the Minderoo station centre pivots as part of the field day for the KPCA Ruralco annual conference.

More than 170 industry representatives touring the Minderoo station centre pivots as part of the field day for the KPCA Ruralco annual conference.

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THE old ways have served the northern cattle industry well, however this will no longer allow the industry to capture further opportunities looking ahead.

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THE old ways have served the northern cattle industry well, however this will no longer allow the industry to capture further opportunities looking ahead.

This is according to the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association (KPCA) which held its inaugural KPCA Ruralco annual Field day and Innovation Conference in Onslow last week.

The inaugural conference set the bar high, with some pastoralists comparing it to the likes of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association conferences.

KPCA CEO Catherine Marriott said the theme of the conference was technological innovations, as this was crucial for future livestock production and within the beef supply chain.

"The definition of innovation for me is thinking up something that people need, before they know they need it and then making it happen," Ms Marriott said.

"We have seen examples of this time and time again here (at the conference) and at Minderoo.

"The conference was a raging success for the purpose of networking, sharing technology and launching a new supply chain option for producers.

"All in all, we managed to launch our new rangelands beef product through Harvey Beef, cement in a 10 per cent discount for our members for sales through AuctionsPlus and raise $27,900 for the Royal Flying Doctors Service."

Ms Marriott said the two-day event gave pastoralists the opportunity to see and hear some innovative ideas and think about some changes they could make to their own business.

"The KPCA has been in a forming stage for the last few years, but has taken on board what its members and stakeholders want," she said.

"They have said they wanted to be represented, to have programs developed for them to de-risk industry and see challenges before they arise.

"They also wanted us to host events such as this, but without those 170 guests it couldn't have happened."

The event commenced with a tour of Minderoo station, the $390,000 multi-purpose depot yard built at Uaroo station, south of Minderoo, where a line of cattle were automatically drafted, demonstrating high standards of animal welfare, innovation, safety and labour efficiency.

Minderoo manager Ben Wratten said the purpose of the tour was to demonstrate the automatic drafting, weigh scales and advanced technology that most pastoralists could implement on their stations.

He said most pastoralists have a number of yard set ups, which can be costly to run and establish.

He said the Uaroo yard demonstrated the efficiency of the automatic system, which eliminated human error and promoted a safe and efficient system, which could cut down long days significantly.

Helen Campion, Anna Plains station, south of Broome, said the KPCA-run event was a huge success for the northern industry.

"It was fantastic for the KPCA organisation being heavily driven with CEO Catherine Marriott and the chairman, my husband David Stoate," she said.

"The executives are keen to keep the industry moving forward and make sure we keep up with new technologies and best practises. It is very exciting times for the KPCA."

Ms Campion welcomed the new Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan to the conference.

"She has only been in the seat for less than a week," Ms Campion said.

"She has taken time out to come up here, it was great to see her mixing with the pastoralists on the ground and she saw the importance of attending the conference."

Ms Campion said the innovative new yards at Uaroo were outstanding.

"The development in technology was used there and implemented," she said.

"It is a bit scary when you make big models after you look at something and make big decisions about doing that because it actually has to work in your organisation.

"The technology at that yard blew me away, I think there is a big move for it."

After seeing the demonstration of the cattle moving through the yards, Ms Campion said it was a very low stress system.

She said the AI program implemented at Minderoo was also eye opening.

"It is something we are doing at Anna Plains. It's our second year, so we saw some innovation, some things we were doing and some things we could do better. Overall it was an exciting day with a group of fantastic people."

Looking ahead to innovation and new markets, Anna Plains has also looked at diversifying its herd and building on market options.

It saw its first Wagyu cross calves born last year.

Traditionally a Brahman station, it moved into the Japanese breed to tap into new value-add markets.

Ms Campion said now was the time to establish the direction of the station with Wagyu.

"(The aim) is to improve on quality and also we hope to get a better carcase weight," she said.

"That is yet to be proven, but the first calves are on the ground and they are looking great."

Mr Wratten also discussed Minderoo's hay production; which produces an average of 120 tonnes every six weeks off a 35ha centre pivot.

The station has just finished its preparations for another two centre pivots, to enable it to grow enough fodder to protect the breeding herd during tough seasons. It will focus on producing lucerne, sorghum and Rhodes grass.

Pastoralists also had the opportunity to see Minderoo's cattle herd, as it has invested significantly in improving its genetics.

The station's base breeder herd of Droughtmaster cows are lightly infused with Red Angus and Senepol genetics to enhance maximum hybrid vigour, while maintaining an even red line.

Minderoo has joined 5000 of these Minderoo red composite cows to 150 UltraBlack bulls, with a line already on the ground.

Bryce Redmond, Energy Made Clean (EMC), also showcased the solar system set up and explained the innovative solar system technology.

After touring the station, Robin Forrester, Rocklea station, said she believed management practises were improving in northern operations.

"If we keep the numbers down it is more manageable, but further north they are dealing with big numbers, less infrastructure and less fencing," she said.

"Hearing that we need to focus on infrastructure; it's true, a lot of big places have been left behind, but it is changing."

Looking at the Uaroo yards, Ms Forrester said she was seeing positive changes in industry.

"We have a similar drafting system, as we work for Rio Tinto," she said.

"We have a double loading ramp and all that, so we are seeing that change and seeing how that works.

"It's great to see it on another station.

"I took away a lot from the field day, including the breeding and the genetics - that was a big interest to us."

Pastoralists also heard from Selected Seeds on maximising forage yields for animal production and the Pilbara Mesquite Management Committee, outlining some of the Pilbara's declared weeds and its weed management program.

Pastoralists also heard from a line-up of speakers including; Primaries of WA general manager Andrew Lindsay, ANZ agribusiness manager Mark Bennett, Department of Agriculture and Food WA; Northern Beef Futures productivity and profitability manager Trevor Price, Dean Russel from Revell Science, Lisa Sharp from Meat and Livestock Australia, Craig Forsyth from the Mingenew Irwin Group, Anna Adams from AuctionsPlus, Ashley James from Frontier International, Peter Gilmore from Irongate Wagyu and Department of Lands pastoral liaison officer Russell Shaw and more.

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