NANNUP beef producer Matt Camarri is one of the newest members of the Western Australian Livestock Research Council (WALRC).
WALRC is funded primarily by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) producer levies and is in place to help extract meaningful red meat research and extension priorities from producers across the lower half of WA.
Matt was joined by Kojonup sheep producer Lynley Anderson and Gascoyne pastoralist Clint Thompson of Wyloo station in being formally inducted into the WALRC process last month, and said he was already enjoying being involved.
“At the end of the day, as beef producers, we have to step up, go on committees and get involved,” Matt said.
“We’ve got to join organisations that help the industry as a whole because being in the room, taking on the networking and learning opportunities is much better than just reading about it in the Farm Weekly the following week.
“So I think it’s important for producers to support and get involved with organisations like Western Beef, like WA Lot Feeders Association and all the groups out there which is why I said yes to joining the producer panel at WALRC.
“I also think you forfeit the right to complain about your industry if you don’t put your name forward, don’t join organisations or attend beef industry events.
“I guess there comes a point where you’ve got to put something back in to the industry you work and live within because realistically, agriculture is a pretty great industry to be in.”
Matt’s main role as a producer member of WALRC is to utilise his extensive on-farm and beef industry experience to identify research projects which have the most potential for widespread application and uptake within the industry.
“The members of the producer panel are given the projects to have a look at, including those from eastern and northern Australia with possible impact locally,” Matt said.
“We give our feedback according to the terms of reference and it goes from there.
“But I guess there’s no point in a sheep producer looking at an entirely beef-focused project and visa versa, so that’s why it’s good we have a spread of producers on the panel from not just different farming systems but different rainfall zones.”
The strength of the WALRC process is the calibre and geographic spread of its producer council members according to WALRC chairman, Pingelly sheep producer and veterinarian Tim Watts.
“It is designed to ensure a comprehensive collection of what research activities will provide tangible on-ground benefit to beef and sheep producers,” Dr Watts said.
“We have eight producers on the council but importantly, we also have strong industry representation with contribution from the Australian Association of Agricultural Consultants and the NRM sector.
“Our five major agricultural research institutions – DPIRD (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development), UWA (The University of WA), CSIRO, Murdoch University and Curtin University are also at the table providing a structure that really ensures collaboration between producer and researcher from the start.”
For the producer panel, a big part of the consideration process is about looking at practical implementation of the projects that come across their desks.
“A lot of fantastic projects come through but sometimes we’ve got to look at some things that might have a really interesting science-based idea, but think about whether or not we think it would be applied on farm,” Matt said.
“So we have to ask the question, even though it might be a great idea – is there going to be a widespread uptake, because if there isn’t, there are probably other more practically useful ideas which would better utilise levy payer funds.”
With innovative ideas and projects coming across his desk, Matt said it was good to see the forward-looking side of WA’s griculture industry first-hand.
“From a personal point of view, it’s certainly really uplifting to see some of it,” he said.
“You think wow, imagine in five or 10 years time how good that would be to see that idea being implemented.
“It’s clear at that point to see that the livestock industry in WA is going somewhere and that we’re not just sitting on our hands waiting for something to happen.
“So that’s a really good thing to see happening and as producers, we often operate within our insular little world between the four posts of our farms, but to get involved and see that interaction is encouraging.”
Getting the research extended through to achieve broad producer uptake is clearly also something Matt believes is important, saying one of his biggest goals for his time at WALRC was to create a lasting impact within the industry.
“I really believe in ensuring the research that does come forward that we look at, send up the chain and eventually gets implemented is relevant and will make an impact in the future,” Matt said.
“The more impact that has, the more likely you are to continue to get the funding so MLA can continue to run and build these projects.
“So I think once all this research that we’re looking at now is done, the next step needs to be getting it out to the farmers which is why we’re focused on making sure the projects we send up the food chain are relevant and practical on-farm.”
When asked about what excited him most about joining WALRC, Matt said the benefits went beyond giving back to the industry which has supported his family through many years of farming.
“The thing I enjoyed most about the first meeting was getting to meet some of the people who I’d seen and read about for years, never having actually met them,” Matt said.
“Just chatting to people like Lynley Anderson and Clint Thompson about farming in general was really interesting.
“You know when you come across positive-thinking, interesting people, you like what they’re saying, how they’re thinking, what their ideas are.
“So I know involvement in this is going to be personally rewarding for me because I have access to people who I can ask questions about farming and might look at something in a different way to me.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re in sheep which I know nothing about, I know that talking to them about how they run their businesses and their farms is really interesting and there will be something to take away from those conversations, which I guess goes back to the value of getting involved in industry organisations more broadly.”