THE animal health and veterinary medicines industry plays a massive role in supporting producers, regional jobs, consumers and the national economy, according to research done by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA).
In 2018 the AMA commissioned a research project that resulted in surprising findings including total industry sales worth $1.1 billion, and a total economic contribution directly or indirectly valued at $2.7b each year.
The project was commissioned to scrutinise the 2015-2016 financial year - that being the most recent year that had the necessary data sets to be able to commission and complete the analysis.
AMA executive director Ben Stapley in his speech at the WAFarmers' Trending Ag 2019 conference in Perth last week, said that about 45 per cent, or $500m of the sales, was for products used in livestock industries.
"And there is significant room for growth", although "sales fluctuate from year to year depending on seasonal conditions, as well as disease prevalence," Mr Stapley said.
He said the study revealed that there were about 10,000 jobs reliant directly or indirectly on the value created by the responsible use of veterinary medicines.
"These are jobs that flow from a more sustainable production and profitable livestock industry," Mr Stapley said.
He said the beef industry saw a direct impact from animal health medicines worth $558m, with a $567m indirect benefit, with an employment figure of 5468.
Dairy saw $428m from direct inputs and $163m indirectly, with 1979 jobs.
Sheep meat saw $235m directly and $118m indirectly, with 844 employed.
Wool production saw a value of $188m directly and $96m indirectly, with 695 jobs supporting the industry.
Mr Stapley said the employment figures "create an extra $578 million in wages and much of that is directed at regional communities".
He said one of the most interesting components was measuring consumer impacts.
"An average family will spend $40.53 each week on these (animal) products but without animal health products conservatively that would increase to $45.70 per household," Mr Stapley said.
"So across the year this equates to a saving of at least $268 per average household spend on animal products.
"Capturing this information demonstrates how a key input into livestock production generates benefits that are spread across the whole economy, and across the whole community - and this would be true for any farming input as well."
Breaking it down into different livestock production systems, animal health and veterinarian medicines contribute between 5-15pc of livestock production, with a conservative average across all sectors of 10.6pc in 2015-2016 financial year.
"These contributions were maximised in dairy and pork production - 15pc-13pc respectively," he said.
Mr Stapley said the information gathered in the research was important because it highlighted that animal health was an essential precondition for good animal welfare outcomes.
"Livestock managed industries are coming under increasing scrutiny for their farming practices," he said.
"This can result in additional demands and restrictions being placed on producers.
"We are already seeing activist groups setting standards and targets to reduce animal health inputs in some industries.
"From our perspective it would be unacceptable for some of those targets to reduce animals inputs to be introduced because it would result in poorer animal welfare outcomes.
"And some of those impacts can be particularly diverse.
"Reducing animal health is not good - but separately removing tools that support profitable farming is very unlikely to support better welfare outcomes for animals."
Mr Stapley said to present these facts to consumers and quell fears, animal health industries needed to demonstrate two things - firstly "that responsible use of animal health products is essential, profitable, and sustainable in livestock production systems".
"Secondly we need to demonstrate to the concerned communities and other activists that animal health management will assist farms to better manage welfare issues for better outcomes," he said.
"There are still a number of myths about responsible livestock production and we as a responsible industry have a duty to challenge those myths wherever we can, and some are really easy to address."
Mr Stapley said the research was commissioned to provide a basis for "better policy development" by government and industry and those wanting to understand it better could refer to the report on the AMA website.
He said the AMA represented "the global leaders in the animal health industry, which includes nine of the largest global innovators".
"Our members are exclusively focussed on animal health, on providing products and tools to prevent and treat animal injury and disease.
"We are working for an animal health industry that is sustainable, innovative and valued.
"Our priorities are to advocate and influence policy development initiatives, to support continued innovation in animal health and to promote the benefits of animal care."