LIVESTOCK producers had the chance to hear from a wide-ranging list of speakers at the Livestock Matters Forums, hosted by the WA Livestock Research Council (WALRC) in Kojonup and Donnybrook.
WALRC is a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) initiative which partners with DPIRD, CSIRO, Murdoch University, UWA and Curtin University to identify the research needs of WA's beef and sheep producers.
The forum discussion, bolstered by industry relevant topics covered by speakers on the day, facilitated the exchange of ideas between the producers in attendance and the WALRC committee members who were recording the ideas brought up for further discussion and priority setting by WALRC.
Kicking off both days was a keynote presentation by South Australian agronomist-turned sheep and beef producer Jack England, who shared his approach to variable rate technology within his fertiliser program and optimising the profitability of his livestock system.
Mr England was invited to speak at the forums after WALRC asked producers who they would most like to hear from.
"In putting this forum together, we asked some of WA's most tech-savvy farmers who they'd most like to hear from," said WALRC executive officer Esther Jones.
"Jack was invited on the recommendation of Arthur River farmer Brad Wooldridge who described him as someone he'd most like to meet."
Mr England's presentation caught everyone's attention quickly as he described his use of variable rate technology and GPS collar tracking technology within his livestock business which includes an 8000 head Merino flock and 450 head Angus-based cattle herd.
His presentation was backed up with plenty of research as his development of a variable rate fertiliser program for livestock systems was the subject of his 2017 Nuffield scholarship.
It was an interesting breakdown of his business, outlining the value of utilising apps, satellite technology, grid soil testing and GPS in order to determine where fertiliser is most effectively applied on his property to drive productivity and profitability.
"We don't want to be overfeeding unproductive soils while depleting our best," Mr England said.
"So I use as much information as I can to work out where I can lift my soil to its agronomic potential."
After fielding plenty of questions Mr England was followed by a series of quick presentations from several relevant industry speakers, covering a range of topics currently being looked at by researchers and grower groups.
Murdoch University's David Miller went first, talking about some research his team has been doing in collaboration with Harvey Beef which looks at how stress impacts meat quality in beef cattle.
Dr Miller's team followed cattle through a 100-day feeding program to the point of slaughter, measuring stress and looking for what can be managed differently.
His presentation was followed by Hayley Norman, CSIRO, who discussed micro-nutrients and Mandy Curnow, DPIRD, who spoke about the SMS surveillance trial in the Albany, Mt Barker and Denmark regions, as well as Pastures from Space.
UWA PhD student Daniel Kidd followed up Mr England's presentation with a discussion on plant nutrition, efficiency and saving money around fertiliser inputs.
Southern Dirt chief executive Tracey Hodgkins gave a snapshot of what the grower group was getting up to and Jeisane Accioly and Ken MacLeay from Western Beef encouraged beef producers to get in touch with the them to stay updated with future industry events.
Rounding out the forums was a question and answer session in which WALRC asked what was important to the producers in the room.
Using interactive voting technology via their smartphones, producers were asked questions and gave their answers which were tallied automatically on a screen in front of the group.
The session looked at opportunities and gaps in livestock production systems, giving producers the chance to highlight the issues most important to them.
Questions were asked about seasonal feed gap, reproduction and animal health management, as well as productivity drivers and animal welfare.
The responses from the group generated robust discussion presided over by WALRC chairman and Pingelly producer Tim Watts.
Afterwards Dr Watts said interaction from the producers in attendance at both events was strong.
"At Kojonup and Donnybrook the interaction from attendees was strong and well-articulated," Dr Watts said.
"The WALRC team was very pleased with the number of people who came along with the willingness to participate and engage with the discussion."
Dr Watts said partnering with grower groups and producer members of the WALRC committee to promote the events was of great value.
"We had a great turnout at both events and the result was we had some interesting ideas come forward which we look forward to discussing as part of our priority setting process," he said.
Ms Jones said these forums were an important function of WALRC's role in soliciting producer input to establish MLA research priorities.
"These forums play an important role in WALRC's approach to feeding local research and extension needs up to MLA," Ms Jones said.
"Our Q&A session is deliberately designed to dig deeper into production challenges in order to identify the logical next pieces of research and extension work that will drive our industry forward."