Red Meat Update proves a winner as producers catch up on latest trends at sold out conference

Traceability can ease FMD threat

INCREASED traceability of livestock across multiple farms could save countless lives and millions of dollars in the event of an outbreak in animal disease. With the shadow of the Foot and Mouth Disease threat hanging over Australia, methods of disease containment and tracing have come to the forefront in the livestock industry.

At the Red Meat Updates conference in Launceston last week, Meat and Livestock Australia’s George Basha spoke on the benefits of farmers utilising the National Livestock Identification System to trace their livestock. “There are multitudes of on-farm benefits that come from having an understanding of your animal’s history including in dairies and in breeding,” Mr Basha said.

“But there’s also the traceability aspect. “If there was an outbreak in a specific animal we can immediately check where they’ve come from, where they’ve been and where they are now. “The big one is we are able to check the cohort members, all the animals associated with it from all the properties it’s been on. “It’s going to save farmers in the future.” Mr Basha said the greater use of eID’s in livestock and the subsequent database of information that would be available could save the industry in the event of an FMD outbreak.

“We can mitigate the impact and mitigate the insecurity around the disease spreading very, very quickly. “If FMD does get out here and everyone has the right data in the systems, it’s going to prevent the disease from spreading as much as it would otherwise. “We’d be able to trace and locate where the disease may be and what animals and locations are at risk “It’s also going to minimise the timeframe of the shut down on meat exports, which will really be what hurts all farmers.”

The real key to low emissions

TASMANIAN producers have the opportunity to establish themselves at the forefront of low emission-intensive farming through adoption of technologies to pre-emptively reduce their footprint. Speaking at the Red Meat Updates event at the Tramsheds in Launceston last week, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture researcher Dr Richard Rawnsley said Tasmania had a head-start in environmentally efficient farming.

Dr Rawnsley said as global food demand grows there was an increasing awareness of the need to improve agricultural production while minimising environmental impacts. Livestock accounts for more than 60 per cent of Tasmania’s farmgate value and is expected to play a significant role in achieving the state’s AgriVision goal of $10 billion of farmgate value by 2050.

Dr Rawnsley said farmers needed to keep their “ticket to the game” by growing produce that meets the demand of an enviro-conscious market. “We’re at the forefront in terms of our emissions intensity but there is the opportunity for us to be the front of the industry going forward by producing low-carbon products,” Dr Rawnsley said.

“We already have this grass-fed system producing environmentally friendly and resource-efficient livestock production systems. “But still our most efficient production systems must continue to adopt technologies to reduce their emissions.”

Rather than carbon stores, Dr Rawnsley encouraged exploring limiting the carbon created in the first place. “If we’re not creating the emissions in our production then there isn’t a need to try to solve it after the fact. “Producers have an opportunity to avoid emissions with things they can do on farm now. “If you’ve created a better-quality feed or you are getting better performance from your animals through health, breeding and fertility and you’ve used the same amount of feed to produce those animals, you’re already lowering your emissions.

“You’re actually lowering the emissions you would have normally used to produce such a product. “When we have carbon storage through tree plantations or soil-carbon build up, you’ll still have to store it. “Carbon avoidance could be seen as something you could trade towards carbon neutrality.”