Beef production systems across northern Australia need to evolve through adoption of new tools and technology, if the industry is to capitalise on growing demand for Australian beef and improving market access conditions.

That was among the key messages from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) General Manager – Producer Consultation and Adoption, Michael Crowley, when he addressed industry stakeholders today at the Northern Beef Research Update Conference in Brisbane.

Addressing the topic of putting more ‘value’ into the value chain for northern production systems, Mr Crowley unpacked some of the key innovation investment areas applicable to production systems and along the supply chain that are ready for uptake and will shape the future.

Mr Crowley said utilising genetics, industry programs such as Meat Standards Australia (MSA), objective measurement technology on and off farm, and AgTech, were among the tools available to help northern production systems evolve to meet consumer expectations in a highly competitive global market.

“Meeting and exceeding consumer expectations holds the key to improving the value of the Australian red meat industry,” Mr Crowley said.

“To achieve this, the production system needs to evolve in order to capitalise on growing demand for your product and improving market access conditions.

“Pricing signals linked to proprietary brand specifications will create opportunities for the production sector to align production to meet the expectations of customers and ultimately consumers, regardless of where they are in the world.”

Mr Crowley explored ways the production system needed to evolve to meet market expectations. He explained how investments along the supply chain were creating opportunities for productivity, welfare and sustainability goals to be reached through the delivery of innovations that support a profitable and sustainable production system. 

“Innovation has to consider the whole farm system and the value chain in order to achieve the greatest impact,” Mr Crowley said.

“Tools and technology are enablers that will support producers in making decisions through turning data into decisions, improving feedback, increasing transparency, and reducing costs in order to meet productivity and profitability targets.”

Mr Crowley said MLA had recently launched new genetics resources to help commercial cattle and sheep producers start using breeding values in their sire buying decisions.

“There’s a clear link between genetics and the commercial profitability of the Australian livestock industry. Genetic improvement is among the tools available to commercial producers to help address the key drivers of industry profit including improved market compliance and eating quality, and improved fertility and livestock productivity,” Mr Crowley said.

Mr Crowley said the MSA program continues to deliver commercial benefits to all sectors of the supply chain, with premiums emerging as a result of increased demand for cattle that consistently meet brand specifications.

“Processors are prepared to pay more for cattle that meet the eating quality promise of their brands. The price differential for young, grassfed MSA graded cattle is 30 cents per kilogram, and the price differential for MSA graded grainfed cattle is 15 cents per kilogram,” Mr Crowley said.

“New developments in the industry such as the release of the Eating Quality Graded (EQG) cipher – which disregards any reference to dentition when grading cattle for MSA – are making it easier to put the same quality in the same box, reduce variation and better meet consumer expectations.”

Mr Crowley said the launch last week of a new, independent digital platform AgTech Finder, supported by MLA, enables Australian producers to search, sort and compare hundreds of available AgTech products with just a few clicks of a mouse.  

Across many aspects of northern production systems, the tools and technology needed to drive significant improvements are there for the taking,” Mr Crowley said.  

“The benefits, like increased productivity via genetics or higher per kilogram prices for MSA graded beef, are proven. It’s important we maintain our focus on engaging with these pathways to drive improvements in production systems if we are to capitalise on the enormous opportunities on offer for the industry in northern Australia.”