Red Meat & Wool Growth program to help producers build skills

State govt's $7.5m Red Meat & Wool Growth program to boost livestock productivity

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SA's red meat and wool sector is a major economic contributor to the state's economy, generating $2.4 billion annually. But the $7.5-million Red Meat and Wool Growth Program is hoping to grow this further.

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GROWING CONFIDENCE: Red Meat and Wool Growth program manager Emily Mellor hopes SA producers will be given the confidence to adopt precision livestock management tools and fine-tune the running of their businesses

GROWING CONFIDENCE: Red Meat and Wool Growth program manager Emily Mellor hopes SA producers will be given the confidence to adopt precision livestock management tools and fine-tune the running of their businesses

SA's red meat and wool sector is a major economic contributor to the state's economy, generating $2.4 billion annually.

But the $7.5-million Red Meat and Wool Growth Program funded by the state government and industry is aiming to grow this value further.

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The program's goal is to lift the business acumen of the state's sheep and cattle producers to help them run more profitable businesses and grow their herds and flocks, as well as encouraging the adoption of livestock technology.

RELATED: SA Sheep Industry Fund supports critical programs

The main target is producers, but there are also opportunities for livestock consultants, agents and wool buyers and brokers who work closely with producers and are often part of business decisions.

Red Meat and Wool Growth Program manager Emily Mellor said there were three pillars to the program; Improving Productivity and Profitability, Installing Infrastructure and Enhancing Market Access.

Among the achievements of the first year of the three-year program are the establishment of 10 producer technology groups across the state, with further groups starting this financial year.

Ms Mellor said there was an incredible response to expressions of interest for these producer technology groups, with 235 producers from 181 businesses keen to participate in the groups that will meet several times a year.

"The focus is supporting producers to learn from each other's experiences, but also to assist them to engage experts in the relevant fields they want to target," she said.

"While the main focus of the groups is around precision livestock management tools and electronic identification to assist with data-based decision-making, some may focus on business planning and others biosecurity best practice," she said.

A biosecurity extension officer role has also been created with the program's funding and Pene Keynes has started in the role based with Livestock SA. This involves liaising with producers to encourage them to make on-farm biosecurity a priority.

"It is about helping producers understand the importance of good biosecurity as insurance for safeguarding their own business and the industry as a whole," she said.

Ms Mellor says COVID-19 forced the cancellation of two Livestock Technology Expos earlier in the year, but these were replaced with a Tech Talk podcast series.

The first Tech Talk available on the PIRSA website featured In2It Information Technologies' Mike Hayes discussing how remote water telemetry systems can save producers time and money.

Other episodes which have been aired include the benefits of adopting eID in sheep and cattle on-farm and good sheep and cattle yard design.

"A survey conducted by the Minister's AgTech Advisory Group indicated that more than half of the state's primary producers are not investing in on-farm technology, while one-in-five have no plans to in the future, citing one of the biggest barriers identified as concern about the return on investment," Ms Mellor said.

"Hopefully activities like the producer tech groups, tech expos, Tech Talks and Focus Farms through the Red Meat and Wool Growth Program can assist livestock producers better understand the benefits that technology can offer to them in production and labour efficiencies right now."

Ms Mellor says another exciting component to be rolled out soon is the Livestock Enterprise Planning program.

To be delivered in small groups, it aims to help producers better understand their business, finances and risks and undertake strategic planning to improve their returns, integrate technology on-farm and build resilience.

Participants will also participate in a one-on-one business coaching session to develop their individual action plans.

Ms Mellor said they had hoped to target about 200 producers but through a partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia and support from the Sheep and Cattle Industry Funds they have been able to leverage more funds and expand the program activities further.

The Red Meat and Wool Growth Program initiatives are all aimed at helping industry achieve the growth targets of the SA Sheep Industry Blueprint and SA Cattle Industry Blueprint and Ms Mellor hopes it will result in a "culture shift" in the livestock industry.

"We aim to see an increase in producer and service provider confidence in using PLM technology and applying data to make better decisions on-farm, enhanced business acumen and skills and a significant portion of producers actioning their business priorities and making productivity and profitability gains," she said.

This will all contribute to rebuilding the state's flock and herd numbers.

"There are many resourceful farmers here in SA but they have experienced a run of bad luck, with drought and fire affecting many areas and wild dogs and now COVID-19, so it is a really good time for producers to take stock and look at their business to see how they can build resilience going forward," she said.

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