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Govt gone missing in livestock industry R&D investment

The South Australian livestock sector contributes $4.5 billion in Gross State Revenue to the SA economy and employs a significant number of people both on-farm and in meat and wool processing and in related industries off-farm, yet for the past two decades the SA Government has continued to reduce investment into research and development in the industries which underpin and contribute significantly to the health of this sector.

SA has a proud history of scientific and academic excellence in the development of the primary sector but in recent years there has been an ongoing erosion of R&D support frameworks in PIRSA and SARDI.

More than a decade ago, the Council of Australian Governments established a research, development and extension framework meant to identify jurisdiction and which states would take the lead in different sectors of R&D to reduce any potential overlaps.

The framework provided a great opportunity for our state to focus its RD&E effort, but instead of building on the best research outcomes and refining them for South Australian conditions, the state government withdrew from making any such investments. It was hugely disappointing, and a missed opportunity for the SA livestock sector.

At a national level, industry is willing to contribute through its R&D Corporations, but it is reticent to do so in this state when it has to “go it alone” while across the border (any border) it is able to partner with the state government and double its investment.

An example is the Lambs Alive program being run in partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia in many states bar SA, it focuses on lamb survival, pre and post birth. Producers involved in the program have recorded some very solid increases, of up to 3 per cent in the number of lambs weaned. Prices for sheep and lambs have been very strong in the past 12-months, and any improvement we can make to lamb survival is vitally important not only in terms of productivity gains but also from an animal welfare perspective. Unfortunately, these workshops have hardly been seen in SA due to a lack of state government support.

Since it was launched less than two-years-ago the SA Sheep Industry Blueprint has shown the benefits of R&D investment across the value-chain – and is already well on track to delivering its overarching aim of a 20 per cent increase in productivity and value in the state’s sheep industry by 2020. As part of the Blueprint 16 research projects had been instigated or supported so far, from on-farm research such as development of real-time on-farm lice detection test, to further along the value chain with the installation of hook tracking systems at JBS Australia’s Bordertown plant and objective carcase measurement. A real partnership with government could allow the effort to cement growth for years to come.

The SA Beef Cattle Industry Blueprint is also in development and will have a focus on collaborative value chains, consistently meeting consumer and community expectations and adoption of proven practices to increase productivity. This will again provide a great opportunity for a shared investment between industry and the state for the betterment of SA.

In addition to resourcing the development and extension of research undertaken across Australia in genetics and breeding and in nutrition, Livestock SA is calling on the parties to commit to investing in the implementation of a statewide feedbase and grazing system plan – it will aid the whole SA livestock value chain in significantly expanding gross state revenue. Areas of focus should include:

  • Enhancing the feedbase so it is productive for longer each year
  • Grazing and enterprises management practices to allow for greater ‘out-of-season’ supply to
  • the benefit of suppliers and value chain
  • Unlocking the potential of underutilised irrigation in the Limestone Coast for intensive
  • livestock production systems
  • Exploration of pasture-based finishing systems for warmer regions of SA during winter

Such a program will not only enhance the productivity of the SA industry but will also capture many of the gains and learnings generated in other States and through national research funding.

Livestock SA calls for all parties and candidates to commit to investing in current and future research, development and adoption projects which underpin SA’s livestock sector.

ANDREW CURTIS, Chief Executive Officer, Livestock SA

22 February 2018 Media Type: Column / Industry Dev: SA Sheep Industry Blueprint /SA Beef Industry Blueprint / Policy Area: Cattle /Industry & Government /Sheep & wool /