Cattle Australia director spotlight: James Bowie   

Beef Central, 02/06/2023

After a long-running industry restructure process which culimated late last year, a national board of directly-elected cattle producer representatives is now charged with providing leadership and direction for the Australian grassfed beef cattle industry.

The inaugural Cattle Australia board is made up of seven representatives elected by its members, with a further two skills-based directors yet to be appointed by the board.

In an ongoing series of profiles, Beef Central is asking each Cattle Australia director about why they stood for the national board, what they see as key issues confronting Australian cattle producers and their throughts on how the future of the Australian beef cattle industry currently stands.

This week we profile WA producer James Bowie.


Name: James Bowie

Region: Western Australian Livestock Research Council


What is your background in the Australian beef industry?

My family has a long connection with agriculture and beef that goes back over six generations here in Australia on my mother’s side and many generations more than that on my father’s side back in Scotland.

Like a lot of country kids, I spent most of my free time helping out on the farm before heading off to boarding school in the city where I eventually found myself working in oil and gas for most of my career.

Six years ago we hit a point where my parents gave my wife Katina and I an ultimatum – either take over the family farm or it would be sold. So without a lot of warning my parents handed over the reins to my wife and I. Since then, and with the help of our great small team, we have increased our breeding herd from about 400 to over 1000 Angus breeders across 1600ha.

I am firmly of the belief a farmer’s currency is the health of their herds and their land, and since taking over the farm we have been adopting new principles to lift stocking rates, reduce weed burden, improve pastures and improve efficiencies. Given we have doubled our breeding herd and also last week we were really honoured to receive second place in the processor category in the Harvey Beef Gate to Plate Challenge – something must be working!

Last year I was elected Chair of Western Beef, a grower group of pasture-fed beef producers in WA and I am also a member of the South-West WA Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub Committee.


Why did you stand for the board of Cattle Australia?

I believe Cattle Australia offers a unique opportunity for our sector to demonstrate that raising beef is sustainable as well as something that all Australians should be proud of.

Right now it feels like our sector is at a crossroads and we really need to get out there united as one voice to make sure we tell our story about why beef is not only delicious but critical to our future as a vital source of protein and also an important tool we can use to help manage our land.

Over recent years the loudest voices have tended to be the activists who are increasingly viewing beef as the new coal and as such our cattle industry is now front and centre for their negative energies.

As an example, right now the Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) is running a major campaign that is targeting local ALP branches and encouraging them to pass a motion that would dramatically impact our sector by legislating that beef farmers have to half their methane emissions by 2030 – something that could realistically only be achieved by cutting herd numbers.

This highlights how we – as an industry – need to get on the front foot and better articulate to the public and our politicians why beef is important or we risk increasingly impossible targets being set that we will never be able to achieve.

My working career has been mainly spent in the resources industry, mainly LNG, where I have seen impacts of public sentiment swing against a sector.

But through my work assisting companies like Chevron Australia and Woodside with their corporate and government affairs, or working within advocacy organisations such as the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy, I have also seen how building trusted relationships with Government and communities is instrumental to shaping emerging policies.

Right now it would appear that energy security and food security are both extremely topical – but in the beef sector, we still have a chance to get in front of the debate to help ensure future policies (such as being advocated by groups such as LEAN) are not embraced by Government.

With Cattle Australia, I am looking forward to assisting with developing policy, guiding research, and providing advice on reputational management for the sector as well as advocating on matters important to the Australian cattle industry and family farmers.


What are three key issues you see confronting the Australian Cattle Industry at the moment?

Clearly, the Australian cattle industry is at a crossroads and facing significant headwinds.

For me, the three biggest issues are managing the rising wave of activism focusing on beef, the need for a more evidence-based approach to measuring the impacts of methane and beef on climate change and the ever-increasing biosecurity threat of animal diseases such as FMD or LSD.

I touched on the rising activism above but in addition, I believe there is an unfair burden being placed on farmers due to a failure by governments around the world to recognise that methane breaks down over 12 years in greenhouse gas emission reporting methodologies! The simple fact is that methane is an important part of a natural cycle and we need to get this message out and better understood.

In terms of biosecurity, we are all well aware of the ongoing risk and ramifications of diseases such as FMD and LSD which are literally on our doorstep. Recently the Federal Government announced a new levy that will be imposed to help fund a more sustainable biosecurity regime – and Cattle Australia will need to play an active role in shaping how our levies are used and also to ensure the burden of managing biosecurity is shared across all the sectors that pose risks.

With all of these issues, we need to have a united voice through Cattle Australia that can become trusted across government and the community and most importantly by farmers and the broader cattle value chain.


How do you see the future of the Australian beef cattle industry?

Our future is going to be defined by how successful we are in re-framing the current debate around beef and its impacts as well as building trust in the public that beef is critical for our diets and health and has an ongoing place in managing our environment.

Luckily, we have a huge number of committed and highly-talented farmers and beef lovers across Australia that will help us achieve this.

We are also seeing a growing number of scientists – such as those who signed the Dublin Declaration of Scientists on the Societal Role of Livestock – who are prepared to take on the ideology and opinions of our detractors.

It’s through them, all our Australian farmers and the team that is building the new Cattle Australia that will help ensure a bright future for beef.


Earlier Cattle Australia director profiles:

For more information on Cattle Australia click here



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  1. David Stanley Lovelock, 03/06/2023

    Well done to Jamie Bowie on election to Cattle Australia board . WA beef industry looks forward to his part in managing the great and diverse Australian beef industry .
    We need greater recognition of the role of ruminants like cattle in providing for the increasing world wide demand for protein for people and care if the environment.
    About 10 years ago the then Cattle Council of Australia actively directed MLA in their research to reduce methane emissions from livestock, to ensure any reduction was only to be acceptable if that reduction was accompanied by increase in animal protein production. The natural production of methane by ruminants could be considered a waste by-product because energy is required in its production that could be better utilized in producing human edible protein – beef and lamb.
    The Dublin Declaration Jamie refers , to recognizes this efficient protein production and that the carbon content of the methane and CO2 our livestock expel was in the air during the last growing season
    unlike the emissions from oil, coal and natural gas which is composed of carbon that was in the air eons ago.
    Let us all promote and acknowledge the true science of our protein and fiber production activities using livestock and pressure politicians not to be misdirected by the emotions pushed be some activists .
    David Lovelock

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