Students and staff based at the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy campus have returned from a 12-day visit to Indonesia to learn first-hand about livestock production systems in a developing nation.
The team from Adelaide visited various locations in Indonesia to learn more about local production facilities and agricultural education.
The team consisted of 11 Agricultural and Animal Science students – including one honours and one PhD student – plus three University of Adelaide staff and a recently retired SARDI scientist.
"The trip was fantastic for students and staff alike," says Associate Professor Wayne Pitchford from the University's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.
"The visit gave the students and two of our new staff exposure to feedlots for cattle production, plantations that utilised by-products for cattle feeding, village and children’s development projects, two abattoirs, and two agricultural universities.
"We also met up with graduates from the University of Adelaide's Agricultural Science and Animal Science programs, who are working in cattle breeding and cattle production in Indonesia."
"As lecturers, we often discuss the best ways to teach students that agriculture is the interaction between culture, macro and micro-economics, politics, climate and topography, in addition to production aspects of supplying food to a global population.
"This tour to Indonesia has achieved all this extremely effectively. Students have matured years in a few days and will have a permanently changed world-view.
"I've worked in agricultural education for 20 years, and this visit was a highlight of my career. I would like to develop joint projects with Indonesian feedlots and students and to continue the tour as an annual event."
The visit was made possible with the support of Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), which funded airfares for the team members and organised much of the program in Indonesia as part of MLA's capacity building activities.
"The choice of Indonesia is because they are a developing country close to our border that we have agricultural trade with, and it is an important neighbour for peace in our region. We will seek to partner with Indonesians in whatever way we can," Associate Professor Pitchford said.
He said he was grateful to MLA for the funding support and believed the visit wouldl have long-lasting benefits for students and staff.
Among the group were students Ashlee Carslake-Hunt, Holly Hannaford, James Rainsford and Romy Bennett, all from South Australia's South-East, Stacey Jonas and Jennifer Cook from the Mid North, Felicity Davies from the
Adelaide Hills, Patricia Eats from Fleurieu Peninsula and Michael Aldridge, Tracey Fischer and Michael Wilkes.
"During the trip to Indonesia I gained so much knowledge about the Australian live export market and how Indonesia produces beef," says Ashlee Carslake-Hunt, a recently completed Bachelor of Agricultural Science student from Robe.
"It was extremely beneficial to see the farming systems that are currently in place to feed the cattle in the feedlots, because I realised that although the feedlot is private or government owned, without it an entire area can be out of work.
"I also learned about the progression of Australian cattle through the supply chain in Indonesia and the regulations that must be passed for an Indonesian feedlot to be able to take Australian cattle," she says.
Patricia Eats, a former dairy farmer at Tooperang near Mount Compass, is completing her Bachelor of Science (Animal Science).
"Arriving in Jakarta, our briefing at the MLA office was ideal," Patricia says. "Learning about political, economic, religious, cultural and logistical realities of Indonesia and its many islands set us up to understand our visit in a more meaningful context.
"We saw that animals are well-loved and respected by the Indonesian people, and learned that good treatment of animals is a fundamental part of Muslim religious principles.
"Slaughtermen in Indonesia are esteemed, each having visited Mecca, and had specific technical training from MLA in collaboration with the Australian Government. They have elevation financially and socially, as opposed to it being largely considered a menial task for uneducated labour in Australia.
"Slaughter technique is highly precise and effective; there are good protocols in place to maintain integrity of the process, including independent Animal Welfare Officers and routine audits.
"I came home understanding better how to auger toward a career in the industry in Indonesia, and I’ve set about a plan to achieve it. I also have some ideas about research that I’m following up," she says.
Dr Mandi Carr from the University's Production Animal Health Centre at the Roseworthy Campus said: "I was inspired to see the dedication of farmers to their livestock as we travelled throughout Indonesia. All farmers, whether they lived in a village and owned two cows, or ran a 10,000 head feedlot, held their cattle in high regard.
"Despite the recent negative attention given to live exports and animal welfare concerns, I was happy to see the cattle in good condition and their welfare needs addressed. I was particularly impressed with the stall facilities that had been built by local village people, with assistance from ACIAR. The facilities were a credit to the village.
"As a result of the ACIAR project conducted within the village, the village had sustained financial wealth due to increased growth rates, calf survival and weaning rates."
Source: University of Adelaide