The potential for a grassfed beef assurance program in Western Australia to take advantage of the clean and green reputation of rangelands cattle is being assessed by the Department of Agriculture and Food.
An update on work examining prospects for a certified program was presented by the department’s Northern Beef Futures (NBF) project to producers and stakeholders at the De Grey LCDC information day at Yarrie Station in the Pilbara last Friday.
NBF market analyst Dale Miles said the desktop analysis was undertaken to examine whether margin gains could be improved through developing a value-added grassfed product within an integrated supply chain.
“Global annual demand for grassfed beef is on the rise and industry projections suggest this demand will continue in key export markets, such as the United States,” Mr Miles said.
“Investment in irrigated precincts through the rangelands region, along with north-south integration and backgrounding models, presents an opportunity to supply a consistent product to the market and deliver a market premium for producers under an auditable assurance program.”
The study has been jointly funded by the department’s Northern Beef Futures project, made possible by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program, and the Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company.
“The Pilbara and parts of the Kimberley regions are in a distinctive position of producing beef that can fit the requirements of a grassfed certification program with some changes to the current transactional business models,” Mr Miles said.
He said the challenge with developing a program for the region in the past had been consistency of supply during unseasonally dry or drought periods.
“The current development and investment in irrigated fodder systems and increased adoption rates of north-south integration through backgrounding could provide a key solution to this supply challenge,” he said.
Mr Miles said as part of the study, producer, processor and market feedback was sought.
“On-property discussions with pastoralists in the Pilbara region helped to assess the level of producer interest in the development of a grassfed assurance program in WA,” he said.
“A number of pastoralists own or have access to farming land used for backgrounding cattle in the agricultural region, traditionally used for the live export market or prior to entry into southern processor markets.
“The transition of these farms to become certified under a grassfed assurance program could form part of a further integrated supply chain as a value driver and margin gain for the industry and producers.”
Mr Miles said the study was expected to be completed this month and department would be consulting with MLA and WA beef industry champions on prioritising the next steps. (Aug 2016).
Department market analyst Roger Verbrugge also provided an update on backgrounding for diversified markets and development officer Tim Wiley discussed mosaic agriculture opportunities for irrigated and dryland forage systems.
De Grey LCDC Executive Officer Bill Currans said the information sharing day provided pastoralists, cattle industry representatives, consultants, regional groups and State Government agencies an opportunity to discuss products, projects and ideas for the Pilbara.
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