“Be part of something” RMAC chair urges Wagyu conference delegates

Cattle breeders who do not align with a branded beef supply chain would be doomed to be price-takers forever, Red Meat Advisory Council chair Don Mackay warned a producer audience in Mackay earlier today.

Mr Mackay was speaking to 500 Wagyu industry stakeholders gathered this week for the 2018 national Wagyu industry conference. “You’ve got to be part of something,” he said, referring to supply chains.

“There’s a number of features that underpin that. Integrity systems are absolutely vital, and a whole of chain approach to ensure that as a high-cost, high-quality Wagyu producer, we learn how to make that an advantage for us – not a disadvantage.”

The reality was, integrity systems (Mr Mackay displayed a slide showing a range of such programs, from the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme to National Vendor Declarations and the processing industry’s Australian Animal Welfare Assurance Scheme) were what sets the Australian industry apart from international competitors.

“It’s just so important that we embrace it; understand why it is there; because it really does help deliver that enormous shift from being a ‘price-taker’ to a ‘price-maker’ commanding genuine premiums for our product,” Mr Mackay said.

He said the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, being discussed at length at Beef 2018 next week, was another key part of that. The Framework will launch its first report next week.

Also during this morning’s AWA conference sessions, AWA Life Membership was bestowed on industry pioneer Greg Gibbons, general manager of feedlots for the Australian Agricultural Co; and Wagyu Hall of Fame recognition to Lachie Hart, Stockyard Beef’s chief executive.

The Hart family’s Stockyard business has been a long-term feeder of Wagyu cattle and brand pioneer into Asian markets, and Mr Hart spent a lengthy term of the AWA board.

Mr Gibbons was feedlot manager at Aronui feedlot near Dalby on the Darling Downs, where the first serious attempts to longfed Wagyu cattle took place in the 1990s. After the feedlot was bought by AA Co, he went on to direct the company’s Wagyu breeding and feeding operations – arguably the largest in the world.  He also served a lengthy period on the AWA board.

As a measure of the momentum still being seen in Wagyu production, the AWA yesterday held a ‘beginners’ course’ for intending Wagyu cattle producers new to the industry, covering breeding, feeding genetics, husbandry and other handy topics. Organisers had planned for an audience of around 100. Instead, 300 turned up to hear the messages.

Beef Central  |  By Jon Condon