AUSTRALIAN agricultural investment group AAM is undertaking one of the sheep industry’s largest sire testing projects linked to fertility and eating quality outcomes with its Dorper flock.
AAM founder and managing director Garry Edwards told the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association Conference in Wagga Wagga this week that the group’s Dorper flock – the largest in Australia — produces 75,000 lamb annually.
In making a point about AAM’s use of technology to create economically sustainable businesses that are cashflow positive and making returns to investors, Mr Edwards said AAM is going to do one of Australia’s largest sire-testing program linked to eating quality outcomes.
“You can’t do that unless you’re economically sustainable – in this market it is very much driven through your ability to pay a distribution (to investors), because people fear debt.
“Earning money and then showing you are sustainable, then gives you the right to go and do the other things.”
Mr Edrwards said AAM now runs 50,000 Dorper and White Dorper ewes running across its Blackall region Australian Livestock Company assets behind exclusion fencing and finishing properties in New South Wales. ALC is a wholly owned subsidiary of AAM Investment Group’s Diversified Agriculture Fund.
Mr Edwards said AAM has invested in a large sheep flock over the last three years, including purchasing the Burrawang Dorper stud.
“We’re going to look at the sire lines that we are using in those commercial programs and follow them through, because we retain ownership through to processing, and looking at how we apply large amounts of carcase data back to genetic lines.
“Which I think would be the largest undertaking in the sheep industry (of its type) certainly by an individual company.”
Mr Edwards said the “first and foremost trait in the Dorper flock is fertility and then it’s about how we produce the best carcase outcome without detrimentally affecting fertility, because fertility is the driver in our business.”
He said Dorper ewes are breeding about three times every two years at the moment producing 140 percent lambs weaned annually.
“But what we’ll be doing is finding out what can we do to further improve that fertility, because we know there is a high prevalence of genetic lines that are having twins and a lot of ewes that are naturally raising twins.
“But then ultimately following those sire lines through to see what is the objective carcase performance on both eye muscle areas, eating quality traits, marbling etc and just working out where that data sits today,” he said.
“We’re expecting to find that there are some variations between those genetic lines – no-one has looked for it before.
“We’re looking at this as a long-term path of how we recognise quality within the lamb sector to add extra value, rather than simply brand ‘Australian lamb,’” he said.
“We think are more eating quality attributes to have out there.
“We know that lamb is a great product, it’s just not marketed in the same way that we see beef and other products marketed.”
Mr Edwards said carcase data has shown some lambs have intramuscular fat, but AAM needed to validate the genetic lines it is coming from. AAM would also look at feed efficiency
“Obviously nutrition on an annual basis has a big influence on all of this stuff.
“We’re simply looking at doing the work and building a dataset, and doing matching some DNA testing to go back and validate the sire lines and their performance.”
AAM lambs are currently sold under contract to either Thomas Foods International or the Arcadian Organic Group. The AAM ewe flock is organic, Mr Edwards said.
Mr Edwards told the ICMJ Conference in Wagga Wagga this week that AAM is “probably the largest agricultural company that you’ve never heard of.”
“And that’s because we are absolutely 100 percent Australian privately owned and 100 percent of the money that have invested in agricultural projects has come from Australian investors – as of today that is $971 million, that’s occurred in the last 5.5 years.”
The group employs 485 people across 31 different sites across the Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
“Our focus as a business is not how we are an individual producer, but it’s how we build and create supply chains.
“the fundamental strategy what drives our investment and what we look at today is we don’t want to be in any sector where we are a price-taker; what we want is enough volume or capacity to be a price influencer, a key difference,” he said.
“We really don’t talk about production we talk about the supply chains we participate in.”
AAM has also created Project LAAM – a pilot project that give investors the opportunity to be closer to the farm to fork journey through access to prime, sustainably produced Dorper lamb from the ALC flock.