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More state farming bodies support proposed lamb definition change

by Terry Sim, 06 December 2017

MOST state farming organisations have come out in favour of changing Australia’s definition for lamb, with only Victoria currently publicly opposing the proposed move.

SFOs in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland have supported the proposal to change the lamb definition to allow for the eruption of permanent incisors, but without either incisor being in wear, consistent with New Zealand’s criteria.

Australia’s AUS-MEAT language currently defines lamb as a female, castrated or entire male up to 12 months of age with no erupted permanent incisor teeth, whereas New Zealand defines lamb as a sheep under 12 months of age or which does not have any permanent incisor teeth in wear.

A lamb language consultation deadline was last week extended by Sheep Producers Australia until today, after only about 200 people filled out an online survey and a handful of direct submissions were received by independent project consultant Holmes Sackett.

NSW Farmers had applied to SPA for an extension to formalise its position on the proposal at a teleconference call this Friday. Sheep Central was unable to get a response from the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association today.

SPA president Allan Piggott said it was thought there would be more feedback on the proposed change, but the consultation ran for nine weeks.

“So everyone has had an opportunity.

“The other key message was that on the survey there was a lot of supporting documentation and I really do hope that producers have had a read through that to get some background information.”

Mr Piggott the submissions will be collated over the next few weeks. In late January SPA policy committees, led by the Marketing, Market Access and Trade Committee, would be looking at the submissions and will put recommendations to the SPA board meeting in February.

AgForce sheep and wool policy director Michael Allpass said the proposal was supported because of the added time it would give producers to market lamb.

“They are not second-guessing themselves and there was a level of certainty, in terms of when they need to get their product to the abattoir, and therefore not losing out on potential price discounts if a lamb’s teeth erupt just prior to slaughter.

“Until improvements in grading technology occur, my members were more in favour of the changing of the definition to be more in line with New Zealand and to give producers more certainty in knowing when their product is ready to go.”

Livestock SA president Joe Keynes said the body supported the change as a logical move due to the downgrading of animals in markets because they had cut their permanent incisors.

“It gives producers a bit of a slightly longer window to market premium lambs.

“We thought it would have no detriment on their eating quality, but we would like to see more objective measurement come in and Meat Standards Australia stands would also assist in ensuring we are marketing the best quality lamb,” he said.

“I think this (change) would aid our producers in maximising their lamb production and help them get their lambs to the right weight.

“If they just crack those teeth they know they have to market them very, very quickly, otherwise they will be in wear and that will be a different matter.”

The Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group believes the proposed change in the definition of Australian lamb will lead to the compromising of the value of the current product.

The VFF would like to see uptake of objective carcase measurement of lamb across the Australian processing sector – DEXA in every plant – to allow the change to a meat eating quality-based system.

“Until you have that in place, you are running the risk of compromising the value of the lamb brand,” group president Leonard Vallance said last week.

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