AUSTRALIA’S peak sheep meat producer body has joined its beef industry counterpart in supporting Meat & Livestock Australia’s commitment to roll-out objective carcase measurement technology nationally.
The Sheepmeat Council of Australia this week welcomed the proposed $150 million initiative – believing it would enable scientific measurement of saleable meat yield and underpin future value-based marketing and productivity gains through processing automation, genetic improvement and data-based on-farm decision-making.
The Sheepmeat Council of Australia said it believed objective carcase measurement had the potential to underpin improvements in quality and compliance throughout the sheep meat value chain, helping the sector meet goals outlined in the Sheep Industry Strategic Plan 2015-2020.
MLA managing director Richard Norton last week announced MLA would acquire a commercial loan on behalf of industry to finance the $150 million one-off cost of installing Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) technology in up to 90 AUS-MEAT abattoirs.
The Cattle Council of Australia has also welcomed MLA’s OCM commitment and said it looks forward to working with MLA and the other peak councils on how to best structure the $150 million one-off loan.
MLA has also received in-principal support from deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, for the introduction of objective measurement across the industry.
The joint support for the MLA initiative appears to clear the way for further discussions on any need for industry underwriting of the $150 million loan. Mr Norton said last week he would continue to consult with the industry’s peak councils on how to best structure the one-off cost of industry-wide OCM introduction.
SCA president Jeff Murray said the proposed borrowing of $150 million was a huge commitment.
“But it is taking us in the direction we have been looking to go in for some time on objective carcase measurement, so providing all the ducks lined up, it’s the direction we want to go for sure and it fits in with our SISP.”
The SCA also recognised that to improve Meat Standards Australia program for sheep and meet the industry targets set under the SISP, more data must be measured and captured.
The SCA had no objections to the initiative at this stage, Mr Murray said, but wanted to see more detail and welcomed further consultation on the issue to ensure maximum return on the large, industry-wide investment.
The SCA said objective carcase measurement in combination with appropriate information feedback is one of the most powerful forces for changing the behaviour of livestock producers as a driver to increase productivity and profitability of the industry.
But incorporation of objective carcase measurement technology into processing plants needed to be consistent across processing plants and data captured using this technology must be provided back to producers through consignment feedback to inform on-farm decisions and be the basis for productivity gains across the industry, the council said in a statement.
The SCA said the sheep meat industry has been calling for a move to value-based marketing underpinned by accurate and consistent objective carcase measurement, especially for over the hook selling.
“In the sheep industry, two of the largest processors have already embraced technologies that objectively measure carcase traits and in some cases utilise this technology for automated cutting of the carcass, resulting in consistent quality cuts for the customer,” the council said.