Saturday, June 25, 2011

Live Cattle Trade - A Producers View

A lot of words have flowed over the past few weeks on this topic.

The quality of the debate has been extremely partisan, and northern cattle producers feel rather miffed. Most comment against the existing trade has come from southern Australia.

One needs to differentiate the trade in live animals, and their slaughter. Does not seem to have been done by most anti the current practices.

Where were all the gurus offering to build abattoirs and facilites for local north Australia processing over the past 20 years or so so that the animals could be processed here? Talk is me the $$$$ for an abattoir in Darwin, Broome, Wyndham or Kununurra, let alone Karumba in Queensland. NEVER HAPPENED.

There have been more serious discussions over the past 2-4 years, and maybe one will get built.......but not before sometime in 2012. Oh, by the way.........that meat is probably not going to Indonesia anyway.

Read the article by a local NT Cattle producer, about 100kms south of Darwin.

Very poignant and pertinent!
Link is here -

Friday, June 24, 2011

Live Cattle Trade to Indonesia

This issue will NOT disappear, with the WA government now pressuring the Australian government to get it sorted out VERY SOON.

Lots of stories in the various press formats still, and no doubt will continue.

More here...

The tenor of the comments particularly from the urban areas indicates little real knowledge of the issue generally.... just that it has to cease.

Some commenters make a case for "structural adjustment" in the northen cattle industry, funded by the government. Sounds fine, but would be monumentally expensive, and take years and years, not to mention a lot of R and D to produce different cattle, better pastures etc. The farms are not factories; cattle are not machines.

In a world needing food the loss of this product in Indonesia is likely to be of dire concern.

Will Indonesia be now as co-operative in dealing with other issues of joint concern - people smuggling, cross border animal and plant disease work, military co-operation. Face needs saving!! And fast......

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Live Cattle Exports - Some Real Facts

"During 2006, 99.82% of cattle and 99.1% of sheep that were loaded onto livestock export vessels in Australia arrived in importing countries in good health after being well looked after during the voyage.

These figures represent a positive ongoing result for the Australian livestock export industry, but industry is committed to continuing to improve. That is why industry, with the Australian Government and AQIS, actively invests in initiatives to improve animal welfare."

The data above came from from an Australian website on animal transport care - both in trucks and ships.

Some data being bandied about by the anti livestock export mafia refer to losses around 5%..........that is NOT correct, particularly for short haul cattle exports from northern Australia to SE Asia. The real figures for that trade are probably even less than the 0.2% above.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Australia's Tropical Beef Herd - Methane Emissions Lower Than Current Estimates

New CSIRO research indicates that the amount of methane emitted from cattle fed on tropical grasses in northern Australia is up to 30 per cent less than figures currently used to calculate the northern cattle industry's contribution to Australia's greenhouse gas accounts.

Speaking at a recent Lansdown Field Day near Townsville, Queensland, CSIRO research leader Dr Ed Charmley said the findings would help to refine the nation's greenhouse gas accounting."

Measurements from cattle in CSIRO's custom-built respiration chambers show that Brahman cattle fed a wide range of tropical grasses emit up to 30 per cent less methane than previously determined. "While you always have to be cautious in extending lab data to the field and across an industry, we have been able to cross-check our findings with methane detecting laser systems used in the field."

These findings, while not changing the actual emissions, could have significant implications for calculating the emission footprint of the northern cattle industry and also for Australia's greenhouse gas accounts. "Methods used to determine these national greenhouse gas accounts are regularly reviewed and if the new data are confirmed via this review process, future accounts will be adjusted to reflect the lower emissions for the northern beef herd," Dr Charmley said.

With about half of the nation's beef herd located in northern Australia, current greenhouse gas accounts indicate that methane from the northern cattle industry contributes about 4.5 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. As a by-product of digesting plants, ruminant livestock such as sheep and cattle produce methane and, of those, beef cattle produce the most - about 200 grams a day, or about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per animal every year."

CSIRO research also shows that northern cattle fed on a diet of predominantly Leucaena, a legume tree, emit less methane than cattle grazing on tropical grasses," Dr Charmley said. "What this nutrition research is showing is that there can be win-win scenarios for the industry and the environment if we can redirect the breakdown of plant material in a way that reduces the amount of methane produced while improving the amount of energy or weight gain that animals get from their feed. "We are addressing cattle methane emissions from several angles - from examining the gut microbes that produce methane from ingested pasture and alternative diets, to a landscape focus on northern Australia's extensive grazing systems using state-of-the-art technologies, such as lasers and wireless sensor networks, to measure and model cattle methane emissions under tropical conditions."

The Lansdown Research Station is a key part of CSIRO's broader research programs on livestock production and emissions reduction in agriculture.

Lansdown Research Station is funded by the Australian Government's Climate Change Research Program, Meat & Livestock Australia and CSIRO and is one of five national research hubs and demonstration sites for practical methane management on-farm.

While this CSIRO press release is encouraging news for the northern beef producers, it is still to be verified in other research.

It seems to also confirm that using higher digestibility forages - in this case leucaena, a legume, it is possible to further lower methane emissions. This is similar to broad results from research work in temperate regions on dairy cows where lowered methane emissions were also corelated strongly with use of higher quality [ digestibility] feed.

There has been a trend in the past 20 years to push for more grass in beef pastures as compared to earlier periods of northern development when pasture legumes were seen as more important - then related to higher protein levels in the diet. Unfortunately, most grass now eaten by stock is on the dry side, with quite low digestibility, especially in more extensive pastoral regions. Changing digestibility can be done through plant breeding, but that is unlikely to happen any time soon. Tropical grasses also tend to be of lower digestibility intrinsically than temperate pasture species.

Leucaena is a viable option in many areas, although getting pasture areas established is time consuming and costly. It does have well proven performance in growing and finishing stock across many regions of north Australia. Superb results were achieved about 25 years ago in the Ord Valley at kununurra, but not too many producers are using the system - why would you, when live export has been the normal practice and there is little bonus for good quality finished cattle, with high carcase quality, in the north of Australia.

Lowered estimated methane emissions might quell some of the wild statements made about how awful the beef herd is environmentally though!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Organic Eggs - NOT ALL Are Really Organic

According to the Cornucopia Institute (CI), a non-profit which promotes economic justice for family scale farming, all organic eggs produced in the USA are not alike.

They recently released the report - Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture.

The report contains an Organic Egg Scorecard that rates 70 name brand as well as additional private label organic egg producers based on 22 factors that the organization deems critical to the typical organic consumer. The main rating criteria include outdoor access, outdoor management, indoor quality of life and welfare, and organic principles of farm interdependence and ecological sustainability.

The highest rating, five eggs, goes to companies CI considers ethical family farms, companies that go beyond national organic standards. Most of these companies are small, local distributers.

The producers given the lowest rating, one egg, are those CI believes are in violation of organic standards of animal welfare and/or were not transparent with their practices during CI's research. Sadly, many of the single-egg brands are the ones most easily available to consumers. Whole Foods' 365 brand, Trader Joe's brand, O Organic by Safeway, and Costco’s Kirkland brand all received a single egg for their sup-par performance.

The report, conducted over a one year period, details how organic egg producers vary greatly in their interpretation of the Federal USDA Organic Standards, "Paths are diverging in the organic-egg-producing community: One path affords more outdoor access and more diversity on the farm; and another path has led to large-scale industrialization motivated by profit."

While Australia has quite strict rules about what is organic and its labelling, it is quite possible that similar issues occur here.

Normally a producer is "Certified Organic" which includes strict inspections and using verifiable organic inputs, and the "Certified Organic" term is used. Claims about "organic" products are often just "claims", unless they are certified as organic.

So be eggs ain't always organic eggs!