Adaptation key for red meat

16 Jun, 2013 04:00 AM
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AUSTRALIA'S livestock industry has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to facing changing climate and environment, according to a symposium held by the Primary Industries Adaptation Research Network in Melbourne last week.

Entitled "Farm profitability in a food insecure world'", the forum saw agriculture professionals and specialist science researchers present on success stories and the areas that need work when it came to climate adaptation and mitigation.

Livestock producers from three States were involved, including seedstock cattle breeder Lucinda Corrigan, Rennylea Angus, Holbrook, NSW.

Mrs Corrigan said the livestock industry, in comparison to other areas of agriculture, was not quite fast enough, with some parts slower than others.

"Often people will ask me 'well what's happening in livestock' – we don't have that great success story… about the transformation of the grains industry, that continuous and what I call relentless innovation," she said.

"The prime lamb industry has really reinvented itself since 1990 and a whole lot of innovations have added to that success story … the story is not finished and I think in terms of our adaptation and transformation it is only about 50 per cent there.

"If farmers are given the tools, they will keep adapting and that is a great story."

The benefits of mitigation versus adaptation were discussed by a number of speakers but Mrs Corrigan said she saw the two concepts converging as one in the future.

"I am interested in keeping my business going now, so we need technologies helping us to become more efficient now," she said.

"If you think about adaptation and mitigation, well adaptation is here now, it is closer to the paddock, mitigation is further away, and there are more spill over benefits.

"You can use this thought to guide how we as an industry and as the Australian community help us invest in some of these challenges to solve what are big issues."

The red meat industry in particular was facing a "seesaw" affect, according to Mrs Corrigan, between those focussed on research and extension and those concerned with their own adaptation.

"We have quite a lot of critical tension at the MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia) board about how we get these horizons right," she said.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand have committed $36.5 million over seven years for climate research and Mrs Corrigan said this was a good example for Australia to follow.

NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre director Harry Clark said sustainable farming and lowering the greenhouse gas intensity of agriculture was also about image.

"NZ is focused mainly on mitigation, where it is more about adaptation here in Australia," he said. "NZ's image is really important because of its focus on environmentally-sympathetic markets.

"However, at the end of the day, for many consumers in the future it will be solely about getting enough food and the image will only be of concern to minority wealthy customers."

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