Hannah Marriott was speaking at the Australian Farm Institute’s ‘Harvesting the Benefits of Digital Agriculture’ conference in Melbourne.
Ms Marriott said while dual energy x-ray absorbtiometry (DEXA) objectively measured lean meat yield in carcases, there were some drawbacks.
“But, there is a but, in lamb production, intramuscular fat (imf) is an essential component of eating quality – and imf is negatively correlated, to lean meat yield,” Ms Marriott said.
“So if we look at imf in isolation, we will be shifting the market signals to a big lean, carcase – this would have obvious and significant impacts on demand for lamb.”
Ms Marriott said there was a disconnect between market signals for a heavy, fat carcase, ranging from 18-30kg, and what the customer wanted.
“But, on the other hand, consumers don’t really want this, they are eating less, they are eating smaller portions, and they want a good quality, lean product,” Ms Marriott said.
She called for greater feedback, which could be used directly in on-farm management systems.
Lamb producers selected for fat, because it underpinned lamb survival and condition score, in ewes.
Existing feedback came in the form of kill sheets, carcase grade and fat or skin value.
“Or you might even get, my favourite ‘crikey, that’s a good set of lambs isn’t it ?’.
“All these are pretty limiting forms of information, when it comes to when you really want to make informed breeding and management decisions for the next year,” Ms Marriott said.
“The top 25 per cent of ewes will generated me $182 worth of lambs, the bottom 25 per cent generate $81- that’s a significant difference.
“What I don’t know is what is the eating quality like on those lambs, and we need to pick that up, because I am going to select the top profitable ewes.”
“Sending the right market signals is paramount, to continuing to ensure the right product is produced.”
The other critical element were human beings.
“The human element in technology, to me, is like the gelatine in jelly – it is the thing that is needed to turn the information into something useful.”
“These technologies will Ms Marriott said she was “generally super excited” about the impact of digital technology on farm decisions and the supply chain.
“I am super excited because digital technology has the ability to deliver accurate, timely and relevant information to my business,” Ms Marriott said.
Technology opened people’s eyes to other ways of doing things.
“Individual animal productivity is our focus, so we really heavily rely on technology to be able to deliver the information we need, to make the right decisions.”
Technology was sometimes about the gadgets and novelty value, and how it worked, rather than it could achieve.
“Technology in the supply chain means three things to me; accurate, and timely collection of data, how this data is interpreted and how we get the most of it on farm,”