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Western Queensland Beef Summit: how to produce profitable beef in drought

Lydia Burton, Monday August 25, 2014 - 16:01 EST
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A panel of agricultural experts discuss profitability in the beef industry at the beef industry renewal summit in Longreach. - ABC

What are the keys to running a profitable grazing enterprise?

That is the focus of a two day beef industry 'renewal summit' being held in Longreach in western Queensland.

Academics, business leaders and landholders have gathered to discuss solutions to some of the current challenges in the beef industry.

The aim of the summit is to generate ideas that could help producers become profitable in the midst of drought, poor cattle markets and high debt levels.

Diversify your farming business

Professor John Cole is the executive director of the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland.

He says producers need to look at diversification, from the way they sell produce to the way they finance their business.

"We have got to come up with a regional brand," Professor Cole said.

"We have got to somehow come up with something that sustains the local economy during the downturn.

"We have got to be more diversified. Foreign investment has a role to play here.

"It is going to be through farmers being better organised and business savvy to work with foreign investors.

"We have got to get beyond the message it's all doom and gloom.

"If we are going to project a message to attract young people and investors, we have got to have a more consistent and positive message." he said.

Invest in youth

Chief executive officer for the Primary Industry Capability Alliance, Richard Fitzgerald says Australians can learn a lot from their counterparts across the Tasman.

He says the key to a strong future in agriculture lies with investing in the next generation.

"It is simple. In farming you look after your hoggets and heifers, you invest in them as a priority class of stock; young people are the same, it is your future success," he said.

Mr Fitzgerald says, "I think New Zealand's primary industry works together more cohesively perhaps than the Australian industry."

Forget the term 'average year'

The summit also focused on the weather outlook and Professor Roger Stone from the University of Southern Queensland commented that there is no such thing as an average year.

Professor Stone says Australia has the most variable climate on earth.

"Nowhere else on earth has the extremes in rainfall that we get on a year to year basis," he said.

"So you have got to be tough to survive out here and we have to have farming systems that can capture the benefits when they come, but we have to jump off when it swings the other way."

Mr Stone says Australian producers need to develop a resilient farming system.

Build relationships with key stakeholders

A number of farmers addressed the forum and Victorian tomato grower and chief executive of Nuffield Australia Jim Geltch says it's critical to maintain relationships with key stakeholders.

Mr Geltch explains his family lost their entire tomato crop due to flooding in 2011.

"We saw $1.5 million basically get washed down the river," he said.

"We sat around the table the next day and said well where do we go from here?

"Collectively we decided we would go forward. When you have a really significant issue you go into it collectively with a positive attitude.

"We really communicated with all of the stakeholders in our business. We really built a relationship and maintained communication.

"I would suggest that is one of the key aspects that people should be thinking about, communication and building relationships."


© ABC 2014

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