Social licence on the front foot

May 04, 2015

Having social licence to operate requires Australian dairy to be proactive, honest and willing to change practices. Likened to building up a bank of goodwill and trust that can be drawn on from consumers, customers and the community when issues arise, social licence is what we continue to maintain and grow as an industry.

At the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria’s (UDV) Annual Conference held in Melbourne on 29 April, social licence was placed at the top of the agenda and a range of issues were discussed and debated, including animal welfare.

Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) Egg Group President and established national egg wholesaler, Brian Ahmed spoke to the conference of 100 delegates about his personal dealings with animal activism.

Mr Ahmed also spoke about the growing disconnect between rural and metropolitan communities being a reason for “big business” animal activism today, and the importance of agricultural commodities uniting together to communicate our animal husbandry and production practices directly with the community.

“These days it is very easy for city-dwellers to assume they know everything about farming through Google...the only way we’re going to get our message out there is by doing it ourselves.

“We need to start campaigning now by focussing on doing the ‘right thing’ and ‘proving it’ in order to change the perceptions of the community five to 10 years down the track,” Mr Ahmed said.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) CEO, Alison Penfold also shared her industry’s experiences with animal activism following the fallout from the ABC Four Corners feature story, “Another Bloody Business” in 2011. Depicting disturbing animal cruelty footage captured in Indonesian abattoirs, the feature ignited public outrage and prompted the Federal Government to place a ban on live exports to Indonesia.

Ms Penfold explained when ALEC failed to face many of the industry’s emerging issues at the time, they fell short of the Australian community’s expectations and left them with the view the live export industry was uncaring towards the animals in its charge. However, since then ALEC has been working hard to earn back the community’s trust.

“The biggest challenge is taking the community along with us. Transparency can be scary at times, but it is also imperative if we are to be honest with ourselves and those around us.

“It’s so important we openly acknowledge where we are now and where we would like to be. By simply telling the positive stories, you can be accused of ‘spin doctoring’,” Ms Penfold explained.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) President, Noel Campbell who also presented at the conference, spoke about phasing out calving induction as an example of how the Australian dairy industry is proactively working to meet community expectations.

“As a farming community, we understand calving induction has played an important role in breeding management on our dairy farms, and that this enables us to perform more efficiently. Yet it is no secret that many consumers find induction and its consequences to be unnecessary.

“The phase out of calving induction is high on ADF’s agenda and we are committed to working with farmers to help make this transition,” Mr Campbell said.

Other aspects of social licence discussed included use of genetically modified crops and mining of coal-seam gas on productive farms, which Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) Executive Director, Dr Peter Stahle provided the dairy processors’ perspective on.

L-R: SADA President, David Basham, VFF Egg Group President, Brian Ahmed and UDV President, Adam Jenkins enjoying breakfast at the UDV Annual Conference.

ADF President, Noel Campbell: Working to support dairy farmers in actively phasing out calving induction .

ALEC CEO, Alison Penfold: Sharing the livestock industry's experience with animal activism.

Healthy, happy cows are productive cows...

Feb 12, 2015

Healthy, happy cows are productive cows and are a key to a sustainable future for dairy. The progress made in genomic technology by Dairy Futures CRC will be central to producing the happy, healthy kind of cow you want to milk.

The progress made in genomics technology helps farmers address key issues in herd health, which impact on the animal’s wellbeing. It also allows farmers to reduce the cost of production and exposure to external price shocks.

The AgriBio, centre for agribioscience, in Bundoora, is the home for Dairy Futures CRC’s work to develop world-leading gene technology. Members of the ADF team toured the facility in January, accompanied by the CRC’s CEO, Dr David Nation and Manager of Education and Industry Engagement, Belinda Griffiths, where they were exposed to a variety of the CRC’s projects.

Dr Nation explained how recent achievements in pasture and animal breeding will help farmers evolve their production systems.

“Recent achievements by the CRC, including the development of an Australian Breeding Value (ABV) for feed efficiency, which will be published in April 2015, have significantly increased farmers’ ability to improve the quality of their herds,” Dr Nation said.

“An improved model for calculating the fertility ABV and the ability of farmers to select young bulls before they have sired milking daughters also contribute to this.”

The technology developed in collaboration with the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme, will help farmers boost the productivity of their stock by matching animals which produce offspring with greater disease resistance, milk production and fertility.

Such progress, Dr Nation said, gives the industry the certainty that it will be able to grow regardless of economic and climatic environments. 

“This will give us the scope to improve dairy’s productivity and resilience now and in the future.”

Developments in breeding ryegrass have also been made with pasture breeders now able to select breeding plants for desirable traits using a world-first ryegrass cultivar map. Additionally, pasture breeding companies have low-cost, accurate tests to screen ryegrass seed and plants for contamination by toxic or undesirable endophytes.

ADF looks forward to working with Dairy Futures to build the long term sustainability of farming practices, and will continue to advocate strongly for the positive innovations of transformational bioscience.   

Find out more about Dairy Futures CRC and the work they do here.

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