The inaugural Neogen Angus Foundation Production Tour took place in July and saw eight young members of the beef industry from around Australia embark on a three-day tour of Southeast Queensland, visiting various beef businesses representing stages of the supply chain that makes up paddock to plate production.

Alkira Riley, Charlie Wrigley, Georgia Graham, Tom Pumpa, Tyla Sparks, Sarah Nesbitt, Cooper Walsh and John Barnett all participated in the tour, which aimed to provide them the chance to experience firsthand the beef supply chain in this region to gain a greater insight and appreciation of Angus cattle in the South-East Queensland environment.

Over the three days, the tour moved throughout the southeastern corner, kicking off with a visit and tour of the Neogen Australasia Head Office and Lab, Bundamba, who provide comprehensive DNA testing solutions to various livestock production industries.

For the group, the tour of the facility provided insight into the processes of the company past the point of when producers submit samples for testing, as well as how the industry is building on this technology.

“At the Neogen Australasia Labs we witnessed how hair and tissue samples are processed beyond the farm gate and gained insight into the new technologies which have enabled faster, more accurate genomic and genetic condition testing,” said Charlie Wrigley.

“Technology advancements are something that the beef industry must continually adopt to and evolve with in order to remain ahead of economic strain and public perception. As seedstock producers, gaining understanding into what goes in to generating the data we rely so heavily upon was invaluable for all.”

“The tour and presentation by Nancy Crawshaw and Harry Stewart (Neogen Territory Manager – QLD) was insightful and focused on animal selection, genetic inheritance, testing and the links to EBV’s,” said Sarah Nesbitt.

“Harry gave us a tour of the Neogen Lab and the entire genetic testing procedure, providing us as seedstock producers tips on how we can help improve the process and make it more efficient.”

“Something that caught most of our attention was the procedure and timeliness of submitting tail hair samples rather than TSU’s. The lab attendant takes approximately 45 minutes to cut a tray of 96 samples for testing – individually cutting each follicle from the hair,” Sarah said.

Following their tour of the Neogen Laboratory, the group paid a visit to Jackie and Jim Wedge of Ascot Cattle, Warwick.

The group spent the afternoon with Jim and Jackie, who were forthcoming in sharing their insights with the group on their aim to breed bulls for the commercial environment and adhere to rigorous selection criteria, particularly focused on ease of calving, growth and carcase quality.

“Ascot Angus was my first behind the scenes exposure to an operation that breeds animals solely for the purposes of a stud sale,” said Tom Pumpa. “Jim and Jackie where happy to show us every little detail of their operation, from their top-of-the-line bulls that makeup the cornerstone of their breeding operation to the land and animal management techniques they use to keep their business productive and easy to operate.”

“They were happy to answer any questions we had and whilst touring the bulls selected for their upcoming sale, I got to pick the brains of both Jim and Jackie and the other participants whose operations focus on stud sales.”

Charlie continued, “Jim and Jackie highlighted the importance of working closely with clients and absorbing their feedback. Through listening to producers and observing gaps in the market they successfully manage not just one but two breeds of quality seedstock.”
“Jim and Jackie’s integration with clients to help them achieve their goals and also better their own seedstock was an important note to their success,” he said.

Next stop of the tour was a visit to commercial operation Dunmore Pastoral, located near Cecil Plains. Dunmore Pastoral is a progressive commercial operation in the Darling Downs region. Owned and operated by the Clay family, they ultlise Angus genectics in a dedicated breeding herd to supply a local feedlot, while also operating a trading operation over three properties. With manager Tim Clay, the team were able to have a behind the scenes look into the business and their management practices.

“The day I took the most away from was the visit to Dunmore Pastoral, run by Tim Clay. Tim has an ‘out of the box thinking’ to what he brings into his farm,” said John Barnett. “By using bio-waste as fertilizer and crops some would consider weeds, he makes the most out of other people’s waste.”

“It’s that kind of lateral thinking that I want to bring back into Barnett Angus, and to make the most of what is available in the local market, whether that be feed supplement, fertilizer, or recycled materials. Having a unique touch on our business is always a bonus, reaching people you might not have reached before, just by peaking interests.”

“In the age we are entering, being environmentally wise is something that all new farmers are going to be rewarded for in future to come. Our industry is so diverse in how we can operate our farms that finding the best way yours can operate, just might be different to your neighbors, so taking a risk on something new and different might be the answer you are looking for,” he said.

Sarah continued, “Tim gave an overview of his Optiweigh system that is placed in the paddock with an enticing cattle lick contained inside to encourage animals to step on the scales for real-time weight gain and management support for his herd.”
Following the visit to Dunmore Pastoral, the group moved onto a presentation from Mort & Co representative Jack Wilkinson.

“Tim joined us for lunch at the Cecil Plains pub where Jack Wilkinson from Mort & Co gave a presentation on the evolution of their business and the markets they sell to, and how that influences the cattle they were targeting,” Tom said.

Moving onto the feedlotting and processing sectors of the supply chain, the group visited Stockyard Beef Kerwee Feedlot and Oakey Beef Exports Abattoir, Oakey.

Participant Georgia Graham said of her time at the feedlot, “This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I really enjoyed going through their feed shed, inspecting their pens. It’s an extremely well-presented feedlot, and it was impressive to see how well this operation was run and maintained with feeding such a high quality of cattle.”

Echoing this Alkira Riley said, “Kerwee Feedlot and Oakey Abattoir were eye opening. I thought I knew what an abattoir and feedlot looked like, but these were just next level. The sheer size and scale ofthe operations and all the moving parts to make a business like this work was unreal.”

“It was a great and valuable life experience to truly be able to understand the full process of this part of the supply chain. I don’t think the majority of people would understand the size, complexity, skill, and process that each bit of meat you eat actually goes through to get to your plate,” she said.

Before moving onto the final areas of their tour, the group visited Meat and Livestock Australia for a presentation regarding Meat Standards Australia (MSA).

“For a more in-depth explanation of the grading and overseas marketing process, we visited MLA’s head office in Brisbane where the whole science behind the MSA grade was explained, and we saw how breed composition and individual carcase traits affected the quality of the beef, and how Angus as a breed is uniquely positioned as a breed to capture our own section of the beef market,” said Tom.

To conclude the tour, the group visited Super Butcher Eagle Farm in the state’s capital to represent the consumer touch point in the supply chain.

“Our final stop on the tour to Super Butcher Eagle Farm raised awareness of the increasing demand from consumers seeking to understand where their food is coming from and the confidence that the product will perform on the plate, again and again and again,” said Charlie.

“It was a fitting note to end our production tour on, proving everyone in the supply chain has an important role to play in maintaining high standards of consistent, quality Australian beef.”

On reflection of their tour experience, the group were encouraging of others to apply for similar opportunities like the Production Tour offered by Angus Australia in the future, and while not one person had the same take homes as another, each were clear that they have taken something new back to their own situations at home.

“Getting to know like-minded, talented and passionate young people from varied locations and backgrounds was a highlight of the trip for myself,” said Tyla Sparks.

“I will definitely be asking advice and questions of them in years to come and visiting their studs/operations.”

“I would highly recommend this tour to all age groups and backgrounds as it will provide an entire supply chain view, regardless of the location of your operation,” she said.

“As someone coming from such a small and new stud operation with show cattle knowledge, this experience taught me a lot about the commercial and supply chain aspect of the beef industry that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise,” added Georgia.

“Seeing the cycle of breeding to feeding and meat production, including stud and commercial aspects, butchers and genetic testing labs was very informative. It was also great to see how different operations run and their reasonings for this, as well as their selection criteria and their goals and target markets.”

“Seeing the why and the how of these operations was very interesting and I learnt many things that I can now take back to my own operation and incorporate.”

Coming from a commercial background, the tour provided Cooper Walsh the opportunity to build a better understanding of seedstock production.

“I took part in the Neogen Angus Foundation Production Tour because I have a commercial background, and I wanted to get more into the genetics because I am interested in that side of things,” he said. “I wanted to make contacts out of the tour and also just pick other people’s brains, not just the guys that we go and visit on the tour, but also the guys that are on this tour with me, as well see what they’re doing and try to implement that.”

“My key takeaway from the tour was going more in depth with the genetics side things and also seeing how these studs work in this area.”

“This production tour offered so much that I would highly recommend it to any other aspiring Angus farmers. I’ve taken away a lot of knowledge that I want to implement into our business,” said John.

“Most of all I’ve made some great contacts in the field, and met some sharp minds in Alkira, Charlie, Georgia, Tom, Tyla, Sarah and Cooper, that I look forward to working with in the future, and watching the progress they all make.”

Feature Image: Angus Australia CEO Scott Wright, Tim Clay, Dunmore Pastoral, Tom Pumpa, Sarah Nesbitt, Tyla Sparks, Alkira Riley, Georgia Graham; John Barnett, Cooper Walsh & Charlie Wrigley at Dunmore Pastoral

— Cheyne Twist, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer