Wrap up of the 2019 SMARTBEEF Conference

November 5, 2019 12:11 pm

Lachlan Woods and Rebecca George have recently attended the 2019 ALFA SMARTBEEF Conference after being awarded the Angus Youth SMARTBEEF scholarships, offered by the Angus Foundation.  The SMARTBEEF Conference, took place in Dalby, QLD on October 2-4, 2019.

The aim of the SMARTBEEF Scholarship is to give the recipients an opportunity to increase their knowledge of the Australian feedlotting industry and the beef industry as a whole, whilst networking with industry professionals.

Here are their reports:

Rebecca George

From the 2nd to the 4th of October I attended the SMARTBEEF Conference hosted by Australian Lot Feeders Association. The conference was held in Dalby Queensland and featured two days of inspiring talks and research as well as some hands-on demonstrations.

The conference kicked off with the Coopers Welcome Reception on the Wednesday night. On the Thursday morning the conference started off with the international key note speaker Dr Sam Barringer.

Dr Barringer spoke to us about ‘knowing your why’ and telling your story when it comes to our industry as well as telling some exciting stories from his time being deployed with the U.S Air Force and U.S Army. Dr Barringer’s points on national and food security and the role the feedlot industry plays in that was a new perspective of looking at the sector.

What I took away the most from Dr Barringer’s talk was the importance of understanding our ‘why’ when it comes to our work and industry. Once we understand the why we can make purposeful contribution to the industry and share our stories.

Following on from Dr Barringer’s point of sharing your story we later heard from Tim Gentle, from Think Digital, who spoke about the opportunities different technologies can offer the industry, particularly in sharing our story.

Tim showed us in real time what the ‘FarmVR’, a virtual reality education program, involved and how we can use this technology to educate consumers and share our industry stories with the world. Tim always showed us how we can create virtual tours on farm through the use of 360 cameras. From hearing from Tim about these technologies and where he thinks they will take us in the future I really appreciated the possibilities this can offer both education and biosecurity in our industry as it allows people to have an on-farm experience virtually.

We heard from celebrity chef Jess Pryles in a Q & A session where she shared her story in the meat industry and some insight into the meal she would be cooking us for dinner that evening. Meat and Livestock Australia and Manabotics introduced their R & D project the ‘Bunkbot’ on day 1.

We were able to get outside in the sunshine to see firsthand how the four-wheeler autonomous vehicle worked as it read a bunk that had been set up. This was very exciting to witness and hear about the advances this project can bring to bunk management.

We concluded the day with a cattle handling demonstration where handling based around flight zones and understanding of the cattle were showcased.

It was then on to the Australian Community Media Conference Dinner where we got to try out Jess Pryles ‘Low N Slow’ style of cooking with tri tip cooked in her Hardcore Carnivore line of meat seasonings. At the dinner the Young Lot Feeder of the Year Award was also announced going to a fellow Angus Round Up Committee member Ben Emery!

Day 2 of the conference kicked off with a morning filled with new research in the sector. We heard about research on the commercial benefits of the different kinds of bedding, links between environment and dark cutting animals, as well as the projects the three ‘Communicate your Research’ finalist conducted.

The final session of the conference was based around bio-security and the threat of activism against the industry. This session was run by Tim Powell from Cox Inall Communications and Trent Thorne from McCullough Robertson Legal Firm. Tim and Trent ran us through the logistics of activism in terms of PR and legalities and the best way as producers for us to respond. Trent spoke about the recent changes in the legal repercussions for trespassing and stealing of livestock. I found this particular session to be very relevant and thought that the methods Tim and Trent shared with us on the proper way to respond to a farm raid or online attack of our businesses to be very valuable to the industry.
The 2019 SMARTBEEF conference was filled with insightful and inspiring sessions as well as exciting previews of the technology coming up into the industry. I would like to thank Angus Australia for giving me this opportunity to further my knowledge of the feedlot sector and to network with the many industry members.


Lachlan Woods

The Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA) Smart Beef conference held in Dalby, QLD between the 2nd and 4th of October was a very informative, engaging few days with a plethora of industry topics covered by a range of industry leaders. Food security, technological advancement, markets,  stock handling, and research were some of the topics covered. The conference kicked off with a cracking welcome evening generously sponsored by Coopers Animal Health, which functioned as a great networking opportunity to develop connections to be furthered in the following days. Jack Wilkinson, Mort & Co, did a great job conducting the conference as the Master of Ceremonies over the two days.

The keynote speaker was the highly revered Dr Leon “Sam” Barringer – a former colonel in the USA air force and a veterinarian who discussed the importance of sustaining the integrity of food security of domestic food production with the implementation of best practice medicine encompassing an integral role. Sam spoke about the need for continual questioning of current practices and ensure the reason WHY (a core value, or a priority requiring change) forms the foundations in the development of HOW (how do achieve it) in decision making. A great presentation that also delved into the importance of positive leadership.

Jess Pryles, the enthusiastic TV superstar of “Hardcore Carnivores” sat down with Jack Wilkinson and discussed how she ended up in the culinary sector and how her passion for everything meat has taken her all over the world. They discussed her love of southern and Texan cooking style “low and slow” and treated participants to a smoked beef tasting session on Thursday night.

Technological Advancement

The application of technology to livestock enterprises is far-reaching and rapidly advancing. Stuart McCarthy of Mannabotix  showcased the commercially available “Bunk Bot” an autonomous bunk calling a machine that produces high accuracy and consistency in the determination of feed remaining within bunk troughs.

William Taing of Beanstalk AgTech highlighted how their business assists tech startup companies to apply their cutting edge technologies into real agricultural issues. The sheep live export was used as a case study for his presentation, showcasing a variety of trialled technologies such as dehumidifiers, weather modelling for heat patterns, route planning, and animal monitoring systems, to achieve sustainability in this sector. William provided the crowd with three simple steps pertinent to a startup, this being defining a problem excessive technology is already available and invest in solutions that drive outcomes. An interesting quote from William was to adapt fast and fail quickly that is change quickly when a plan is not functioning.

Tim Gentle of Virtual Farming gave the crowd an insight into the future of agricultural awareness to society via virtual and augmented reality. This was a real eye-opener into the pace of digital imaging progression and now the accessibility to commercially available imaging technology to be incorporated into daily operations of livestock enterprises. An example was the use of 3D videoing of cattle for auction in a set of yards miles away which allowed a potential purchaser to observe the beasts gait, structural conformation, and temperament. Pretty cool.

Animal Husbandry

The stock handling session conducted by Tom Sheppard and Rick Young was a great mix up from the inside lectures and was interesting as a refresher on low-stress handling techniques. I am sure all participants revised their livestock handling approaches during the session which is an integral facet of animal welfare that requires constant refining and development as frustration begins and where knowledge ends.


Peter McGilchrist, University of New England, and Tom Green, Iranda Beef, presented research into the provision of bedding into feedlot pens. The trial assessed the variation in animal performance between a control and pens provided with wood chips or straw.  The results of both studies indicated the provision of bedding both improved animal performance and increased animal welfare. Peter McGilchrist also stated the adrenal gland weights were found to be significantly reduced in cattle that were provided bedding – exhibiting a reduced chronic stress exposure.

Feedlot System

The discussion panel facilitated by Andrew Talbot, Killara Feedlot asked the panel of respected industry individuals; Prue Bondfield (Palgrove), Tom Maguire (Teys), Stuart Halliday (Ben Nevis Angus) and Brett Campbell (Mort & Co), the relevance feedlots play and how to generate further productivity and value across the beef sector. The panel further discussed supply chain relationships and sustainability, genetics, pre-feedlot conditioning, and how to improve feedback and information flow back along the supply chain. My two big take home-messages were; producer feedback is essential for breeding decision validation and phenotype is a derivative of genetics and environment, as the provision of adequate nutrition drives the expression of an animal’s genetic potential.


I am very grateful for Angus Australia sponsoring me to attend Smart Beef 2019. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in such a short time and networked with lots of great industry professionals that I’m positive will be of benefit to my future veterinary career. It is through attending such conferences that facilitate exposure into new facets of the Australian livestock industries, and through networking, act to serve as a driver for future career opportunities within these sectors.