Over 95 livestock producers, agriculture students, agribusiness and industry supporters joined together at the Barossa Improved Grazing Group (BIGG) Annual Conference. Held at Lambert Estate (Angaston) on Thursday 8 February 2024, the conference was facilitated by Janie Evans, BIGG Technical Officer.
Seven presenters spoke on topics in response to this year’s theme ‘Farming Ahead: A Changing Landscape’. Insights and experiences were shared assisting producers in adapting by adopting progressive strategies in response to an evolving livestock landscape. Key themes shared by many of the speakers included:
- Planning ahead with the use of measurable outcomes.
- Managing livestock to meet market/ consumer needs including reducing carbon emissions.
- The importance of communication to a farm’s most valuable asset; its people.
Keynote speaker Warren Davies ‘The Unbreakable Farmer’ shared his personal story as a farmer dealing with the stress of drought, flood and family relationship breakdowns. “You can only dust yourself off so many times until you completely fall apart” reflected Warren as he spoke on these experiences. Warren gave mental health tools for self-care and when assisting others. When mental health challenges arise Warren emphasised the need for communication, staying connected, and seeking support.
Thomas Food International’s Mark Inglis highlighted changing customer expectations for the meat industry. “Market demands has seen a lot of change in the last ten years and will see more changes over the next 10 years… Customers want a story, and to know where their product comes from,” said Mark. Meat brands are having to supply consistent, reliable and quality products, with the need for certification and accreditation to identify claims such as grass-fed and low emissions playing a larger role in gaining the trust of the consumer.
Angus Australia’s Dr Liam Mowbray elaborated on meeting market specifications with the use of beef genetics strategies. Liam flagged methane reduction, improved eating quality, and sustainability as key future considerations.
The importance of reducing carbon emissions was discussed from a producer’s point of view by Field farmer, Felicity Turner. Felicity gave an overview on the development of a farm sustainability framework within her family farming business emphasizing the importance of measurement. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Felicity.
Fellow South-East livestock producer Graham Clothier spoke of his experiences on sheep production, farm management, diversification, and succession planning. Whilst BIGG Technical Facilitators Brett Nietschke and Janie Evans gave updates on the progress and results of the current BIGG multi-species pastures and on-farm water security projects funded by the SA Drought Hub.
Lastly, during dinner best-selling Australian fiction author Fiona McIntosh entertained guests by sharing humorous stories speaking to the conference theme of ‘a changing landscape’. Fiona shared some of the trials and tribulations of transitioning from city to farm life whilst forging her career as a successful writer.
The BIGG conference was very well supported by sponsors and attendees were able to learn more from local services and providers by visiting the sponsor displays at the conference.
BIGG would like to specifically acknowledge and thank the 2024 Conference sponsors: SA Drought Hub, Landscape SA Northern and Yorke, Landscape SA Murraylands and Riverland, Livestock SA Agri-Silience Program, SA Sheep Industry Fund and Angaston Agricultural Bureau.