Education beyond the gate

Host: DAFWA Aboriginal Business Development Project
Written by Daisy Goodwin – Development Officer, DAFWA.

To some, it may seem obvious what happens when cattle leave the farm. To the general person, well, our beef comes from the grocery store so we really have no idea. When you are new to pastoralism (well . . . new in terms of cattle production, and that could be anywhere from one to ten years right!) and operating at remote locations, what happens beyond the gate may seem like a bit too much to wrap your head around. For managers of pastoral properties that make up the Windidda Aboriginal Corporation (Windidda Station, Wiluna) and Wurrkaja Aboriginal Corporation (Ullawarra Station, Gascoyne), that was the case. That is until they had the opportunity to participate in a supply chain tour and spend a few days inspecting key beef industry facilities in the state, including saleyards, abattoirs, and feedlots. This tour was organized by the ABD project and Stock West.

Windidda Aboriginal Corporation Members.

Due to the remote localities, it was evident that the managers of these pastoral properties, and numerous other stations, had very little appreciation of what happened to their cattle once they left the station and the impact preparation of cattle for sale can have on the price received for cattle when they are sold.

Up until this tour, training and support provided by ABD to property managers had involved on property training, including preparation of cattle for sale provided by Max Cunnington of Stock West. One of the aims of this tour was to demonstrate to the participants the benefits of preparing cattle well for marketing and we considered these tours as critical to complement the on property training provided by Max.

It may seem a simple message to demonstrate to managers the important steps to take to remove horns of cattle, earmark, and apply a National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) tag when presenting cattle for sale, however seeing well-presented cattle at an auction and being able to compare to cattle produced on your own property and discussions with processors reinforced the benefits for participants.

Even though the managers understand there are different types of markets that their cattle can be sold into like live export, feedlots, boxed beef, local consumption, or restocking markets, I felt they needed to see the differences for themselves so they can decide what cattle are best suited to produce for their business.

Some of the younger employees of both corporations had never been south of Perth so as the tour progressed participants were able to see pasture systems and trees that was totally foreign to them.

While the change in scenery was an important part of the tour, one of the primary objectives of the tour was to demonstrate to participants that they are producing beef as part of a supply chain and sometimes their cattle are grown out to market specification in the southern areas. All this made the tour a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.

The groups toured sale yards, specialist beef feedlots, abattoirs, and export holding facilities inspecting the range of specifications of cattle ready for live export as well as looking at service industries that supply cattle yards to beef producers. There were also opportunities to view and use different cattle handling equipment such as cattle crushes and weighing systems.

Touring the properties gave the groups good solid ideas on how to improve their own yards and cattle handling facilities on their stations.

While different properties were visited by the groups, a highlight of the tour for Windidda and Ullawarra participants was to inspect the Harvey Beef Production facility at Harvey. There was strict protocol required to visit this site which required security passes, OHS induction, and protective clothing to ensure the quality assurance standards implemented by Harvey Beef was adhered to. This ensured both the safety of participants while touring the abattoir and also the integrity of the finished product (prime beef) was achieved. The participants witnessed and discussed all aspects of operating the abattoir with Harvey Beef managers, transportation of cattle from property to abattoir, slaughter, packaging, and transport to consumer.