Inaugural conference for cattlemen in the north – biggest and best event so far

Host: Rangeland Natural Resource Management

Mel, Kane, and Chris from Rangelands NRM attended the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association (KPCA) Ruralco Annual Field Day and Innovation Conference in Onslow, WA from 24-25 March 2017.

The conference gathered around 170 pastoralists, industry influences, and trade companies for a two-day event that included a field day and tour of Minderoo Station.

Minderoo Field Day

The field day at Minderoo Station started at Uaroo Cattle Yards, just south of Nanutarra Roadhouse with Station Manager Ben Wratten demonstrating the state-of-the-art infrared-detected and pneumatic-powered auto drafting system. There was a lot of interest in this and the fact that with a weigh-bridge installed the Uaroo South Yards could serve as a point of sale for cattle being sold into southern processors’ market chains, like Harvey Beef. The annual event aimed to give northern beef producers an insight into new technologies including what was possible with modern cattle yards, cattle genetics, solar energy systems, pivot irrigation, water extraction, improved pastures, weed management and drones. It also provided some insights of the State Government’s agricultural development policy with the well-received appearance of the new Minister for Agriculture and Food, the Honorable Alannah MacTiernan MLA. The Minister attended both days and was an interested and engaged participant in all discussions.

Conference and Trade Exhibition

The conference was held in the recreation centre in Onslow. The new WA Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan addressed the huge turnout. She said that Northern WA needs a dedicated tertiary research institution to be involved in more collaborations that are Kimberley and Pilbara centric. Having such an industry-aligned research function based in the North would bring the beef industry the answers it seeks and the innovation it requires. Just like James Cook University in North Queensland has brought locally relevant solutions to tropical Queensland.

During the event, Andrew Forrest’s Harvey Beef announced a multimillion-dollar partnership with the Kimberley and Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association to produce “Rangelands” brand beef and deliver an exclusive beef range of mince, sausages and burgers. Under the deal, hand-picked northern cattle producers will be required to adhere to strict criteria including approved and monitored animal welfare standards, free-range conditions, and protocols relating to no added hormones, and antibiotic-free.

A great line up of speakers included Ruralco partners who are working to bring agriculture and innovation closer together. ANZ and MLA on markets and trends. Department Agriculture and Food WA on a renewed focus for the Northern Beef Futures Project. Revell Science on attractants and adaptions, Department of Lands on rangelands management technology, tools and options, Irongate Wagyu on Wagyu innovation, the Mingenew Irwin Group on opportunities to value add your livestock, Usee on technology advancements, and AuctionsPlus on emerging markets and emerging sales technology.

Insight from Chris Curnow, Program Manager (Desert and Pilbara), Rangelands NRM

The two days of solid networking opportunity and excellent industry updates with a great deal of enthusiasm about the sleeping giant of China and the opportunities for Blue Tongue-free Pilbara cattle, ended with the Gala Dinner on the Friday night in Onslow. People laughed a lot with award-winning bush poet and raconteur Murray Hartin. His poems were both poignant and gut-bustingly funny filled with quirky tales of outback Australia and the tricky situations that bush people get into. Laughs were pilled upon more laughs when the inimitable auctioneer Tiny Holly stepped up to the podium. He presided over the Charity Auction that managed to raise an incredible $25,000 for the Royal Flying Doctors. A great night was had by all.

Thanks go to the KPCA’s Catherine Marriot (Executive Officer) and her team for organising the event. Rangelands NRM (also a sponsor of the KPCA Annual Innovations Days event) enjoyed the opportunity to get amongst the producers and suppliers of our region and we look forward to next year’s event.

Insight from Mel McDonald, Project Manager (Kimberley), Rangelands NRM

Minderoo and the Forrest family did a wonderful job of hosting the field day. They had cattle to run through and demonstrate their state of the art Uaroo yards; stud cattle herded into the corner of a paddock for us to see; fresh cut Rhodes grass on their current pivot and water going on one of their new pivots; and the new Minister for Agriculture fly in on their jet sized air strip! It became too late to see the upside-down-weir, but I guess the idea with those is that you don’t see anything anyway? Harvey Beef, also owned by the Forrest family, was also a major sponsor of the Innovation Conference. The Innovation Conference had to be the biggest and most professional beef industry event I have been to in Northern WA, a huge credit to Catherine, Faye and the Committee of the KPCA. Unfortunately, heavy rain in the Port Headland region prevented those registered from around that area and further north from attending. Although we did think ourselves lucky that the system causing that rain did not cross in the Onslow area as a cyclone on the Field Day like it was originally forecasted!

Insight from Kane Watson, Regional Landcare Facilitator, Rangelands NRM

Last week’s KPCA event had an excellent turn out where I took the opportunity to converse with as many pastoralists as I could, I caught up with the new chair of the Ashburton LCDC (Clint Thompson) as well as some of the regional community leaders such as Sean D’Arcy and Ben Forsyth. Thanks to Chris and Mel for numerous introductions. I also took the opportunity to chat to local industry about the visible Mesquite issue in the region, great to see Jo Kuiper’s passion in action, its infectious.

Mel, Kane, and Chris arrive at Minderoo Station.

Minderoo Station Manager Ben Wratten demonstrating the state-of-the-art infrared-detected and pneumatic-powered auto drafting system. (C. Curnow).A Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan addresses the conference (C. Curnow).

Touring around Minderoo (M. McDonald).

Mel McDonald (R) speaks with Dean Revell (K. Watson).