Written by: Kate Pont
This year I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Informing New Zealand Beef Breeders Tour hosted by Beef and Lamb and MPI.
For three weeks we travelled through Canada and America in my role as the Social Media Educator for Angus New Zealand. Firstly, I would like to say a huge thank you to the Angus New Zealand Board for the opportunity: it was an action-packed three weeks where we did little more than drive, eat, learn, sleep – repeat!
Our trip began at the BIF Conference in Calgary – this was amazing, so many new technologies and innovations heading our way. If you are interested in these talks they are all up online and a link on Angus NZ Facebook page will take you straight to them.
The tour around America was informative, and eye opening. Similar to BIF, the key topics were methane emissions, feed efficiency, heart disease and also how to make the most out of beef/dairy cross. The Colorado and Kansas State Universities have highlighted the collaboration within the industry over there. A lot of the universities own and operate their own large ranches where they put their research to the test.
The other thing that stood out is the investment into these research projects. Ranchers and meat packers were working and investing together into new technologies – something we all agreed would greatly benefit the NZ beef industry.
We saw lots of different ways to look at multi breed evaluations at several different places and Dave Warburton’s expertise here is going to be invaluable to our association. There was talk around SNP testing becoming much more affordable in the near future and that as this happens there will be more incentive for the commercial farmer to incorporate it into their programs. When this happens there will be a lot of extra data coming in and we need a way to capture it for our breeders.
The American Angus Association was a highlight: the scale of the business they are running is hard to imagine with 120 in house staff and another 150 staff members within Certified Angus Beef. Imagine, 140 years history and 23,000 members..
I was really interested in their Maternal Plus program where breeders are rewarded for their Completeness of Recording, American Angus Association appeared to have some gaps to fill in their data collection on farm and so I did some investigating when I got home and was really impressed to find that Angus New Zealand as a whole, has a 4.5 Star Completeness of Recording Rating.
We saw plenty of feedlots; they mentioned they have no pressure at all from their consumers to stop using growth hormones in their animals and seem to have no intention at all to stop using them. Likewise, they have no indication from their government that they will regulate emissions but are investing in the research and development of this as they believe they will end up being paid for having negative emissions.
All in all, it was an experience of a lifetime and now the challenge is to bring the good things we learnt back to New Zealand beef breeders and acknowledge some of the not-so-great things and ensure we don’t follow the same path. I came home excited by how technology is improving and could make huge differences to our on farm efficiencies around data capture and animal health management – especially while labour is so scarce. I believe going forward for New Zealand collaboration is key and the sky’s the limit!