Sheep program gives students industry insight
Department sheep specialists delivered an intensive five-day training program to tertiary students in January, immersing them in the exciting and diverse Western Australian sheep industry.
The Sheep Meat Value Chain training program, designed by the SIBI project, focused on sheepmeat production and markets. Now in its second year, the course aims to encourage young agricultural enthusiasts to pursue a career in the agrifood sector by exposing them to the industry.
Of the 20 participants that took part in the residential program in Albany and Katanning, the majority are currently studying or working in the sheep industry in WA.
The podcast below highlights a conversation between Alice Ritchie (Agriculture Victoria), Kate Pritchett (DPIRD) and Dale Miles (V&V Walsh) during the course, discussing the state of the WA sheep industry and what they think its future holds.
SIBI’s Senior Development Officer Justin Hardy said the course, expanded this year to include new entrants to the industry, was run in partnership between the SIBI project team and the University of Queensland’s agrifood specialist Professor Kim Bryceson.
“The course was a balance between the theoretical concepts of agrifood supply chain management delivered and facilitated by Professor Bryceson and an intensive ‘walk-the-chain’ process incorporating field visits and presentations from key industry practitioners and leaders,” he said.
Participants experienced all levels of the chain from sheep production (genetics, breeding, and nutrition), feedlots, trading, processing, value-adding, retail and live export, as well as the role of support agencies including the department and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
The participants visited sheep farms to hear about aspects of animal production. They visited Fletchers International WA abattoir at Narrikup, the Live Export Depot at Kojonup, the Katanning Saleyards, and heard about the WAMMCO and V&V Walsh supply chain models and met with local butchers. They were exposed to emerging technologies that can be applied to the sheep industry, and cooked up a storm in a specialty chef masterclass on the preparation of lamb meals.
“Looking at the whole chain enabled the participants to consider a wide range of supply chain issues for both domestic and export of sheep meat including consumer demand and preference, markets, production systems, animal welfare, quality assurance, traceability, pricing, trust, business structures and product development,” said Justin.
“The program gave participants a sound understanding of relevant theory and technologies with topics including innovative marketing, the role of blockchain trading, the trends and challenges of meeting market demand and turning risks into opportunities,” he said.
The program included working in groups towards a competitive presentation on the last day which looked at what the current state of the chain was and what the future state should aim to be via a sustainable business plan.
Claire Payne, post graduate in animal science from Murdoch University, said she thoroughly enjoyed the course. “It was good to see and hear about all aspects of the supply chain to get a good understanding of how it all links. Working on the assignment was a good way to get us thinking about the future of the sheep industry.”
Justin said the winning group’s presentation ‘Virtual Shepherd – tag along with us’ reported on the development of an innovative supply chain management app from farm to fork.
“The group identified the need for simple traceability and product information making the most of data collection and future technology,” he said. “The purpose of the app would be to bring all sheep farming records and management into one place to streamline the supply chain process for all stakeholders.”
In reflection after the course James Carter, recent graduate from University of New England and prime lamb producer from New South Wales said he was grateful for the opportunity and that it “changed my thinking of the sheep meat value chain, [and] with the changes in the agricultural sector the knowledge gained will greatly enhance my future.”