Talk to Charles Taituha for long enough and it is easy to feel the future of this country’s red meat industry is in safe hands.
As a Beef + Lamb New Zealand Future Leader he brings to the role a broad understanding of the red meat value chain from both working in many aspects of it – and having focused a lot of time and energy in understanding how to capture greater value from it.
Charles is the Principal Advisor for Te Puna Kokiri’s Whenua Maori programme but also has skin in the red meat game as both a shareholder and Trustee of the 80,000 stock unit, 8000ha Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trust farms near Te Kuiti.
Charles grew up in Piopio and has been involved in every aspect of the red meat sector since he left school at 15.
This has included farming in his own right on leased land although he gave that up last year when he took on his role with Te Puna Kokiri as he simply didn’t have time to juggle farming with his day job and other industry commitments.
Charles says it is a very exciting time to be involved in Maori agribusiness, particularly in his role of helping build capability and seeing Maori step-up to take control of their industry and develop its potential.
Within the Tiroa E and Te Hape B Trust they are running 2,500 Angus and Angus Hereford cross breeding cows and their progeny is finished within the wider business.
Charles says as Maori land is typically medium to steep hill country, which generally lends itself to breeding or store operations. The challenge is being able to capture the value of beef produced within Maori businesses and to understand this, Charles has developed an in-depth knowledge of marketing, brands and consumer behavior.
“I’ve started at the bottom of the value chain to understand how to create greater value for a steer after a farmer has grown it for 20-plus months.”
He sees the challenges facing the beef industry nationally and internationally as being one-in-the-same and these include climate change and sector capability.
Charles believes climate change presents a great opportunity for red meat producers in this country as they have been adapting their farm systems to accommodate a changing climate for more than a decade.
“Most farmers having been adapting to climate change for a very long time and using, for example, Facial Eczema resilient genetics, exotic cross cattle and forage species to suit the environment.”
“We are ahead of the game – we just don’t tell our story well enough.”
Sector capability however is a major issue and the challenge is attracting passionate young people into an industry which is crying out for people who can bring technological skills and a fresh perspective to the red meat sector.
As part of his B+LNZ Future Leader role, Charles will be travelling to Brazil at the end of May to attend the International Beef Alliance conference and visit producers in that country.
Charles is looking forward to meeting like-minded people in Brazil who will share his desire to drive change and make the beef industry better for the constituents they represent.
He says he enjoys building networks, feeding off other people’s energy and seeing how people in other countries perceive NZ’s beef industry.
For Charles, the challenge will be bringing back what he learns in Brazil and implementing it within the businesses he is involved with-but it is a challenge he is more than ready for.
Members of the International Beef Alliance (IBA) are Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, USA and Paraguay. Collectively, the IBA represents 46% of global beef cattle production and 63% of global beef exports.