It was fantastic to see the Southland community coming together to support the recent World Shearing Championships in Invercargill.
Stadium Southland was transformed into a huge shearing shed, with the world’s best shearers and wool handlers displaying their extraordinary skills to an appreciative audience.
It was a show of excellence, and while the spectacle was at that front of the stage, a huge amount of organisation had gone on behind the scenes, from sourcing and transporting sheep through to moving wool tables around and setting-up equipment.
So many people had a part to play to ensure the event’s success-and most were well out of the limelight.
To me this sums up New Zealand’s agricultural industry. Most of this country’s sheep and beef farmers do a great job producing the world’s best grass-fed beef and lamb “behind the scenes” but without them – and their hallmark innovation and adaptability – we simply wouldn’t have the world-leading red meat industry we have today.
It is these farmers who are at the heart of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s recently launched marketing strategy. Developed by the sector, the strategy focuses on the people behind the products – the stories of our red meat producers whose unique set of skills go into producing high quality protein for consumers around the globe.
135 years of farming innovation
National Lamb day on February 15 marked 135 years since an innovative technology in the form of refrigeration transformed this country’s farming industry and economy. It was the date the Dunedin set sail from Port Chalmers with a cargo of 5000 frozen sheep carcases.
It is satisfying to note that while the Australians beat us to it by transporting refrigerated sheep carcases to the UK earlier than we did- the NZ product was deemed to be of better quality with only one carcase condemned.
Since this time our sheep farmers have continued to adapt and adopt to changing markets, economics and technologies. Our ewes are more fertile, our lambs grow faster and their carcases meatier, our pastures more productive and farmers’ management and technical skills more finely tuned.
The removal of supplementary minimum payments in the 1980s was an incredibly painful process to go through, but again proved transformative by forcing the red meat industry to become more productive and innovative.
Just look at the numbers; NZ’s ewe flock has halved while productivity has increased – a testament to the skills of our farmers, agricultural scientists, agronomists, farm consultants and seed-stock producers.
World leading grass-based farm systems
Recent travels to the USA and the Europe has highlighted to me just how good our red meat industry is- from our grass-based farm systems to our world-leading processing and traceability – like the shearers we saw in Invercargill – our farmers really are at the top of their game.
Globally, changing political environments – such as Brexit and the Trump presidency – will undoubtedly create further challenges for sheep and beef farmers overseas and in this country. I believe the ability of our farmers to innovate and adapt will continue to serve them well and Beef + Lamb New Zealand will, along with other industry bodies, ensure our voices are heard in trade negotiations.
Irrespective of what is happening politically, there are thousands of sheep and beef farmers who, every day, strive to do the best for their livestock, their environment, their families, communities and consumers and that is worth celebrating.
Andrew Morrison is Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Southern South Island farmer director. You can contact him on 027 6644 620.