Sheep and beef farmers time to shine

The time is ripe for sheep and beef farmers to finally have their time in the sun – and Richard Wakelin is well-placed to know.
Wednesday, 28 March 2018

As part of Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Senior Executive Team, he has insight into the drivers behind consumer behaviour in New Zealand’s export markets- as well as having a deep understanding of grass-roots sheep and beef farming – which is where he has spent the bulk of his working life.

Richard, who is General Manager Innovation, says the authenticity and integrity which are – and always have been – the values at the core of the sheep and beef industry, strike a chord with international consumers hungry for grass-fed red meat produced in a natural environment by farmers who care deeply about their livestock, environment and communities.

“It’s great to see the things that sheep and beef farmers have been doing for so long are being recognised as being important,” says Richard.

He says a vital part of the Innovation team’s role is to provide farmers with the tools, resources and skills to help them realise the opportunities that are opening up to them and support farming excellence.

The team was formed late last year and Richard says its purpose is to create value by identifying and understanding the issues facing farmers, researching solutions, developing products to address their needs and building systems to deliver outcomes to them.

It incorporates four programmes; research, product development, extension design and sector capability.

There are three members in the research team, Suzanne Keeling, Tanya Robinson and Mark Aspin who are charged with supporting investment in science-based research to deliver benefits to the sector.

Current research projects include Future Farm, the establishment of a five-year Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment partnership programme focused on hill country regeneration and the development of a red meat sector science strategy to help identify existing and future research requirements.

Product Development Manager Aaron Meikle and Resource Coordinator Shona Robertson are responsible for delivering information and resources directly to farmers.

Development, says Richard, is about putting the tools in the toolbox so farmers have the information they need – in a form that suits their style – when and where they need it.

These tools are the suite of resources that cover a huge range of topics from livestock performance through to environmental management.

Richard says a key part of these roles is identifying future information needs and ensuring this information is ready and available to farmers and industry as they need it.

Ange McFetridge is Product and Extension Design Manager. A new role, Ange will help build capability in terms of farmer needs and insights into the overall B+LNZ strategy and design and deliver value back to B+LNZ stakeholders in the form of services and products.

Ange is currently working with the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) and B+LNZ extension managers to create a coordinated approach to implementing the RMPP Action Networks.

Sector Capability also sits within Innovation and this is led by Project Manager Doug Macredie. Developing people capability is in line with B+LNZ’s strategic goal of ensuring farmers have access to the right people, with the right skills. To achieve this, B+LNZ supports on-farm training and tertiary education and assists with the development of a new generation of leaders.

Part of Doug’s brief is to harness the potential of groups within the sheep and beef sector such as rural women and Maori.

The development of Maori partnership, both regionally and nationally is a critical part of sector capability.

Richard says Maori agribusiness is a significant contributor to the red meat sector.

“Maori often operate complex corporate farming models with well-developed governance, cultural underpinnings and extensive ownership structures that offer insights for the wider sector which is more and more entering into a succession phase.”

The Maori philosophy of Kaitiakitanga is also vitally important for the sector amidst the intensifying environmental policy framework.

“B+LNZ visualise partnered leadership with Maori to ensure optimal sustainability and biodiversity throughout sheep and beef farming in Aotearoa.