DAVID Foote says there’s one overwhelming reason why producers should be using pain relief on their cattle.
“It works,” the Australian Country Choice Group director said. “We’re using Tri-Solfen and meloxicam as pain relief on all of our calves across all of our properties because they mother up faster and that reduces the chances of mismothering,” Mr Foote said.
“From a management point of view they’re back on mum and back in the paddock faster, which is all about increased weight gain over time. “We’ve done it because it is good for our calves and it makes our cattle business more productive in addition to helping meet our responsibilities in terms of animal welfare.”
Mr Foote said he strongly believed the use of pain relief in cattle husbandry operations was essential to sustain community support for the beef industry.
“At around $1.30 per or so per treatment when we’re talking about what the value of an animal is today, particularly when there is a commercial gain to be made by using pain relief , it’s not even a consideration,” he said. “Animal welfare continues to be our community licence to operate. “If we don’t meet society’s expectations, we will struggle at the domestic counter, the export counter and the political counter. “Pain relief products has given the beef industry the opportunity and easy tools to overcome most of society’s problems about how we deal with our animals at branding/marking time and at dehorning. “They are products that’s are simple to use and easily available.”
Mr Foote said all of the about 50,000 calves produced on the ACC properties were treated with pain relief agents. With close to 2 million hectares of country and up to 300,000 cattle, ACC Group has grown to become the world’s largest family-owned, vertically integrated cattle and beef supply chain organisation. Its whole-of-chain operations include cattle breeding, backgrounding, seedstock production, farming and lot-feeding to beef primary processing and multi-species further processing, value-adding, retail packing and distribution. The jewel in the crown of the Cannon Hill processing plant, which is capable of handling 350,000 head a year.
ACC is also on a path to making the business carbon neutral by the red meat industry’s target date of 2030. “With COP26, Australia as a nation has drawn the line in the sand,” said Mr Foote, commenting on the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow in November. “Up until COP26 the figures were rubbery. Now Australia has an obligation and a responsibility to achieve carbon neutrality.”
He said ACC was in the process of “understanding, identifying and then managing the targets” needed to make the business carbon neutral, or preferably, carbon positive.
“We will need to become a carbon factory to create the offsets for 300,000 cattle, three feedlots and a meat processing plant,” he said. “Our land resource is likely our greatest asset in achieving that but it also involves using improved genetics and nutrition that will enable us to produce and process cattle at the required specifications at an earlier age with less emissions.”
One challenge for the northern cattle industry is the weights of weaners can be up to 40kg less than cattle of the same age best in the more climatically favourable southern region.
“That also means we have the greatest potential for gains in terms of reducing emissions,” Mr Foote said.
The consequences of not becoming carbon neutral would likely be seen in key markets in the form of technical tariff barriers, particularly in Europe, he said. “But I think by 2030 being carbon neutral is unlikely to be unique,” Mr Foote said. “It will likely be the entry ticket to many of our higher value markets.”
Mr Foote said there were plenty of challenges in any business becoming carbon neutral.
“Landowners should be wary of selling their offset credits at today’s prices in the event they may have to buy them back at the future prices,” Mr Foote said.
“I suggest secure your own commitment first, establish your own baseline, bank those offsets or credits and only then trade any surplus. “At some point, be it through political or industrial change, industry may be called on to show it is carbon neutral. “Particularly if you have sold your offsets overseas they actually won’t count in Australia as offsets.”