Australian cattle and sheep farmers have launched a dedicated platform, www.target100.com.au to give consumers an opportunity to learn more about how their beef and lamb is produced.
Target 100 is a commitment to deliver sustainable farming by 2020 through a continued investment by cattle and sheep farmers in progressive research to further improve sustainable practices.
Target 100 is the place to meet Australian cattle and sheep farmers through social media and join in open discussions with opinion leaders, environmentalists and leading chefs or participate in monthly live forums.
Cattle farmer Stuart Barrett says Target 100 is an excellent way to bridge the urban-rural divide and demonstrate how practical ideas and research is delivering more sustainable farming.
"We'd love to get everyone out to a farm to show them what we are doing first hand, but that's not practical. That's why we've developed Target 100 as a way to encourage Australians to jump online and ask a farmer a question or just take a look at what we are doing with the videos, photos and case studies on the website.
"It's about the industry inviting Australians to find out more about what we do to produce nutritious food for the world's growing population in the most sustainable way possible.
"Sustainability isn't something new for us. Many families like mine have been doing this for five generations and over this time we've adapted our practices as new research has highlighted ways to improve our practices," Stuart said.
Head Chef of Becasse, Justin North, who is renowned for his commitment to sustainability, says that Target 100 is a great step towards advancing sustainable practices and to give Australians a better appreciation of the origin of their produce.
"Australian cattle and sheep farmers are caretakers of nearly half Australia's landmass and their profitability depends upon the health of the land. They are natural environmentalists who want to leave the land in better condition for future generations. It's great to see that they are sharing their stories with the public and encouraging an open conversation."
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman said it was heartening to see industry promote sustainability and its importance to the community.
"WWF applauds the industry's desire to move towards a more sustainable future and is actively working with a range of stakeholders to help deliver this goal," Mr O'Gorman said.
"The widespread adoption of practices that are good for farmers, continue to produce safe and nutritious food and deliver benefits to the environment should be encouraged and recognised. Target 100 is a step in the right direction and highlights the very best of the Australian industry."
About the 100 initiatives
One hundred research, development and extension programs that cover water, biodiversity, climate variability, soil & groundcover, emissions, social and economic issues have been highlighted on www.target100.com.au
Each time a project is completed, another is added ensuring that 100 initiatives are always in development. This constant stream of innovative research will allow Australian farmers to continue to pioneer sustainable farming techniques and adapt their practices.
Initiative number one is to quantify the emissions produced to grow beef and lamb. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) attempt to quantify the environmental impacts of all processes involved in a red meat production from the paddock to the plate. To date three southern Australian production LCAs have been undertaken with northern LCAs underway.To see the other 99 initiatives visit www.target100.com.au
Who is behind Target 100?
Australian cattle and sheep farmers from across Australia are the driving force behind Target 100, through our industry representative bodies, Cattle Council of Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Australian Meat Industry Council, Australian Lot Feeders Association, Australian Meat Processing Corporation and service provider Meat & Livestock Australia - with a commitment to a more sustainable industry.
Question: What type of farmer are you?
Stuart Barrett: I am a cattle farmer.
Question: What is the Target 100 Campaign?
Stuart Barrett: Target 100 is an industry driven campaign which is highlighting 100 initiatives to provide sustainable sheep and cattle farming.
Question: How will this campaign directly benefit you?
Stuart Barrett: The campaign is highlighting the industries sustainable credentials and I am big on beef and I love the industry that I am in and I won't hesitate to promote that. As well as highlighting the 100 initiatives it is also a social media platform and anyone from the city or anywhere who is interested in how beef is produced sustainably, in Australia, can go to the website and join forums with farmers like myself, look at YouTube videos, case-studies and so on.
We are trying to make Target 100 a fully interactive package.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about the process of getting beef to our dinner tables?
Stuart Barrett: There are quite a few links in the chain. Firstly I am a producer and I breed cattle, I run cows and full bulls and every year I get calves. I do take some of the calves right through to a target market but I don't have enough land so most of them get sold in a feeder market where other farmers will buy them and put them on a grass pasture or a feed lot; from there they go to a processing plant or an abattoir and they are cut and boxed there. From there they go to a wholesaler (from the wholesaler they go to restaurants and so on) or sometimes direct to a butcher or supermarket. There are quite a few links in the chain.
Question: How can Australians learn about how meat arrives at their butchers and supermarkets?
Stuart Barrett: Australians can learn more from the Target 100 website including 'red meat, green backs' which is the real facts about how we produce beef sustainably.
Question: Can you talk about the sustainable practices you have implemented, in the past five years, at your family farm?
Stuart Barrett: I'm the fifth generation on this same farm, it began in 1875 and we've managed to remain sustainable throughout the years and we've added to the environment, here, because initially, back in the early 1900's it was required that you would clear a certain amount of land each year under the government lease arrangement. Now we have an environmental management plan and that includes nature corridors through creeks and other suitable areas where wildlife can go and cattle can shelter within a completely natural zone. We have savannah areas which are areas that were once cleared but now have trees scattered similar to a grassland area.
We also use our waters in such a way that has minimal impact on the environment; we have watering points to get cattle out of creeks and natural zones; we have a lot of dams on the property and we fence off susceptible areas, where cattle might hang in a creek, so we can control when cattle go in there because if the cattle hang onto that land they will tend to degrade it a little bit.
One of the main things we do and that Target 100 is looking at is maintaining ground cover on the property because maintaining ground cover will help stabilise soil and where you have ground cover you have grass and that is good for business and the environment. A bare patch earns nothing and is a potential erosion risk. We work on maintaining ground cover by rotating cattle in large mobs; a large number of cattle will go into a paddock and will eat it down for a number of weeks and then they'll be taken off for a longer period of time to cycle other paddocks and allow the grass to establish back to its maximise potential; this minimises selective grazing and has a mowing effect that provides uniformed grazing on all grasses.
Question: Can you talk about your sustainable practices in regards to fire prevention and management?
Stuart Barrett: Grazing management is a big part of that as well. Occasionally we will have a lot of rain, which has happened over the past two years and the grass is really growing, it can be a challenge for us to get the cattle to eat grass down and in that case we look at putting in as many fire breaks as we can or even increasing our herd numbers on that pasture area to try and beat it down (that's not as easy as it sounds because when cattle are in demand they can be quite expensive).
Traditionally fire was used as a tool, the old timers would get out and burn the old dry grass; now we have learned that you leave that dry grass and try and get the cattle to stomp it down and that then acts as mulch which goes into the soil and feeds the microbes and so on. We try and minimise spring burning and the risk of bushfire.
Question: Typical day like for you, on the farm?
Stuart Barrett: It depends on the Season but at the beginning of Autumn I am normally up by 6am and funnily enough I usually go to the office first for half an hour or an hour as the farm office is the hub of where it's at. After that I usually will work on livestock management such as cattle that needs to be shifted from one paddock to another to rotationally graze them which sometimes involves horses. We run horses on the property, we also run motorbikes for smaller paddocks and we have a plane for larger paddocks.
In late March we are gearing up for the big muster to start weaning; the calves are quiet big on the cows at the moment and we need to take them off because the more milk they take from the mother, the more weight the mother loses. I am also organising contractors.
When it's hot I go back to the office, during lunch and then in the afternoon I usually go out and check fences, waters and make sure the cattle are looking happy.
The big thing with farm work is that it varies so much depending on the season.
Question: What do you hope comes from the Target 100 Campagin?
Stuart Barrett: I can see there has been quite a generation gap between the city and the country in regards to how meat is produced. What I'd really like to encourage is that anyone who is interested in gaining information on how meat is produced is to visit the Target 100 website because at the end of the day beef isn't applicable anymore if people don't know where it comes from or why it's such a great industry.
I'd like to see the gap between city and the country bridged in regards to the whole Australian beef industry and how sustainable and how well the industry is managed.
I'd love to have anyone who is interested to come out and have a look at farms but logistically it's impossible.
Social media on farms is actually a really great tool because we are geographically isolated and we like to catch up and make a connection with other people using social media. If we can make Target 100 work to help boost our industry in urban environments, we'll give it our best shot.
Interview by Brooke Hunter