SPA January Review

Sheep Producers Australia (SPA) is the peak industry organisation for sheep and lamb producers. It works to represent and promote producers' interests and view to position the Australian sheep and lamb industry for future success.

CEO Update

Successful Summer Lamb Campaign Launch
The summer lamb campaign ‘Make Lamb, Not Walls’ is at its halfway point after three weeks in the market. The campaign poses a tongue-in-cheek solution to pandemic-inspired state border closures and to date has been a great success.

The advert has received nearly 5.5 million views, with over 160 pieces of PR coverage across all the main media channels, including sparking debate in the Australian, the New York Times and other media.
The mural campaign activation which sees state premiers unite over a lamb cutlet at state border crossings and in capital cities around Australia has received nearly 70 pieces of coverage and accompanied by a radio partnership. The campaign also spans social channels with recipe-focussed product videos, retail activations and a foodservice partnership with Providoor (which saw a 30% uplift in lamb sales via this platform in the first week of promotion).

Sheep Projections 2021
The national sheep flock is set to enter a significant rebuilding phase in 2021 on the back of improved seasonal conditions in key sheep production regions of eastern Australia, according to MLA’s 2021 Sheep Industry Projections. Following two years of decline that saw the national flock reach historically low levels last year, the flock is now projected to increase 5% to reach 67.3 million head by 30 June 2021.
Register for the SPA / MLA Sheep Projections Webinar: 15-16 Feb
The continually changing border arrangements over the past couple of months have been a continuing distraction for everyone doing business interstate. Fortunately, the requirements of agriculture have been well prosecuted by SFO’s, peak commodity bodies, and DAWE (Dept. Agriculture Water and Environment). With every new closure, common sense arrangements allowing agricultural enterprises to function have largely been in place. 

We would like to acknowledge the work being done by the wool industry to address the shortage of shearers on a national and local level. The implications are obvious for the entire sheep industry, both economically and for the welfare of our animals.

Sheep Sustainability Framework Consultation
You are invited to a 90min consultation session for SFOs and PICs to give you and your organisation the opportunity to discuss and provide feedback on key features of the final draft framework.
Date: Wednesday 17 February 2021, 13:00 - 14:30 AEDT via Zoom
Register for Sheep Sustainability Framework Consultation: 17 Feb
Trade Tensions
Overall exports have held up particularly well, which is a bit surprising given the reliance on the food service sector in our major export markets. SPA has been acutely aware of both the official advice and media surrounding trade tensions and the impact on a range of commodities. This has involved robust discussions between peak bodies and advice to Government.
The result has been sheep meat avoiding the spotlight on the issue. Whilst we are not un-affected, export numbers are still very good, and creating attention (publicly), serves no useful purpose for the industry we represent. SPA has no issue with any commodity group defending their trading terms and conditions, however, we are quietly working to avoid a whole of agriculture push to create any further confrontation that may hasten unwanted restrictions.

Global Sheep Forum
SPA and MLA have been actively involved in the Global Sheep Forum (GSF) to develop evidenced based, united positions and collective actions that address shared challenges and opportunities across the global sheep industry. The current focus is on writing a global narrative for sheep/lamb and developing a global young leader program for 2021.

If there is anything you would like SPA to be discussing or any concerns you have, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Stephen Crisp

Monthly Poll | We want to hear from you

SPA’s monthly poll helps us to understand industry priorities and practices, assisting SPA to represent your views with the best industry information. 

Tell us your thoughts in the one question quiz... 
Please share with your members, networks, and friends. 
What do you think are the biggest threats facing the sheepmeat industry over the next 10 years?  Tell us now...

Leadersheep 2021

SPA is excited to announce we have obtained funding to reinvigorate the Leadersheep Program for 2021.

We are planning several programs to help you enhance your leadership skills.

Register your interest to find out more about the 2021 Leadersheep activities and highlight the areas of greatest value to you.
Sign Up Now to find out more about Leadersheep 2021

SPA Policy Committees

SPA is continuing to advance policy priorities in 2021 within the four policy committees. The first meetings of the year, slated for mid-February, will establish the priorities for the year, ensuring a targeted regime of advocacy and representation on core issues affecting the sheep meat industry. 
Animal Health and Welfare
  • Dingo Petition in Grampians National Park
  • National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy (NSIBS)
  • Antimicrobial Prescribing Guidelines
  • Sheep Health Tool
Dingo Petition in Grampians National Park
The National Wild Dog Management Coordinator, Greg Mifsud, has written a letter opposing the introduction of dingoes to the Grampians National Park. SPA has lent support to the letter and encourage all SFO’s and their members to similarly provide an objection. Were it to go ahead, the decision would set a poor precedent in the co-management of native wildlife and livestock across the country. Have your say by emailing: and read the NWDAP Media release here.

National Sheep Industry Biosecurity Strategy (NSIBS)
SPA is excited to welcome Sophie Hemley as the NSW Biosecurity Extension Manager at Animal Health Australia. Sophie is a qualified veterinarian with a wealth of experience in promoting sheep health and welfare with the NSW Local Land Services. Sophie will be working with SPA, WPA and AHA to engage with producers and extension service providers to improve on farm biosecurity throughout the state.

Antimicrobial Prescribing Guidelines
The Australian Veterinary Association, in conjunction with SPA, have released the Antimicrobial Prescribing Guidelines for Sheep. The guidelines are a valuable resource for veterinarians and producers to ensure antimicrobials are used prudently. MLA is also seeking volunteers to participate in an antimicrobial usage tool that is in its early stages of development. The tool is an opportunity for producers to benchmark their antimicrobial use against like producers, and assist industry to collect evidence to support positive, responsible antibiotic use in red meat production.

Sheep Health Tool
MLA has developed the Sheep Health Tool as a mechanism for producers to measure the financial impacts of endemic diseases and how these can be mitigated. Feedback is being sought by MLA on the tool as to whether it is both accurate and useful to growers. The tool is available here. For those interested in its genesis and the research behind it, more information can be found here.
Market Access and Trade
  • International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM)
  • EU and UK Free Trade (FTA)
  • US Market

Market Access and Trade

International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM)
Stephen Crisp met (on Wednesday 20/01) with representatives for the Government who are running IMAF. SPA lobbied heavily for the scheme, due to the particular reliance on air freight in some markets, especially where expiry dates are restrictive (as they are in the Middle East). 

The Government was keen to emphasise that this is a temporary measure but wanted the following noted:
-    So far the scheme has cost $669m
-    The program has utilised a combination of full charters, buying blocks of space as well as grants to Freight Forwarders
-    Appointments to run the scheme were via the Deputy PM and the Minister for Trade

Sheep Meat is third behind Seafood and Horticulture in utilisation but has shipped more tonnage than Beef, Pork, and Dairy. Total sheep meat shipped has equated to approximately 44,000 MT, at a value of over $490M (Victoria 60%, WA 23%, NSW 14%, SA 3%).

Passenger flights are not expected to return to pre-covid levels until 2024. (Obviously, we are hoping this is pessimistic) and the halving of the international passenger cap is having a major effect on the program. Without the cross subsidisation of passengers, freight rates will be higher long term with expected 30% less capacity. What is not general knowledge is that the Emirates suspended passenger flights have been replaced by cargo flights. The long term implications for air freight are considerable:

The Government is keen to emphasise that the program must come to an end at some point. Beyond its expense, Australia could be accused of subsiding agricultural exports if the program is allowed to run longer than what is considered an emergency measure.

SPA will be updating IFAM on producer attitudes towards the seasonal conditions every couple of weeks, to enable them to be ready for any surge or reduction in sheep industry needs. This will entail some opinions from the SFO’s, as well as analysis of yardings (including the type of sheep on offer) as we work through the next 6 months. Qatar has recently had the air blockade lifted from many other Middle East Nations, which will allow more competitive pricing into many ME destinations, and they are expected to be re-commencing some routes to Australia.

SPA has attended the confidential briefings provided by DFAT. Most of the discussions are centering around Geographic indicators and whether there should be any animal welfare should be included at any point in the Agreements. At this stage, there seems little cause for concern for the sheep meat industry with the Australian negotiators well briefed on industry’s position on these matters.

Offers for any of the substantial commodities is likely to occur in the next few months, however with red meat seen as one of the most sensitive commodities, we are not likely to get into offers until very late in negotiations – towards the end of this year.
US Market
The statistics up to September last year have shown that the US market had a surprising uptick in volume in the first 3 quarters of last year. We were aware that the food service sector would take a large hit in the US – which it did – and this was reflected in lower prices and demand for lamb racks. What has been encouraging is the uptick in demand for cheaper cuts and grinding meat. The supermarket sector has been positive.
Product Integrity
  • Sheep Traceability
  • Integrity Systems Company
  • Lamb Eating Quality
  • Objective Carcase Measurement
Sheep Traceability
One of SPA’s key policy focus areas in 2021 remains the continual improvement of Australia’s sheep meat traceability capabilities, to ensure the commitments Australia has made to its trading partners-and our biosecurity arrangements- continue to be upheld. Following the circulation of two key reports in late 2020, SPA is engaging in ongoing consultations with members regarding the future national traceability system for the sheep industry. 

Integrity Systems Company 
SPA commenced consultation with the State Farming Organisations in December and is awaiting their feedback on new strategic initiatives for the Livestock Production Assurance Program.

Opportunities for new initiatives have been grouped into three focus areas: (1) LPA Program Scope; (2) Program compliance; and (3) Verification systems. Other key updates from integrity systems company includes: 
•    A suite of NVD changes were rolled out in the first quarter of FY21, including the release of a new version (0720 NVD), with more than 40,000 new books ordered year to date.
•    ISC's 'Stand by what you sell' webinar series attracted 4,500 registrations nationally with an average rating of 8.7/10 received from participants who attended.
•    A report providing a global scan of the technologies and systems that underpin supply chain traceability has been completed for ISC to help inform future directions.

The report outlines three recommendations for future action to address the 10 key elements outlined in ISC’s 2024 strategic plan, and in doing so progress the red meat integrity system from its current whole-of-life traceability design to a complete end-to-end traceability system: 
o    Recommendation 1: Define the overarching architecture of a complete end-to-end traceability system for 2025 and beyond.
o    Recommendation 2: Harmonisation of regulations and clarification of roles and responsibilities in an enhanced traceability system at an industry (red meat) or sector (agriculture) level.
o    Recommendation 3: Facilitate the extension of the red meat integrity system from whole-of-life to whole-of-supply chain through evaluation of technologies that facilitate individual animal traceability to the consumer.
o    Recommendation 4: Assess the potential for advances in key foundational technologies to alter the technological landscape by changing what is possible in supply chain traceability.

Lamb Eating Quality
MLA has taken delivery of a 2-cut Sheepmeat MSA model (Mark-II) from researchers. The model has progressed to benchmarking and testing in preparation for larger 9-cut model. The delivery of sheep meat MSA model will provide the opportunity for industry consultation to develop and implement a rollout plan. This should drive industry engagement and use of MSA trademark on sheepmeat brands.  

Objective Carcase Measurement
•    ALMTech-I (a $9.1m over 4 years RnD4Profit program) has been successfully completed. All KPIs have been achieved and final reporting submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment for review.
•    A fourth lamb DEXA installation has been completed with calibration commenced, with a fifth installation also commenced. Approximately 35% total national lamb throughput is now being measured via DEXA. 
•    A scanning prototype combining x-ray and multispectral surface imaging that integrates data for offal condemnation evaluation has commenced trials.
Research, Development and Adoption
  • Animal Health
  • Livestock Genetics
  • Sheep Productivity
  • Other Research Releases
Some key highlights from MLA’s FY21 Quarter 1 program updates include:  

Animal Health
•    A paper describing a Lifetime Animal Wellbeing Index establishing Australia as a leader in animal welfare, like MSA has done with eating quality, is being prepared for industry consultation.
•    The extended commercial trial of NUMNUTS field experiments are on track, despite COVID-19 delays. The trials will validate a tool to increase pain mitigation during the surgical marking of lambs.

Livestock Genetics
•    Sheep Genetics launched the new search site, which had a 25% increase in daily visits in the first month and significantly improved speed of access to the site. Click here to access the new site. 

Sheep Productivity 
•    The inaugural tender for MDC projects through the Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership has now closed with over $23m worth of applications received.
•    A recently completed project evaluating the impact of dystocia on lamb survival has demonstrated that dystocia (including stillbirths and perinatal deaths) causes >50% of all lamb losses. Outcomes from this project will be addressed through the Sheep Reproduction Strategic Partnership as a high priority for ongoing RD&A initiatives.

Other key research reports released 
•    Value analysis of the Australian live sheep trade (2019) to produce knowledge and materials to assist industry to openly demonstrate the economic benefits of the trade.
•    Commercial application of supply chain integrity and shelf-life systems

Meet Your Board Member:
Robert Herrmann 

We are pleased to welcome Robert Herrmann to the Board. Roberts’ career has been intertwined with sheep, in fact before he began working in the sheep & wool industry in an advisory role, growing up the family farm (a prime lamb & wool producing business) was essentially an apprenticeship for the career that has evolved.

My journey led to a number of years in woolsheds as a shearer and wool classer, before joining Elders as District Wool Manager based in Hamilton, known then as the “Wool Capital of the World”. This was a seminal event, with experience across all types of sheep expanding, and providing advice to sheep producers a critical element in the daily activities of the role.

Coupled with growing up on a sheep farm, this experience gave Robert a wide breadth of understanding of the sheep industry with an emphasis on efficient production. The principle areas covered breeding, productivity, harvesting, wool preparation, marketing & sales.

Starting the Mecardo business in 1996 allowed Robert to expand his experience to all corners of the country, and to further build relationships within the sheep industry. Robert says, “The opportunity to act as a board member of SPA is an important step in contributing experience and enthusiasm to address the challenges the sheep industry faces into the future.”

The SPA team look forward to working with Robert more in this board role.

Annual Report 2019-2020

Consultation Links and Registrations

Don't forget to register for the following events and consultations...
Register for the SPA / MLA Sheep Projections Webinar: 15-16 Feb
Register for Sheep Sustainability Framework Consultation: 17 Feb
Sign Up Now to find out more about Leadersheep 2021
What do you think are the biggest threats facing the sheepmeat industry over the next 10 years?  Tell us now...

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