Developing an ‘agile’ Export Fodder industry for a sustainable future

25.10.21

Striving for improvements in the yield and nutritional profile of fodder, bolstering on-farm adoption of research and development and equipping the industry to better adjust to changing market conditions. These are just some of the priorities underpinning the AgriFutures Export Fodder Program’s new Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026) and its research, development and extension investments for the next five years.

A “blueprint” to guide the evolving $500 million plus export fodder industry through the next five years, the plan builds on foundational agronomic and market access work, while also considering future industry challenges and opportunities.

Industry-led development to facilitate a robust and adaptive industry

Understanding industry needs is at the heart of the Strategic RD&E Plan and its development. A range of industry stakeholders contributed to the plan to ensure it is inclusive and accurately captures the current export fodder industry priorities, while also guaranteeing the industry is best placed to adapt to future challenges.

AgriFutures Australia Manager, Research Export Fodder, Ginger, Pasture Seeds, Emma Rodham (nee Hand), said this Strategic RD&E Plan is “future focused” combining big-picture blue sky research with practical market development and on-farm productivity priorities.

“It’s about delivering a robust and agile industry,” she said.

“Part of this includes, understanding market specifications for existing, new and emerging markets to capitalise on opportunities as they arise, while producing top quality fodder to maintain and deliver value to existing customers.”

The consultation process, for this Strategic RD&E Plan, asked industry stakeholders to consider a range of future scenarios, including challenges and opportunities, in the next five to 10 years.

Ms Rodham said this approach to planning provided scope to prioritise vital on-farm goals such as adoption of R&D outputs, while investigating technology for benefits across the entire supply chain.

“The first AgriFutures Export Fodder Program Strategic RD&E Plan, developed five years ago, was focused on the fundamentals of export fodder production, this has been carried through to this plan and outlined in the first priority,” she said.

“Thanks to that solid base, we are now in a position to concentrate on the future and drill into exciting research and technology opportunities that can really help grow the industry.”

Four priorities to drive research and development for productivity and sustainability

The priorities developed for the AgriFutures Export Fodder Program Strategic RD&E Plan (2021-2026) include a balance of productivity and sustainability actions.

The Strategic RD&E Plan considers current market access challenges while also acknowledging the scope for productivity improvements with the transition of the National Oat Breeding Program to a commercial model.

Four priorities underpin the AgriFutures Export Fodder Program Strategic RD&E Plan:

  1. Production of high-quality export-grade fodder.
  2. Continued access to export markets.
  3. Supporting innovation across the supply chain.
  4. Increased adoption of R&D outputs by industry.

The first and largest priority focuses on understanding and promoting best management practices to increase fodder yield and/or quality and reduce production input costs.

The transition of the National Oat Breeding Program to a full commercialised model operated by InterGrain underpins this objective, and will ensure the industry can access crop varieties to meet the needs of export fodder markets.

Building the adaptive capacity of the Australian export fodder industry to help it retain, grow and establish new markets is the focus of the second strategic plan priority.

Improving the information available to exporters and producers is central to this. For example, it will assist with the understanding of chemical residue and biosecurity requirements. This will help the industry meet its goal of zero rejections of Australian export fodder into any market through compliance with importing country bio-sanitary standards.

Researching the benefits of Australian fodder in livestock feed rations and better understanding market specifications will support access to existing export fodder markets and support growth into new markets.

Increasing innovation for improved productivity and profitability across the supply chain drives the third Strategic Plan priority. Growers and exporters should expect exploration of “big data,” new tools and innovations, and technologies.

Extension services will be pivotal to the fourth Strategic Plan priority with a concentration on the adoption of AgriFutures Export Fodder Program research outcomes, along with scholarships for industry participants to participate in courses and study tours with the aim of further strengthening capacity within the industry.

RD&E to deliver top quality export fodder products

Deriving more value for the Export Fodder industry through improved research adoption, new oaten hay varieties or technology would benefit the entire supply chain according to Australian Exporters Company (AEXCO) Executive Officer Denis McGrath.

Mr McGrath was involved in the Strategic RD&E Plan development, and he said the priorities ensure the Export Fodder industry is delivering top quality products.

“Technology such as hyperspectral imaging can help fodder quality analysis and the breeding program by more quickly identifying new varieties that add value and the potential to improve the overall quality offering to our customers,” said Mr McGrath.

“We are hoping the research conducted over the next five years continues to deliver results and outcomes that can be adopted by the industry to improve the profitability of growers and exporters.”