ABOUT 240 producers gathered for the sold-out Gippsland Red Meat Conference in Sale on Tuesday, to learn from each other and plan a better future for their businesses.

The conference, held at the Sale Baptist Church, was organised by the volunteer-led Gippsland Agricultural Group (GAgG), who pulled together the content and secured the speakers.

It aims to help beef and sheep businesses of all sizes increase productivity and resilience through knowledge and technology sharing. A range of trade displays offered practical information and advice on key topics such as farm biosecurity planning and climate emissions.

An Agriculture Victoria spokesperson said the sold-out event benefitted the Gippsland meat industry while also boosting the local economy.

“We are pleased to sponsor the Gippsland Red Meat Conference,” the spokesperson said, who also noted that Agriculture Victoria provided $10,000 in sponsorship and hosted a display at the event.

GAgG General Manager Jen Smith, who is a local sheep and cattle producer, said the event sold out early, and hailed the positive energy.

“It’s absolutely energising to be here today. What we’ve got is a room full of producers who are looking for that edge in their business,” she said.

“There’s about 60 partners, sponsors and industry-people. It’s fantastic to have those service providers in the room to share their knowledge that we can apply to our farming systems.”

The event lasted the entire day – from a working breakfast at 7.30am to a dinner at the Victoria Hall which was scheduled to conclude at 11pm.

Gippsland Agricultural Group chairman, Trevor Caithness, addresses conference attendees. Photo: Lyric Anderson

After registrations, morning tea and an opening address by GAgG, the first presentation at the church took place at 9.35am. Meat and livestock analyst Simon Quilty, who returned in a later presentation, spoke alongside Managing Director of Mecardo, Robert Herrmann about the constant motion of the red meat markets.

Nine more presentations followed. Frank Archer from Landfall Angus had his own presentation to discuss matching genetics to one’s production system. He also shared a stage with farmers Alister and Steph Micallef on whether operations needed to be large-scale to be profitable.

Ms Smith said as producers tackle challenges surrounding markets and climate, the experts at the conference can speak on what producers can do to position ourselves.

“To quote speaker Frank Archer, you don’t have to be an expert, but you have to be a good decision maker,” she said.

Sam Wright and Casey Willis from Valley Seeds. Photo: Zoe Askew

“To be able to put close to 200 producers from Gippsland in a room with some experts is going to power on some of that decision-making … going forward.”

Ms Smith spoke of the trifecta of adverse conditions affecting the red meat sector – rainfall, interest rates and commodity prices.

“We’ve seen a significant rise in interest rates, and a very significant decline in our commodity prices for both lamb and beef,” she said.

“Combined with really low rainfall for most of East and Central Gippsland … but it’s too wet in South Gippsland.

“That trifecta of issues is really affecting things.”

GAgG General Manager Jen Smith

The other speakers were Rozzie O’Reilly (Lambpro), Richard Eckard (Melbourne University professor), Mark Ferguson (Nextgen Agri), Sarah Bolton (Greenhams), Scott Langley (Langley Farms) and Nathan Scott (Achieve Ag Solutions).

After the last presentation concluded around 5pm, it was time for networking and nibbles, then dinner at 6.30pm at the Victoria Hall.

Farmers Alister and Steph Micallef spoke at the ‘Big Farm/Little Farm’ panel discussion on scale of operation. Photo: Zoe Askew

The dinner featured sports legend, media personality and ‘lambassador’ Sam Kekovich as a guest speaker to entertain the crowd. David and Ellie Caldwell from GAgG also spoke about the humorous realities of farming.

Ms Smith said it was great to finish off the conference with a dinner that was social, connective, vibrant and fun.

Michael O’Connor and Kevin Beams front a display. Photo: Zoe Askew

“GAgG sees this as really important to tackling challenges around mental health in the farming community… to bring producers together for socialising and laughter,” she said.

Asked if the conference will return next year, Ms Smith said “for sure”.

“We need to think about the model and raise the profile of these events for industry,” she said.

Robyn Kuch (Perry Bridge), Jo McKinley (Stratford) and Renee Paulet (Toongabbie) at the Gippsland Red Meat Conference.
Photo: Lyric Anderson