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Beef’s big week shines a spotlight on the industry

09:00am June 04 2024

Beef Week, the triennial gathering of Australia’s cattle industry, is sometimes referred to as the Olympics of Beef.

It's not hard to see why. Beef 2024 in Rockhampton, Queensland saw close to 120,000 people pass through the gates, with attendees ranging from farmers, technicians, and scientists, to chefs, students, and the general public.  

Westpac was a principal partner at this year’s event, which featured cattle competitions, rare breeds, technology exhibits, and a food zone with cuisines from around the world – no prizes for guessing the star ingredient. 

“Beef Week is an opportunity to showcase what the beef industry is all about,” says Peta Ward, Westpac’s Head of Agribusiness. “It’s a chance for producers to learn about the latest innovations and digital technology, as well as visiting farms in the region.”

Australia is the world’s third biggest beef exporter with the value of production expected to rise to almost $16 billion in the 2024/25 financial year, according to the federal government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming. The industry employs over 400,000 people. 

Media reports in May that China has lifted trade suspensions on Queensland beef exporters will come as another boost to the industry. 

Still, it has been a challenging period for farmers, with weak sale prices and higher feed costs combining to squeeze their margins. They’ve also had to contend with weather extremes ranging from drought to floods as the impacts of climate change make such events more common.  

Added to that is the need for farmers to constantly improve the sustainability and efficiency of their operations by investing in new technology. 

Innovation drive

“I’ve seen immense change in the beef industry over the past 30 years. The focus has moved from the actual livestock to the environment we’re working in,” says Ainsley McArthur, who has been attending Beef Week since it began in 1988 and this year hosted a visit to her Mystery Park cattle property around 180 kilometres from Rockhampton.  

“There’s been huge progress in AgTech, it’s become much more useable,” she adds. “It’s an exciting place for our children - the opportunities for kids in agriculture have never been greater.”

McArthur uses technology to monitor the real-time weight gain of cattle in the paddock, while many farms now deploy GPS ear tags on their herd, as well as drones, to better enable the farmer to track cattle movements. 

Other innovations include software to monitor water and soil quality. 

Gene Campbell, a senior agribusiness manager at Westpac, agrees that innovation is vital for Australia’s beef industry to stay competitive in global markets. 

“For Westpac, Beef Week is a big opportunity for us to better understand what our customers are going through, to understand the challenges and the pressures they face so we can help them through those tough times, but also celebrate with them when they are having those prosperous times as well,” Campbell says.

McArthur and her partner Rob have banked with Westpac for the past five years and have been impressed by the willingness of their relationship bankers to come and meet them on the farm.

“Having boots on the ground means they get to witness what's happening in the paddocks and then we sit down on the veranda and share our cash forecasts and business goals,” McArthur says. 

Ainsley and Rob are fourth generation graziers who hope to one day pass down the business to their six children. 

Westpac’s involvement in agribusiness dates back to the bank’s earliest days more than 200 years ago, demonstrating its long-term commitment to the sector, says Anthony Miller, Chief Executive, Business & Wealth.

“Beef week is a big moment for our customers so it's really critical that we're here,” Miller says. 

“It's an excellent way to engage with our customers and also start to identify what we need to do to be there for them in the next three years.”

Sarah Williamson is a video producer for Westpac Wire. Sarah joined the team in 2024 bringing with her nearly a decade of experience across all aspects of video production. She's worked with high profile companies including Canva and Lego.

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