Meat & Livestock News

Innovative Approaches in the Sheep Industry

TL;DR: Alliance Group CEO proposes industry collaboration to process stock for competitors, aiming to boost sheep farming efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability in New Zealand’s sheep industry.

Need for Collaboration

Willie Wiese, the chief executive of Alliance Group, advocates for increased collaboration in the sheep industry. He suggests processing stock for competitors to boost viability.

Exploring New Ideas

Wiese discussed this innovative idea with other meat companies. At least two are considering it. “It is challenging initially, but it’s crucial,” he noted.

Benefits of Collaboration

Such collaboration could reduce costs, improve animal welfare, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating redundant transportation.

Industry Feedback

The Meat Industry Association remarked that this is a matter for individual companies. Meanwhile, responses from other companies varied, with one declining to comment.

Support from Federated Farmers

Toby Williams, a board member of Federated Farmers, supports the idea. He recalled that during Cyclone Gabrielle, plants processed stock for other companies, proving its feasibility.

The Current State

“Sheep numbers are not growing, and the industry faces a crisis,” Williams stated. He emphasised the lack of innovation and collaboration, particularly in the wool sector.

Potential for Change

Even limited cooperation among two or three companies could be beneficial. “We needed this a decade ago,” Williams added, highlighting recent satisfactory meat prices as a past deterrent.

Future Choices

With sheep numbers expected to decline further, Wiese suggests that companies may need to consolidate or rationalise. “Could we see a different processing arrangement?” he asked.

Challenges and Opportunities

Wiese is optimistic about the industry’s future despite challenges from forestry and alternative land uses. “For a viable future, we must be more efficient and return more value to farmers,” he said.

Sustainable Competition

Wiese clarified that he is not advocating for an end to competition. Instead, he focuses on sustainable processing to ensure there is something worth competing for.

A Look at the Data

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s data shows a significant decline in sheep numbers over the past decade. Forestry acquisitions have also impacted this, with substantial losses in farm production and export receipts.

Government’s Role

Wiese calls on the government to reconsider how the fossil fuel industries offset emissions through forestry. This policy affects the land available for sheep farming.

Sheepmeat, as a niche product, stands to gain from the increasing global demand for protein. Wiese believes that positioning sheepmeat as a premium product could ensure stable, premium prices and benefits for farmers.