The design of the world’s first national sustainability framework for sheep and wool is underway, with the appointment of a steering group to identify priority issues related to Australian sheep production.
“Our customers must be confident that the food and fibre they purchase has been produced responsibly,” said Professor Bruce Allworth, Chair of the Sheep Sustainability Steering Group.
“This means being transparent about our performance in key areas of interest such as animal welfare, occupational health and safety, environmental impact and economic resilience.
“It aims to celebrate our strengths – those areas of production where we are best practice – and identify areas where improvements can be made. It will enable industry to better understand its opportunities, challenges and impacts, to define sustainable sheep production and track annual performance using a series of indicators.
“If we can measure our performance and provide solid data, we can demonstrate that our farming practices are in line with the expectations of our customers, and build their trust.”
A vet by training, Prof Allworth runs a mixed sheep and cattle property near Holbrook, NSW, and leads the Fred Morley Centre at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Charles Sturt University. He has a consulting background in sheep and beef production.
The focus of the framework is on-farm, covering both sheep meat and wool.
The skill-based steering group has a strong representation across regions, and the wool and meat value chain. The members are:
• Prof Bruce Allworth (Chair) – Director, Fred Morley Centre, Charles Sturt University, NSW
• Will Barton – CEO, Gundagai Meat Processors, NSW
• Dr Will Bignell – Producer, Thorpe Farm, TAS
• Andrew Blanch – Managing Director, New England Wool, NSW
• Michael Field – Producer, Jugiong, NSW
• Johnny Gardner – Producer, Cavendish, VIC
• Deanna Lush – Managing Director, Ag Communicators, SA
• Emily Stretch – Producer, Kojonup, WA
• Mark Wootton – Producer, Jigsaw Farms, VIC
The initiative is led by Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia, with Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia providing funding together with strategic and secretariat support.
The steering group will meet this week to start discussions on priority issues to be included in the framework. This will be followed by consultation across the sheep meat and wool value chain, and with stakeholders, including customers, government, interest groups, technical experts and investors.
“It is critical that we consider the concerns of all our stakeholders in designing the framework. Close engagement will also support their understanding of what the industry is doing to become more sustainable,” said Prof Allworth.
“Overall, I believe the framework will build trust in, and resilience of, the industry. It will help us identify areas for improvement and stay on the front foot with regards to emerging issues.
The framework is expected to be delivered by June 2020. It is the second sustainability framework for the red meat industry. The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework was launched in 2017.