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The Home Plate - Life and Lamb

Six Minutes with Sam Archer

(Meet the Farmer) Permanent link

farmer samAustralia’s farmers play a major role in ensuring that the country’s meat is some of the world’s best. In this short video, you’ll meet one who’s leading charge—sheep and cattle farmer Sam Archer. Not only are Sam and his wife Sabrina making a difference on their 1,500-hectare farm in New South Wales, but they’re also helping Australia to achieve sustainability goals that set an example for the rest of the world to follow. Here’s some of the important information Sam will share with you:

The Australian difference 

Australia’s red meat industry and key government and research organizations have made a long-term commitment to food safety, product integrity and sustainability, and traceability. Additionally, Australia is internationally recognized as being free of all major livestock diseases. 

A team effort 

When it comes to implementing sustainability initiatives, Australia’s got a lot of cooks in the kitchen, from the government to academic organizations and advocacy groups, all involved in research, development and education. Farmers like Sam, however, are often the first to carry the torch. “We think of ourselves as environmental caretakers, because we manage half of Australia’s landmass,” he says. 

One thing that sets Australia’s sustainability approach apart is a focus on the entire meat supply chain. There’s more work to be done, but according to Sam, so far, so good—the country’s red meat industry is leading the way in cutting water use, increasing biodiversity, implementing sustainable land management practices, reducing emissions from sheep and cattle and efficiencies in shipping to the USA. 

Important goals 

According to Sam, the red meat supply chain should conserve and enhance the following: biodiversity, clean air and water, healthy soils and natural ecological practices. It should also aim to “deliver good animal welfare and ensure that the diversity and productivity of the natural environment is maintained and enhanced for the benefit of future generations.” 

Walking the walk 

On their farm, Sam and Sabrina have been focusing on numerous sustainability improvements, including land use strategies; paddock rotation to “rest” land and maximize animal health; and the promotion of biodiversity through the re-planting of native vegetation along waterways.   

They’re also working with key organizations on four important environmental trials, including an environmental services pilot project aiming to establish a market price for environmental credits for carbon, water, salinity and biodiversity. 

Not just not food miles

As a whole, the Australian Red Meat Industry is looking at how livestock impacts the environment, using life-cycle assessments to measure the full environmental impact of producing a pound of meat, from the field to the fork. As Sam will tell you, the approach is far more reliable than the concept of food miles—Australia’s livestock industry even plays an important role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. 

Looking forward 

As technology continues to improve and sustainability initiatives come down the pipeline, Australia is well positioned to continue to be a sustainable meat producing and exporting country. Sam’s prediction: “We’ll be producing the highest quality lamb and beef for your enjoyment, for a long time to come.” 

For more on the sustainability of Australian Lamb, click here

Meet the Farmer: Allan Piggott

(Meet the Farmer) Permanent link

Allan PiggottIn this month’s edition of the Home Plate, we talk with 3rd generation sheep rancher Allan Piggott from Tailem Bend, South Australia. 

True Aussie Lamb: How long have your family been ranching sheep?

Allan Piggott: My grandfather purchased this property as a bush block in the 1922. Extra land has been purchased in recent years so we now own over 5000 acres and sheep have always been a very important part of the business mix. Not only do we produce prime lambs for the domestic and export markets, but we are also a seedstock producer, which means that we breed rams for other prime lamb producers.

TAL: How has the business of husbandry changed over that time? 

AP: There have been many changes over the 35 years that I have been involved with breeding lambs. We now have numerous labour saving devices that enable us to care for many more sheep safely and more efficiently. We are able to use the innovation and technology that is now available to make our Australian sheep and lamb industry more productive and more sustainable.

TAL: Are new generations coming into the business, too?

AP: We now have a large number of young sheep producers who are actively involved in our industry and excited and passionate about it. It’s a great sign for the future.

TAL: What should Americans know about lamb from Australia, from your ranch, and more generally?

AP: The Australian lamb that arrives in the USA has been grown in a clean and green environment by producers who are committed to providing the very best meat possible. Every plate of lamb is supported by decades of science and research to ensure that it meets the expectations of the consumer.

American consumers might not know that Australia has done decades of studies to find the gene markers for the best meat eating qualities. On our ranch we use this service and DNA test our young rams to ensure that they have the genetic traits to breed lambs that will produce the meat that we all enjoy. The result is a product that is nutritious, satisfying and delicious.

TAL: You recently hosted a group of hi-calibre chefs from the US to your farm - what do you think they responded to the most or were most impressed by?

AP: We had a long and interesting discussion about lamb production in Australia and I think they appreciated the information about the innovation and technology that is being utilised by Australian sheep farmers. During the discussion, we talked about the importance of providing a consistently good product to our consumers to ensure that they will always have a good meat eating experience. The flavour and tenderness of the meat is determined by the genetics, the production system used to grow the lamb and the methods used to process the lamb. As an industry we are continually working to ensure that we get this right.

TAL: American consumers eat about 1/20th of the lamb compared to their Aussie friends. If you could serve one lamb dish to convince a Yank to eat more lamb, what would it be?

AP: You can’t beat the Australian favourites of a lamb roast, rack of lamb or lamb chops on the BBQ. But equally as good (and a little bit different), my wife Sue makes a fantastic pulled lamb dish that has been slow cooked for up to 24 hours in Asian flavours.

The Cowpers

(Meet the Farmer) Permanent link

The CowpersFrom paddock to plate, Australia's Red Meat and Livestock industry makes an important contribution to sustainability—environmental, economic and social.

With their unique production systems and commitment to striving for continuous improvement, Australia's ranchers are recognized around the world as leaders in producing some of the world’s best red meat, while leading the way in environmental farming practices.

The Cowper Ranch

Andrew and Lesley Cowper have been ranching in Australia for decades. For the last thirteen years, they’ve managed their own 18,226-acre ranch in the grasslands of Central Western Queensland, raising Merino (wool-producing) sheep and Santa Gertrudis cattle (a breed that originated in Texas, USA), and also joining their cull ewes to White Suffolk rams for the prime lamb market. Hard work and sustainable, responsible ranching have always been key drivers of their operation.

A Day in the Life

On a typical day, Andrew and Lesley are up at 5 a.m. (or 6 a.m. in winter). After breakfast (which often includes an Australian Lamb chop), they begin to tackle their to-do list: stock work, mustering, fencing, delving the bore drains (streams that flow from an artesian bore through the paddocks to provide water to stock), vehicle maintenance, and overseeing sheep and lamb shearing, crutching, and marking. During Australia’s scorching summers, a midday break is a must to beat the heat, which regularly tops 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

A Healthy Environment

"We have hundreds of thousands of square miles of semi-arid country ideally suited to the raising of livestock (and not much else). It's a very healthy environment for stock, with limited requirements for chemicals," says Andrew, of what sets Australian ranching (and its product) apart.

Like many Australian ranchers, the Cowpers realize the importance of keeping both their land and their stock in excellent condition. Energy-saving windmills are used for watering stock. They try to stock according to the season, and constant upgrading of the quality of the stock with rigorous culling is also a priority. They shear early in January and lamb in early March, when they've ideally got green feed (grass) from the wet summer season, a condition that contributes to optimum animal health.

To encourage the regeneration of native trees and shrubs, the Cowpers have also stocked their ranch more lightly than it had been previously, and they try to keep their mobs of sheep and cattle at less than the recommended stocking rate. Additionally, they have protected little trees from the stock by “pig-penning” old fence posts around them. Paddocks are either sub-divided or dedicated to different types of stock in a manner that accommodates the grazing behavior of both sheep and cattle, and also works to prevent erosion and promote re-grassing. In general, "we've always run our operation very simply," says Lesley.

Lamb Fans

When they're not hard at work, Andrew and Lesley like to kick back and enjoy some Australian Lamb. Here’s a great-for-spring recipe inspired by their favorite dish, roast lamb with mint sauce and baked vegetables.

For more on the sustainability practices and initiatives of Australia’s ranchers, click here.