THERE is a quiet revolution starting in the lamb industry that is set to disrupt the production and marketing of livestock, bringing all members of the supply chain closer together.
Like all revolutions, it takes a special kind of leader who sees things differently to captain the change; and for the sheep industry, that’s Nathan Scott.
“My focus is on producers taking ownership of their role in the industry,” Mr Scott said.
“The aim is not just to deliver information, but to excite and motivate our audiences to adopt new concepts, push their enterprise performance and continually improve.”
The principal of young consultancy business, Achieve Ag Solutions, grew-up in Victoria’s coastal city, Geelong.
But since he was two years-old, Mr Scott has never wavered from his dreams of being a farmer.
He worked on his relatives farms during school holidays and at 14 began working on local mixed farming properties, by 19 he was a property manager.
While studying Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in agriculture, at Melbourne University, he worked with Landmark Geelong, before being employed as a consultant at Mike Stephens and Associates.
In 2014, together with his wife Narelle and industry specialist Mark Jenkinson, he established Achieve Ag, with an aim to challenge the culture of traditional sheep enterprises.
Through the use of digital disruption, with majority of clients’ flocks using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, Mr Scott’s holistic approach to lamb production has persuaded many southern Australian operators to rethink the way they manage and market their livestock.
“A lot of this this is not about getting a premium or value-adding, it is about maintaining our current position on a world stage because if we don’t do anything we will go backwards – standing still is going backwards,” he said.
“By increasing the adoption of science and technology, we can not only improve profitably in businesses, but contribute to the industry’s big picture – of animal welfare and sustainable practices – in a way people can be proud of.
“With advancements in technology, consumers and producers are coming closer together. It won’t be long until a customer can scan the packet of meat in a supermarket and know where it was produced, so you need to make sure your backyard is clean.”
He has dissected the fragmented customer chain – from producer to processor and processor to consumer – with the idea if the customer was always right, then it pays to know what they want.
With this principle in mind, Achieve Livestock Marketing was launched in 2015, providing direct feedback from the processor to the producer.
“If you are serious about our industry, then it is critical to know whether your lambs are any good, and ultimately what the consumer wants,” he said.
“Most producers didn’t feel like they were getting options, they were only being told to put stock in the market.
“We are not in the business of stealing clients from good stock agents, they should be a critical player on your team.
“You need to assess who is on your team and whether they contribute significantly to your business outcomes. If not, look for alternatives.”
He believes a direct relationship with abattoirs means producers can manage finishing times according to slaughter space availability.
“Our lamb industry supply chain still has a lot of maturing to do,” he said.
“There are a lot of producers that are sceptical of processors and many processors sceptical of producers – we are the conduit between them.
“It is an alternative to saleyards and traditional selling methods.
“Producers get to know their lambs’ weights, dressing percentage, plan kill times, and get real feedback, rather than just dropping them in the yards.”
He has instigated a new transaction fee whereby livestock are sold with a fixed price per head, due to the “move away from commission basis”.
Mr Scott has established a sustainability document to support producers’ vendor declarations, which show production standards including animal welfare and nutrition.
It is all a part of achieving the ultimate goal, he said, to offer the best product to the world while providing evidence to back-that sales pitch.
“Farmers are criticised a lot for not adopting new concepts or technologies, but I don’t think it is fair for them to wear all of the blame,” he said.
“The way information is delivered and reasons for changing are critical.”
MOTIVATION AND INSPIRATION
He believed the inspiration to change was the most overlooked factor.
“Despite what most believe, profit isn’t a great motivator, debt is,” he said.
“If someone is financially comfortable, then there is little incentive to do anything other than what they are already doing.
“A lot of producers have good equity levels and make enough money to be comfortable and while they’re comfortable there is no reason to change.”
His approach is about inspiring producers about their purpose in the supply chain.
“Writing a case study or a profit proposition isn’t a change motivator.
“This is what has happened for the last 100 years – it doesn’t change the way producers do things,” Mr Scott said.
“You need to inspire them to be the best they can be so we talk about mastery and purpose – being a part of something bigger than themselves.”
While there are some things producers can never control, such as weather and market prices, Mr Scott said there were many producers can.
“A large amount of our focus is on them being proactive and looking for those small wins,” he said.
Those “small wins” have accumulated to clients’ achieving staggering lamb growth rates with single born lambs averaging 490 grams a day from birth through to weaning and twins and triplets 400 grams a day.
“There is no simple answer to achieving these results – it is a lot of small things all done well and on time which come together.”
“My passion is helping people achieve that.”