IT has been the willingness among those in the lot feeding industry to meet challenges head-on and find innovative solutions that has always attracted researcher Des Rinehart.
The lifetime he has spent managing research and development for Australia's grain fed beef industry was recognised last night with the presentation of the Outstanding Services to the Lot Feeding Sector award to Mr Rinehart.
The prestigious Australian Lot Feeders' Association award was announced at the Australian Community Media dinner held as part of the Smart Beef 2019 conference in Dalby.
Mr Rinehart, who started his career in feedlots in 1973 and for the past two decades has headed up Meat & Livestock Australia's research for feedlots, will retire at the end of this year.
"In the early days you learnt everything by having a go and making mistakes," he told the audience when collecting his award.
"The thing I really like about this industry is how proactive it is.
"In the late 1980s there was a senate inquiry around our environmental management. They basically said if you don't get your act together we'll regulate the industry."
That led to the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme, which today is held in high esteem even outside the red meat industry.
"Other challenges have come along over the years - heat stress for example - and always the industry has positively addressed the issue, a lot of it through research which I've had the fortune to be a part of.
"Our most recent challenge is with activists - and again, as this conference shows - it's on the agenda. The industry is doing a good job of it."
Bang for buck
Eating quality and the ability to influence it was a major area of early research in the feedlot sector, ALFA president Bryce Camm explained in presenting Mr Rinehart's award.
With particular emphasis on feeding for the export markets, much of it concerned marbling and ways to manage cattle through the supply chain to optimise it.
Consistency of tenderness was another research focus from an early time and much of this work paved the way for the delivery of the industry's groundbreaking Meat Standards Australia tenderness guarantee.
A key limiting factor in the early days was access to funding. Until the 1997 red meat industry restructure, the lotfeeding sector did not have a dedicated R&D levy stream of its own. The industry often had to go cap-in-hand to MLA's predecessor to secure funding approval for work of sometimes critical importance, Mr Camm said.
Then came Des Rinehart. He was the first dedicated feedlot R&D manager.
"Des has proved to be a highly effective link between the industry and the R&D sector, combining 16 years of hands-on experience as a former manager at Lillyvale feedlot with a strong understanding of research principles relevant to the feedlot sector."
Mr Rinehart also spent a considerable period as an ALFA councilor, representing Lillyvale. The initial budget for feedlot R&D was about $750,000 - a far cry from programs seen a decade later of more than $3 million annually, and more than $4 million today.
"Under Des' stewardship and in close collaboration with ALFA, the feedlot R&D program has long had a reputation for being run efficiently and cost effectively, delivering the maximum bang for the buck," Mr Camm said.
For his part, Mr Rinehart said the thing he was most happy about was the number of young people involved in lotfeeding today.
Not only are those taking up the operational reigns exceptional talent but there is a very good crop of researchers coming through, he said.