ALFA: Feedlot industry's success underpinned by quality assurance program

ALFA: Feedlot industry's success underpinned by NFAS

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Celebrating 50 years of the Australian Lot Feeders' Association.

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Former ALFA chairman Kev Roberts led the introduction of the NFAS and says it has been an enduring success in self-regulation of an agricultural industry in Australia across more than two decades.

Former ALFA chairman Kev Roberts led the introduction of the NFAS and says it has been an enduring success in self-regulation of an agricultural industry in Australia across more than two decades.

'DO as you say, and say as you do' was the motto of the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) committee's inaugural chairman when planning this groundbreaking and enduring quality assurance scheme for Australia's grain-fed beef industry.

Kev Roberts, who led the committee for 10 years in drafting and implementing the self-regulated scheme, said its success essentially came down to helping feedlots stay honest.

And he said the key plank to achieving this was the inclusion of annual audits of operations.

Mr Roberts, the long-time owner of Sandalwood feedlot at Dalby in Queensland, said the NFAS was the first on-farm quality assurance program to be introduced in Australia - and possibly the world - through which the industry could monitor itself.

"We wanted our sector - through the Australian Lot Feeders' Association (ALFA) - to drive and have control of the scheme, and determine our own fate, without governments at all levels enforcing regulations on us," he said.

"And we were not afraid to discredit any lotfeeders who did the wrong thing - while making sure we had a robust system of checks, balances and appeals in place.

Mr Roberts said although many other organisations at the time thought an annual audit was too onerous and severe, it had proven to be the key to successful accreditation compliance and high quality grain-fed beef standards across more than two decades.

"An annual visit helps to keep everyone honest," he said.

From the drafting table in 1991, introduction in 1994 and operation through to 2021, the NFAS now boasts more than 390 active members and represents more than 1.6 million head of cattle on feed - destined for domestic and export markets.

As at December 2019, 10 new feedlots had been accredited during that calendar year - up from four new entries in 2018 - and these represented approved capacity of about 23,547 head.

During 2019, 406 on-site audits were completed - which accounted for all the NFAS-accredited feedlots.

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Mr Roberts said the design and implementation of the NFAS in the 1990s involved extensive consultative workshops, which were staged across the country, and the development of a manual to cover all stakeholders and feedlot sizes.

He said it was always designed to be a proactive, self-regulated industry program centred on key standards and guidelines for the nation's feedlots - and to avoid excessive government intervention and rules.

Click on this image to read more about the Australian Lot Feeders' Association.

Click on this image to read more about the Australian Lot Feeders' Association.

During three years of planning, all relevant industry, environmental and government bodies were consulted and feedback incorporated.

A big win was to get the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to include grain-fed standards for export beef.

This was essential to have certified grain-fed beef from an NFAS-accredited facility.

Sourcing livestock from NFAS-accredited feedlots and processing at AUS-MEAT accredited processing plants became a prerequisite for beef being marketed as GrainFed (GF), Grain-Fed Young Beef (GFYB), or Grain-Fed Finished (GFF).

NFAS is independently audited and managed by AUS-MEAT through the Feedlot Industry Accreditation Committee (FLIAC), which includes lotfeeders, AUS-MEAT and government representatives.

It is designed to evolve with changing industry needs and undergoes regular reviews and updates, guided by the committee.

The modules which form the pillars of the NFAS incorporate industry and legislative requirements for: quality management systems; food safety; livestock management;environmental management; and product integrity.

During 2019, the FLIAC reviewed and strengthened the process it follows for dealing with incidents, complaints and allegations and appointed an NFAS Review Steering Committee to develop the scope of the 2020 review of the Scheme.

This followed an extensive review of the scheme in 2017, which was designed to provide feedlot operators with specific requirements in relation to risk analysis, biosecurity management and environmental and animal welfare incident reporting - including the reporting of morbidity and mortality within any 24-hour period.

FLIAC chair Jim Cudmore said the 2020 review and update would not require Australia's roughly 400 NFAS-accredited feedlots to make big changes in their day-to-day operations.

He said the vast majority of NFAS-accredited operators were doing almost everything that would be required under the strengthened rules and standards and would need to alter little, if anything, in their standard practice.

Jim Cudmore, pictured with former ALFA president Dougal Gordon.

Jim Cudmore, pictured with former ALFA president Dougal Gordon.

"About eight or 10 years ago, we changed to an outcomes-based quality assurance program where we stated the outcome and then it was up to the individual operator as to how they might achieve that," he said.

"What we've done in this last little bit is just improve on that.

"From a day-to-day feedlot business point of view, it's not a big change, but there is now increased clarity around certain things."

Mr Cudmore said the update was part of a continual evolution of the scheme in response to changing customer and community expectations of grain-fed beef.

He said, overall, this was a good opportunity for feedlots to review and update their quality management systems.

Mr Roberts said the NFAS was having a positive impact on Australia's beef product integrity, quality and acceptability - and for which lotfeeders maintain responsibility.

The story ALFA: Feedlot industry's success underpinned by quality assurance program first appeared on The Land.

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