Appointed in March as Sheep Producers Australia's CEO, Bonnie Skinner has broad industry experience. Previously working as Manager of Biosecurity & Extension for the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN) in NSW, her role included encouraging red meat producers and supply chain participants to understand their role in disease surveillance and management of endemic diseases and promoting on-farm practices that support food safety and traceability.
Since beginning her leadership role with Sheep Producer's Australia, Ms Skinner has pinpointed the major influences in the industry, including community expectations.
"Community expectations are continually evolving, and the community - and our trading partners - increasingly have an interest in what happens on farm and throughout the supply chain. It is the responsibility of industry to engage with the Australian community and to develop ways of demonstrating its integrity," Ms Skinner said.
"This should be backed by a practical, unbiased, science-based and consultative system for setting national minimum welfare standards, and appropriately resourced and skilled regulatory enforcement at a state level."
According to Ms Skinner, the Australian sheepmeat industry has a long tradition of producing safe, quality sheepmeat for customers around the world and is in one of the strongest eras of history.
She says Australian sheep producers are some of the most efficient and diversified in the world, with the cost of production well below the global average. This is positive for industry and producers should have confidence in the medium- to long-term profitability of the industry, which is supported by ongoing demand for sheepmeat globally.
"The industry continues to strive through strategic planning and collaboration to be the leading supplier of lamb and sheepmeat to global customers to meet growing demand for our premium product," Ms Skinner said.
Another current influence on the sheep industry is the focus on aligning animal welfare, environmental, economic, and social practices with best practice and community expectations, while managing sheep profitably, she said.
"The value of Australia's sheepmeat industry is inextricably linked to Australia's capacity to export, therefore we are reliant on our traceability systems and the market access that they afford," Ms Skinner said.
"National traceability reform will ensure that livestock traceability can evolve and meet future biosecurity and market access requirements as well as unlock productivity gains throughout the supply chain, securing a strong future for sheep producers both domestically and within our global markets.
"Industry-led initiatives like the Sheep Sustainability Frameworks are supporting industry to communicate animal welfare credentials and aspirations to the community, and to drive on-farm practice improvements informed by unbiased science. These initiatives should be supported into the future."
Sheep production is an integral part of Australia's regional landscape and communities, with lamb and mutton production contributing 8 per cent to the total farm value of $66.6 billion in 2019-2020.
Ms Skinner believes this collaborative approach will help ensure continued access to markets and revenue for Australian sheep businesses and supports continuous improvement across the industry. If production is sustainable, then people, businesses, animals, and the environment all benefit.
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