Feed sustainability and quality control needs collaboration, says Australian industry head

By Kacey CULLINEY

- Last updated on GMT

© istock/AlexKosev
© istock/AlexKosev
The feed sector must work together over the next five years if it wants to advance in contaminant control, sustainable sourcing and efficient processing, says the head of Stockfeed Manufacturers’ Council of Australia (SFMCA).

The SFMCA recently finalized its five-year strategic plan for members in the stockfeed-milling sector after an organizational restructure last year.

John Spragg, executive officer for the SFMCA, said a strong focus had been placed on feed standards and sustainability.

He told FeedNavigator that feed players had been talking about supply chain improvements for decades, but this was now being actioned - something that had to continue.

“Gradually, we’re getting more links in the chain…I guess it’s recognizing that quality control and assurance is an essential, not an added extra. There is no big premium for doing quality; it’s just part of business.”

Mutual recognition

For feed millers, Spragg said working to HACCP standards, for example, had created more recognition and acceptance from other parts of the supply chain.

“It does take a long time, though, for different parts of the supply chain to trust and recognize what others are doing.”

Overall, however, he said there was now more “maturity” ​among Australian feed players, which had not always been then case.

“There’s historically always been a bit of mistrust that there might be a grain grower using a chemical the wrong way, or if you go back in time you also had issues with chemical residues on farms – that was a real issue.” 

John Spragg
John Spragg, head of SFMCA

Contaminant control

Spragg said the SFMCA was now also closely working with the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF) on critical matters like contaminants in feed ingredients.

“That continues to be an issue for us, whether it’s vitamins or minerals; they are all imported into Australia and it continues to be a significant potential risk,”​ he said.

“…It’s not an everyday worry, but we, like other countries, have had incidents of heavy metals in trace minerals and then there’s the melamine issues going back in time. So, it’s always a question of whether there’s a risk with some of these materials.”

Industry, he said, had to agree on consistent global controls, ideally in the form of official international standards that would make importing far easier.

“We would have more country to country mutual recognition, but also, from our members’ perspective, there would be a greater security or trust in terms of potential contaminants.”

Trust in imports, he said, would also be increasingly important as Australia advanced its sustainability focus.

Sustainable learnings

Feed millers in particular, he said, had started to look to Europe for ideas around importation.

“We’re certainly keeping an eye on what the Europeans are doing with sustainability – they’ve been much more focused on imported soybean meal, for example, and ensuring it comes from sustainable sources.”

Spragg said a focus on import sources would be important for Australia, given it imported more than 700,000 tons of soybean meal every year, all of which came from one market - South America.

“To date, we haven’t had any sort of focus on those sorts of questions, and so, we need to work out if it’s of any significance and if we should be doing anything about it. And it applies across all raw material sources, not just soybean meal.”

He said feed millers also had plenty to learn from Australia’s dairy sector that had invested a lot in sustainable milk processing and production, and soaring gas and electricity prices might just be the incentive Australian feed millers and manufacturers needed to follow suit.

“It’s become horrendously expensive to manufacture anything in Australia… so we need to look at supply availability, cost, but also now operating efficiencies,”​ Spragg said. “The only positive that comes out of the escalation in energy costs is that it focuses everyone’s mind on efficiency and this becomes an essential thing... I suspect we’re going to see new investment.”

Overall, the head of the SFCMA said now was a good time for feed millers to step-up to change.

“Australia presents continued opportunities for growing the livestock sector and history says industries have been growing. But now, it’s more efficient and more competitive and these are the keys for anyone in the industry at the moment.”

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