Updated: Mar 29
We are encouraging all ALFA feedlot members across Australia to join in on the celebrations by hosting a Morning Tea (or whatever suits your feedlot!) on the 18th of December 2020 for your employees to celebrate this huge milestone for ALFA and all its members in nourishing cattle, land and communities for over 50 years.
During the celebration, a virtual presentation and announcement of the Young Lot Feeder of the Year Award 2020 winner will take place. The six finalists were announced in September. Three grand finalists were announced in late November and will present on their entry essay topic via video link during the celebration, before the winner is announced on the day.
There is no need to register for this event. All feedlot members have received a limited edition anniversary pack in the mail, which included limited edition merchandise that can be used on the day along with information on how to share moments from your feedlot get together with the national feedlot community via social media.
The proud, yet humble, history of ALFA ...
Founded in 1970, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) is the peak industry body representing the Australian cattle feedlot industry. 18 December 2020 will mark ALFA’s 50th Anniversary. The history of how ALFA came to be is well documented in the book ‘Grain Fed: the history of the Australian cattle lotfeeding industry’ by Jon Condon and Bob Coombs (Ch 4, pg 37-39). The book is available for purchase via the ALFA office, click here to download an order form.
To read an excerpt from the book on how ALFA came to be, see the end of this webpage.
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History was written...
An except from the Grain Fed Beef History Book by Jon Condon & Bob Coombs
During 1959, Central Queensland cattleman 'Paddy' Archer decided, according to his memoirs, to "give up the substance of good property management to chase the shadow of establishing one of the first privately owned commercial feedlots in Australia." He was working at the time for Jim Angel and Bardy Graham, who owned a grazing property at Matcham, near Gracemere outside Rockhampton.
Jim Angel was the father of Judy Camm, who together with husband, David and son Bryce, established the Wonga Plains feedlot near Dalby around 2002. Still in his 20s, Bryce later became an ALFA councillor in 2011.
In his recollections written in 1972, Paddy Archer penned, "I realised that the trials and tribulations of establishing a new industry would be many and varied but I was convinced that lot feeding, in one form or another, could play a most important part in our beef industry."
In September 1960, after consultation with Dr Franklin, W Shelley and Austin Biscoe, Paddy called what can be accurately described as the first meeting of feedlot industry stakeholders - a gathering that eventually led to the formation of Australian Lot Feeders’ Association.
Paddy wrote that the meeting, held at the historic Criterion Hotel on the banks of the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton, attracted a "small but enthusiastic band (of nuts, most people said) and we soon raised our voice. We did not receive much support except from the USA and QDPI."
The perceived need for increased recognition of this new sector of the beef industry prompted the formation, also in Rockhampton, of the Queensland Lot Feeders Association (sometimes referred to in early documents as Queensland Feeders Association) in September, 1962. This was followed soon after by the establishment of the Lot Feeders Association of Queensland (Southern Division) on October 1, 1963, attracting 20 people. The first regular meeting of the southern Association, attended by about 30 lot feeders and other stakeholders, was held at the South East Graziers Association (UGA) premises in Toowoomba on December 11, 1963. The inaugural President was Don Bridgeford, with Dugald Cameron elected Honorary Secretary.
It was decided in September 1965 to abolish the regional Divisions and revert back to a state-based organisation, with a head office at Dalby, where the greatest concentration of lot feeders existed.
The struggle for recognition and support was typified by the advice received at about that time that the embryonic QDPI extension budget was to be cut and the department was unable to make staff available for QLFA meetings. The Association was reduced to offering honorary membership of QLFA to allow DPI staff to attend and submit oral reports on feedlot research.
The fledgling association introduced a newsletter to members in early 1964, to "keep members not only closely in touch with what is going on in the livestock feeding world, but also in touch with each other. We feel that our system of feeding not only has something to offer us in the way of a livelihood, but will make a real contribution to the future of the Australian cattle industry and economic situation as a whole,' an early newsletter stated.
About this time, Kev Kelly, a 'professional' secretary to various local organisations including the Dalby Show Society, was appointed parttime QLFA secretary.
The QLFA annual general meeting held at Dalby in October 1966 elected Dugald Cameron as the new President, taking over from retiring President Paddy Archer. Paddy had been the driving force in keeping the QLFA alive with few members, and threadbare resources during its earliest days.
The 1966 AGM attracted an encouraging 40 feedlot operators, and heard Dugald Cameron say that "We must turn off uniform quality beef all year round or we will lose ground to poultry and pork, which can offer a more consistent, standardised product."
The Japanese economy at this time was in expansion mode, driven by manufactured goods exports, and joint ventures in coal, iron ore and other minerals from Australia. A number of Japanese trading houses Started establishing offices in Australia. Around this time the US was scaling-up its engagement in the Vietnam War, and margins between store and finished cattle prices in Australia had narrowed to the extent that lot feeding was a good way to lose money. It was about this time, also, that the Australian beef industry established a permanent office presence in Japan.
A national organisation begins
Despite the trade difficulties during 1966, the market rebounded and interest again picked up in lot feeding. Because of the increased enquiries the QLFA had received from all Australian states, and in particular New South Wales, the Executive of QLFA decided that the time was getting closer for the organisation to consider transforming into a national body.
By 1970, the impact of the interest from Japan for better quality beef was having a stronger effect.
At a special meeting of QLFA in November 1970, it was agreed that a national feedlot association should be formed.
While the QLFA was much more financially secure and better established than its equivalent southern state organisations, its executive realised that there was a limit to what could be done at a state level.
From this emerged a movement to merge the state groups into a nationally representative body.
In the lead-up to ALFA's formation, there was a feeling that stronger industry representation was needed in areas of lot feeding activity other than Queensland, on a national basis. In order to sit on the Australian National Cattle Council (a precursor to Cattle Council of Australia, headed by Baden Cameron, and based in Canberra), ALFA needed to become a national body or at least representative of three state divisions.
A group of Queensland lot feeders including Dugald Cameron, Robin Hart and Don Bridgeford attended a feedlot school at Muswellbrook, New South Wales, where they encouraged the formation of a steering committee with a view co setting-up a representative body for NSW lot feeders. This was put in place later in 1970, at a second feedlots school at Gunnedah.
The first two office bearers elected to the NSW body were Malcolm Heath (President) and Chris Gull (Secretary). Others attending the inaugural NSW meeting included Rob Vickery, (Bective); David Cowdery (Nundle) and Len Perry, manager at Killara, near Quirindi.
A meeting of interested lot feeders was also held in Melbourne, where it was agreed to form a Victorian representative body. First Victorian Lot Feeders Association division president was John Richardson with Jim Sawyer, secretary. John Richardson was later to become the third President of ALFA, and the first to be elected from Southern Australia. He succeeded Robin Hart in 1974.
At that Melbourne meeting, the duly-elected Victorian President, John Richardson said "the move into lot feeding in Victoria has accelerated at a fast rate recently ... the Association is particularly strong in Queensland and the local members there have been active in the fields of promotion and research for some years. These men are very interested in seeing the Association grow."
The creation of the divisions in NSW and Victoria laid the platform for ALFA's formation later that year.
A special general meeting was held at Dalby's Wambo Shire Council offices on December 18, 1970, at which the historic vote was taken. It was moved by D. Cameron, seconded by Michael Gellert, manager of Russell Pastoral Co's recently-built feedlot at Jimbour near Dalby, that "The name of QLFA be changed to the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association."
A new constitution was drawn up, with a view co the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association being launched, after inviting other state organisations to join.
With little fanfare or sense of occasion, ALFA was borne on that day in a room with 11 people present, a low-key event which nevertheless stands as a significant landmark in the history of the Australian beef industry.
Over the next decade or so, lot feeding operations starred to emerge in other parts of the country, giving the ALFA organisation a truly national footprint.
Pioneers in Western Australia included farmer and grazier, Ted Brockman, who built and operated a feedlot in the state's wheatbelt. Ted joined ALFA Council as the state's first representative on the
national body, serving for about 12 years before being succeeded by Paul O'Meehan, from Daniels Well in 2003 and Ivan Rogers from Tammin in 2012.
Ted was formally acknowledged for his contribution to the progress of lot feeding in WA when he was presented with WALFA life membership in 2004. Murdoch University researcher Dr Dave Pethick said his biggest achievement was putting WA on the ALFA map.
As noted in the introductory remarks in Chapter I, the origin of national statutory bodies' involvement in the beef industry was the mn1lation of the trade to the UK in the 1930s. The Australian Meat Board went through various restructurings in the subsequent decades.
A major restructuring took place in July 1964 when the Board was reconstituted and its powers widened to enable it to develop meat markets. To finance this, a levy on cattle, sheep and lamb slaughterings was put in place. The Board's powers were widened in 1977, including the addition of quality control powers. In 1984 its powers were again modified, with the focus put more specifically on commercial, as distinct from general policy issues.
These institutional changes are relevant to the history of ALFA. As the question for quality recognition gathered momentum the ALFA leadership looked for support from the various Boards that were, in turn, required to refocus on commercial improvements in the industry. There should have been a coming together of these bodies to implement a common agenda, but instead, it was the gridlock inherent in consensus building that made this process so arid for so long.
Interestingly, there was a move in the early 1970s within ALFA to press for a distinctly separate Australian Lot Fed Meat Board to define lot fed beef, set minimum prices and perhaps regulate production. This concept was stillborn, in part out of understandable fear of government interference in the trade.
Following the new national organisation’s birth in late December 1970, it soon became clear that the biggest obstacle to industry viability was not a lack of expertise in feeding or managing cattle in the feedlot environment, but market recognition. Feedlot operators were quietly confident that growing experience in feeding cattle gained through trial and error, supplemented with ongoing access to US industry knowledge, would solve most of the early management and nutrition problems.
What was far more uncertain was whether there would ever be a marker reward for the additional production costs inherent in the grain feeding process, or indeed, the improved and more consistent quality of the grain fed product.
Many early industry stakeholders felt that there was little point in producing a more costly, albeit superior product if grain fed beef could not be differentiated in the market. To achieve this recognition would turn out to be a long, hard process. The faith of the early pioneers leading up to the first ALFA annual general meeting was at times, sorely tested.
Don Bridgeford wrote about the time he convened the first AGM in Rockhampton in September 1971: "I realised then that we had a tough, hard row to hoe in establishing an industry faced with so many economic pitfalls, perils, disappointments and hard work. At that time a good deal of research had been done on the subject and the consensus of opinion in higher places was that in attempting to establish lot feeding in Australia, we were at best misguided, and at worst, plain crazy.
"In all fairness, many times over the live years since I started feeding I thought to myself that they were probably right. However, we have battled on, and it is most rewarding to see a steady though not spectacular increase in membership which now stands at 45."
Want to keep reading? You can purchase the Grain Fed History Book here.