Australia Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2017

Blog site for the 2017 MSU study abroad program.

14-Alyssa K.

Bio

Hello! My name is Alyssa Kraft and I’m a sophomore from Lansing, MI double-majoring in Animal Science and Psychology with a minor in Agribusiness Management. I attended East Lansing High School only a few blocks away from Michigan State University but although I grew up in the city, I spent much of my childhood on several of my family’s farms. Agriculture has been a large part of my life and is something that is very near and dear to me.

Research Topic

I am in the Rodeo Club here at MSU and a majority of my focus while attending MSU has been on livestock production. My main species of interest are cattle and horses. I would really like to see how beef is produced in Australia and hopefully be able to compare that to production here in the US. Water is much more of an issue in Australia when talking about sustainability and this contributes to being much more conscientious about how feed and other resources are produced and managed.  Australia is the second largest exporter of beef in the world and considering how small their population is in consideration to the US this is very interesting to me. I would also like to learn more about their breeding industry and how it differs from the US. With an industry this large, the breeding industry much be a large portion within that.

Questions

How do the cattle in Australia differ in genetics in comparison to those in the US?

How has the cattle industry evolved since the introduction of cattle by Europeans in the 1700s?

How is sustainability in ag different overall from that in the US and how could we improve in comparison and vice versa?

With the large landmass and relatively small population, how is food provided to those in more isolated areas/ how do they provide for themselves?

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Australia#Beef_industry

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Previousproducts/1301.0Feature%20Article232005

Post Return

After gathering research while we were in Australia, I had to change my research question. While I was still very interested in cattle and livestock in general, I was presented with much more information about animal and human interactions. To answer one of my questions from before the trip, I did find out from a vendor at Mildura Ag Day that the genetics of beef cattle are pretty similar to what we see in the US. HE told me that north of the Tropic of Capricorn, there are mostly Bos Indicus cattle and south of the Tropic of Capricorn, there are mostly Bos Taurus. Similarly, the entire continental US is north of the Tropic of Cancer so we mostly see Bos Taurus but in some more tropical areas such as Florida, we see a few Bos Indicus cattle.

Figure 1

Figure 1: The general difference in appearance between different breeds of cattle.

 

However, after gathering this information, I hot somewhat of a road block and had to rethink my project. instead of focusing on the livestock themselves, I decided to relate my love of cattle to what I learned about the people in Australia which led me to the following question: How does public opinion of the livestock industry in Australia differ from that of the livestock industry here in America and why?

I had noticed very early into our trip that the general public in Australia seemed more open to new ideas and innovation than we typically see here in the US. When we spoke with Peter Nattrass at the Adelaide City Council, I was pleasantly surprised at how willing government officials were in Australia to make changes throughout the country to become more carbon neutral.

During one of our group reflections, we talked about how the history of a country can drastically shape attitudes and the future of the country. It was mentioned that the US was founded on a mentality of always having to beat someone to the next opportunity and get to it first to reap the benefits, such as in Westward Expansion. In our capitalist society, this is still very much the way it is, with the idea that those who work hard get the best things. Australia was founded essentially when a bunch of prisoners were dumped in a very cruel, desert environment and realized they had to work together and help one another out if they were going to survive. this mentality can still be seen today in small things such as the cleanliness ad lack of trash in public areas. While neither system is necessarily wrong, we noticed that Australians are typically more open to new ideas that benefit the greater good, rather than being stuck in their pride and having to have their own opinions and ideas validated.

To go along with the idea of history shaping future ideals, Australians have changed many practices to help conserve and more efficiently use water. they are leaps and bounds ahead of the US in this area because they had to be. During the Millennium Drought in the late 90s and into the 2000s, water shortages became an extremely crucial issues for irrigation and everyday use.

Because of events like these, I believe this is why Australians are more open to being educated on important issues and knowing how things work in the animal industry. we visited the Victoria Livestock Exchange on sheep auction day and got to see how the facility and the auction work. This impacted me especially because I couldn’t believe how different the environment of the grounds was to a similar facility in the US. It was open on all sides for the public to see into. While we were touring the grounds, we walked past a sheep that had been shot during the auction because it had a broken leg. As someone familiar with animal production and someone who is relatively comfortable with the idea of animals having to be killed in some situations so that they don’t suffer, even I was a little shocked by this. Here in the US, if a group of any kind but especially student group with mostly no ag background was going on a tour, something like that would never happen because regardless of the reasoning behind it, an animal rights group would have an absolute field day. After the tour had ended, a few of us had a conversation with the manager and asked him if they  ever had any animal rights groups protest there. He said groups like PETA would show up every now and then but usually weren’t an issue for them. He said people generally didn’t raise much of a fuss about the facility.

VLM

Figure 2: A picture I took of the Victoria Livestock Exchange showing how open it was with no fences to keep the public out.

 

You can obviously never make an assumption that every person in a group has the same views or ideas but from what we were able to observe in Australia, I came to the conclusion that Australians are generally more accepting of the livestock industry than the American public tends to be and while there are many reasons why that could be, I think it’s because throughout history, Australians have been forced to be educated to make a change in their country and that mindset continues on today.

Citations

Crilly, J. (2017, May 16). Central Victoria Livestock Exchange [Personal interview].

Nattrass, P. (2017, May 26). Adelaide City Council [Personal interview].

V. (1970, January 01). Vande Gau Maataram. Retrieved August 04, 2017, from http://ghomataram.blogspot.com/2015/11/test.html

Additional Links

http://www.umsl.edu/divisions/artscience/Temple%20Grandin/temp.html

http://ghomataram.blogspot.com/2015/11/test.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable

http://saleyardsrelocation.com.au/

http://www.cityofadelaide.com.au/

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