Kangaroos: Pest or marketing opportunity? 

Published: September 2018 | By: Michelle Endacott
Some NSW Farmers conference delegates want kangaroo meat promoted by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) – but not all members agree.

Farmers in NSW want the peak red meat marketing body to promote kangaroo meat. At the NSW Farmers annual conference, members of the Association passed a motion to “lobby MLA to become involved in the kangaroo meat industry and promote the product domestically and overseas”. 

The issue sparked a hot debate, with discussion ranging from the development of new markets to harvesting costs and which organisations should be involved. In NSW there are nearly 14.5 million kangaroos, according to government estimates, more than double the 7 million of 10 years ago. In Western NSW, there are more than three times as many kangaroos as there are sheep, competing with livestock for scarce feed and water. 

KANGAROO MEAT A PEST OR MARKET OPPORTUNITY?

Over the past four years the commercial harvest has ranged from 10% to 13.5% of the available quota, which is set at 15% of the population, or 2.2 million roos in NSW. Jim Maynard, who farms sheep, beef cattle and grain at Wentworth in Western NSW, told the conference kangaroos are a delicate subject, being part of the coat of arms – but they are also a big pest. 

“Diverse markets need to be developed, that’s why we are calling for MLA to become involved,” Jim said. He believes the kangaroo industry could be compared to the rangeland goat industry. Since MLA became involved with goats in 2003, the price of goatmeat has more than doubled and is now one of the highest-priced meats in Australia.

The idea of getting MLA involved was a “starting point”, according to Merino sheep farmer Greg Rogers, from Booligal in the Riverina. 

“We’ve got millions of these kangaroos, so we’ve got to come up with some fresh ideas,” he said, especially as kangaroo meat is 70c/kg, while other meats fetch $5-$8/kg over-the-hooks.
 
 


As roo meat is increasingly found in suburban supermarkets, the industry is debating how to promote this emerging protein.


CHANGING THE LEVIES ACT COULD BE A HARD SELL

However, not all farmers agreed with the idea. NSW Farmers’ Cattle Committee member and livestock farmer Tony Hegarty from Cassilis in the Hunter, said it would be impossible for MLA to promote kangaroo meat under its charter. While he understood the point about harvesting kangaroos, Tony said he didn’t believe MLA could spend other red meat animal levies promoting roo meat. He said the federal government would need to change the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act to include kangaroos before MLA could consider becoming involved.

IS THE DROUGHT AN OPPORTUNITY?


Sheep and cattle farmer Ian McColl from Cowra in the Central Tablelands agreed, pointing out MLA is funded by levies paid by people involved in beef, sheep and goat production. “With the drought, we are going to struggle to make the commitments to funding we have,” Ian said. “That is the reality. And under the Act, MLA cannot go into this space.” 

Mixed farmer Stuart Gall from Moree in the North West said he understood it might be hard to get levy payers for sheep and cattle to agree, but argued farmers had to adapt. “We are in the middle of a drought and it is one of the only animals running around my place that is fat. Why can’t I turn that into an asset?” he said.

Mixed farmer Gavin Tom from Parkes in the Central West said since he had de-stocked due to the drought, hundreds of kangaroos had moved onto his property. “We have to come up with some way of handling them,” he said.

*READ MORE about drought affected farmers across NSW adapting during dry conditions:

Drought: "We'll get through this" - Orange 

Growing profits behind the wire - Bourke 

Young gun farmer creates drought lifesavers - Walgett 

Going for growth with goats - Broken Hill 

Clever silo storage boost farmgate price - Collie 



NSW Farmers’ former Sheepmeat Committee chair Ian Cargill from Braidwood in the South East said it was a great idea, but MLA wasn’t the place to go. “To tell levy payers their money is going to promote kangaroo will be a hard sell.” 

Other farmers showed support for involving the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia to “legitimise” selling kangaroo meat. 

“It’s a case of raising levies from the kangaroo industry and running it through a centralised platform,” said grain farmer Ed Colless from Walgett in the North West. Meanwhile, sheep and wool farmer Nick Lyons from Wellington in the Central West said the kangaroo harvest rate wouldn’t increase unless it was profitable for professional harvesters. “I think you need to reduce the cost to professional harvesters and they may be able to have their own levy.”


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