ABS plans to desert herd survey work raises considerations, attainable options

A PLAN by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to desert its annual and bigger five-yearly cattle herd surveys has raised considerations, in addition to some attainable options from beef business stakeholders.

As this text final week outlined, ABS intends to discontinue its giant agricultural surveys and “develop processes to provide future agricultural statistics utilizing new knowledge sources, along with smaller surveys to fill knowledge gaps.”

At stake are statistics gathered in each the main five-yearly ABS Agricultural Census, and the annual Rural Environmental and Agricultural Commodities Survey.

In a dialogue paper, ABS raised the prospect of utilizing knowledge from producer levy assortment, Property Identification Codes and the Nationwide Livestock Reporting Service to complement the image of herd dimension modifications.

The top of ABS’s Agricultural Statistics Program, Rob Walter, stated these new knowledge sources had been “typically quicker to entry and embody extra element than conventional survey knowledge.”

The complexity of negotiating knowledge entry and creating new strategies throughout a broad vary of agricultural commodities has meant there will probably be some gaps within the ABS’ agricultural statistics within the brief time period, ABS stated.

“The modernisation of official agricultural statistics isn’t one thing that the ABS is doing in isolation. Assist from different organisations to assist develop new knowledge sources and produce complementary statistics to satisfy evolving data wants will probably be important.”

“We are going to have interaction in partnerships between farmers, agribusinesses, business, academia, and governments as they are going to be important in guaranteeing that the prevailing knowledge is utilized in the very best strategy to produce the statistics which might be wanted to help Australian agriculture.”

Poor response charges to earlier ABS surveys was additionally raised as a difficulty.

“To make sure the ABS can meet the statistical and knowledge wants of the agricultural sector, we’re transitioning away from conventional surveys, harnessing the broad vary of knowledge accessible from current knowledge sources and modernising our manufacturing strategies,” the physique stated.

ABS stated it had over the previous 4 years been working with business, educational and authorities organisations to establish and take a look at different knowledge sources that may help the manufacturing of agricultural statistics, together with beef cattle.

Unbiased business analyst Simon Quilty, who has been a vocal critic of current herd dimension evaluation work, stated the ‘unlucky determination’ by the Australian authorities to scrap the yearly livestock survey was fraught with hazard, because it meant that every yr the business strikes away from the bottom yr (the final five-yearly Ag Census survey was in 2022), the larger the prospect of error.

“This error worsens with time, as there isn’t a particular benchmark,” Mr Quilty stated.

“Through the years of doing surveys, there isn’t a doubt that the Ag Census survey supplies probably the most correct data, whereby 125,000 farmers had been surveyed each 5 years. Through the in-between years, solely 25,000 farmers had been surveyed,” he stated.

As flagged earlier by ABS, the latest survey had a low producer response charge of 68pc as an alternative of the hoped-for 80pc. And inside that 68pc, a substantial share of responses had been incomplete.

“This concern a couple of low response was made clear in a gathering with ABS not lengthy after releasing their knowledge,” Mr Quilty stated.

“In consequence, the ABS group labored additional laborious to cross-reference these numbers in opposition to many different components to provide you with an knowledgeable livestock stock quantity. The ultimate numbers make sense, when slaughter ratios and modifications in land utilization throughout Australia,” he stated.

Protect the five-yearly Ag Census

Mr Quilty supplied a advice to the issue of information assortment – to retain the five-year survey to behave as an important benchmark – so that ought to the business consensus method go off monitor, it could allow the estimate numbers to be introduced again according to ‘actuals’.

“Within the in-between years, undertake the brand new ABS method, however in yr 5, refer again to the census survey process,” he urged.

“The opposite added advantage of this method can be that it could allow us as an business to enhance on the ‘in-between’ years by measuring how far out we’re by way of the numbers each 5 years.”

“Over time as an business, we are going to get higher at figuring out the in-between years, however the five-year calibration within the census yr is crucial as a benchmark. Briefly, the five-year census acts as an important security valve,” Mr Quilty stated.

“What’s regarding is the ABS’s determination to again away from its survey work. It factors to a extra subjective method.”

“My advice goes a part of making an attempt to repair the subjective nature of the brand new proposed herd and sheep flock dimension estimates by introducing a security valve that permits us as an business to re-calibrate each 5 years.”

Cattle Australia response

Beef Central requested the newly-formed Cattle Australia grassfed peak council about ABS’s herd knowledge survey plans.

“CA is anxious about ABS’s intention to desert its survey course of, however given this seems to be at the very least partly on account of poor engagement from the producer sector, we must always as a primary step perceive why the engagement course of has failed after which establish treatments if any,” CA chairman David Foote stated.

Requested whether or not CA had a view on the accuracy of current nationwide herd dimension estimates, Mr Foote stated CA’s view was that the accuracy and timeliness of any knowledge regarding the nation’s beef herd was essential.

“We recognise the present public debate about cattle herd dimension has created each uncertainty at producer and market ranges. Provide and demand underpins the financial sustainability of each the producer and processing sector, so the accuracy of any public knowledge or forecasts stays essential,” he stated.

Requested about ABS’s suggestion that ‘different knowledge sources’ (it referenced levy payer  knowledge, NLIS knowledge and PICs as potentialities) may present a supply of information for herd estimates, CA stated whereas modernisation of the ABS course of and use of latest knowledge sources or knowledge assortment instruments accessible or turning into accessible, as a suggestion a excessive diploma of accuracy would come from together with animal knowledge data requests within the nationwide census program.

This is able to then give a extremely credible quantity at the very least each 5 years – to reconcile in opposition to forecasts alongside the way in which, it stated.

Requested what obstacles existed to accessing such knowledge, CA stated if business stakeholders wished correct data, then they need to help giving their data to a trusted supply comparable to ABS.

“The scale (or extra importantly the motion in dimension yr on yr) of the cattle herd has a big influence throughout the entire stakeholder community – from tag producers to livestock transporters, livestock brokers seedstock producers, lotfeeders, processors and importers – in planning their future provide chain methods,” CA stated.

The grassfed cattle physique stated it recognised the work undertaken by MLA projections group every year in its efforts to mannequin the place the nationwide herd is as much as.