ABS plans to desert herd survey work raises issues, potential options

A PLAN by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to desert its annual and bigger five-yearly cattle herd surveys has raised issues, in addition to some potential 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 information sources, along with smaller surveys to fill information gaps.”

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

In a dialogue paper, ABS raised the prospect of utilizing information 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, mentioned these new information sources had been “typically quicker to entry and embrace extra element than conventional survey information.”

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

“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 information sources and produce complementary statistics to fulfill evolving info wants can be important.”

“We’ll interact in partnerships between farmers, agribusinesses, business, academia, and governments as they are going to be important in making certain that the present information is utilized in the very best solution 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 information wants of the agricultural sector, we’re transitioning away from conventional surveys, harnessing the broad vary of knowledge obtainable from current information sources and modernising our manufacturing strategies,” the physique mentioned.

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

Impartial business analyst Simon Quilty, who has been a vocal critic of current herd dimension evaluation work, mentioned the ‘unlucky determination’ by the Australian authorities to scrap the yearly livestock survey was fraught with hazard, because it meant that every 12 months the business strikes away from the bottom 12 months (the final five-yearly Ag Census survey was in 2022), the better the possibility of error.

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

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

As flagged earlier by ABS, the latest survey had a low producer response price of 68pc as a substitute of the hoped-for 80pc. And inside that 68pc, a substantial proportion 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 information,” Mr Quilty mentioned.

“In consequence, the ABS staff labored further arduous to cross-reference these numbers towards many different elements to give you an knowledgeable livestock stock quantity. The ultimate numbers make sense, when taking a look at slaughter ratios and modifications in land utilization throughout Australia,” he mentioned.

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 will allow the estimate numbers to be introduced again in keeping with ‘actuals’.

“Within the in-between years, undertake the brand new ABS method, however in 12 months 5, refer again to the census survey process,” he urged.

“The opposite added good thing about this method can be that it will 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 12 months is essential as a benchmark. Briefly, the five-year census acts as an important security valve,” Mr Quilty mentioned.

“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 attempting to repair the subjective nature of the brand new proposed herd and sheep flock dimension estimates by introducing a security valve that allows 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 information survey plans.

“CA is worried about ABS’s intention to desert its survey course of, however given this seems to be not less than 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 determine treatments if any,” CA chairman David Foote mentioned.

Requested whether or not CA had a view on the accuracy of current nationwide herd dimension estimates, Mr Foote mentioned CA’s view was that the accuracy and timeliness of any information 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 information or forecasts stays essential,” he mentioned.

Requested about ABS’s suggestion that ‘different information sources’ (it referenced levy payer  information, NLIS information and PICs as prospects) would possibly present a supply of information for herd estimates, CA mentioned whereas modernisation of the ABS course of and use of recent information sources or information assortment instruments obtainable or changing into obtainable, as a suggestion a excessive diploma of accuracy would come from together with animal information info requests within the nationwide census program.

This could then give a extremely credible quantity not less than each 5 years – to reconcile towards forecasts alongside the way in which, it mentioned.

Requested what obstacles existed to accessing such information, CA mentioned if business stakeholders wished correct info, then they need to help giving their info to a trusted supply reminiscent of ABS.

“The scale (or extra importantly the motion in dimension 12 months on 12 months) of the cattle herd has a major 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 mentioned.

The grassfed cattle physique mentioned it recognised the work undertaken by MLA projections staff annually in its efforts to mannequin the place the nationwide herd is as much as.