Taking stock: when will ag let go of the fad label obsession?

Taking stock: when will ag let go of the fad label obsession?

OPINION
Sheepmeat
The Australian White breed drew a lot of attention by setting records in 2021. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

The Australian White breed drew a lot of attention by setting records in 2021. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

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The Land's Tamworth journalist looks into how some aspects of the industry have overcome the "fad" label.

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A WISE man once said "the first person to break down the wall always gets messy".

It doesn't matter which field people are in, those words often ring true as people look to lead the way in new and daring enterprises.

Agriculture is no different, particularly in Australia.

For generations, producers have never been afraid to take on a new challenge in a bid to "make it big" or cement their legacies.

However, that is not always smooth sailing as producers aiming to do something different often cop plenty of flack in the process.

Throughout the years, a stray away from the norm has been classified "a fad" and you can pinpoint a time in our history based on what was the fad at the time.

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In the past decade, the arrival of the Speckle Park breed on our shores was considered the latest fad and before that it was the boom of the Wagyu.

Before that, the sheep world was taken by storm by the Dohne breed and many doubted its place alongside the "mighty Merino".

This year, we have seen record prices paid for Australian White rams and ewes as the breed begins its journey to the peak of the industry.

Already you can hear the murmurs at sales and in paddocks that "it's just the latest fad".

However, given the breed was launched 10 years ago and has been a leader in the shedding, self-replacing breeds ever since, it hardly seems like a fad.

Coupled with the fact we are seeing strong prices for lamb meat at the saleyards and shearers are becoming more difficult to find for multi-purpose breeds, surely it makes sense the breed is reaching record heights.

The Speckle Park breed has gone from strength to strength since arriving on our shores. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

The Speckle Park breed has gone from strength to strength since arriving on our shores. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

No one is saying the Australian White popularity will last forever nor drive any of the traditional systems out of existence, but calling it a fad is a stretch.

So where does this compulsion to label the new kid on the block "a fad" come from?

Part of it could be from a long-held social dynamic of "tally-poppy syndrome" where people feel the need to cut others down to size before they get too big for their boots.

In some circles, Australia is known for having tally-poppy syndrome engrained into its culture and it surely does play a part in writing off some developments in our sector as a fad.

The other example often flagged is the rise and fall of the ostrich industry in Australia during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

There are many stories, that are often recalled when declaring something a fad, of producers betting the house on the ostrich's back only to lose the lot.

However, it seems an antiquated example given the fact that most other breeds that were at one time or another considered a fad still make up a rich part of the industry.

The Speckle Park breed has gone from strength to strength since arriving on our shores. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

The Speckle Park breed has gone from strength to strength since arriving on our shores. Photo: Lucy Kinbacher

Speckle Park, Dohnes and Wagyu have all been able to shack that tag.

As an industry, agriculture has realised there is more underneath their unusual hides, dual-purpose qualities and flavorsome melting point.

I for one can't wait to see what the next big thing is to break down the wall and I'm hopeful as an industry, together we won't be too quick to label it a fad.

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