The $5 billion Future Drought Fund is an investment by the Australian Government to build drought resilience in Australia’s agriculture sector, landscapes and communities. Each year, $100 million is made available to help Australian farms and communities prepare for the impacts of drought.
2024 Nuffield Scholar
Fodder for thought: scholar sets sights on hay exports
Natalie Schlitz, an agronomist by trade, has seen firsthand the significance of the fodder export market in Australia – and the challenges the sector faces. Natalie, who currently works in extension development for Dairy Australia, also contributes to her family’s property, Uondo Pastoral. Operating between Kerang and Quambatook in Victoria, Uondo produces grain and hay as well as running sheep for prime lamb and wool.
As a 2024 Nuffield Scholar, Natalie seeks to investigate weaknesses that threaten the viability of the Australian fodder export sector when faced with a water-limited future.
“Contributing to the Fodder for the Future project though Murray Dairy demonstrated to me the lack of research regarding the production of high-quality fodder,” says Natalie.
“The Australian industry has limited experts to draw on for new information. We have a whole generation of individuals who are experts within the field; but where are our upcoming industry champions and what effect could that have on the production of local research?”
Natalie says the industry faces a major challenge to ensure consistency in quality and quantity is maintained in a water-limited future.
"This is compounded by deficiencies identified by the AgriFutures Export Hay Strategic Plan such as technical information on the critical parameters most directly linked to influencing opportunity value and the potential path to reach carbon neutrality."
Natalie plans to collaborate extensively with industry to build a series of case studies that demonstrate effective response to these challenges by meeting and interviewing farmers, researchers, importers, exporters, peak bodies and relevant stakeholders.
She plans to travel within Australia, as well as internationally. Her destinations include the Middle East, an emerging market for hay, and a potential opportunity for a new trade relationship. Natalie also plans to visit the US (the largest hay exporter globally), as well as Spain and Italy (the largest exporters in Europe), Argentina and Japan.
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