It is less than a year since LIC purchased Australian-based heat detection manufacturer Beacon, a strategic deal that secured supply while returning good dividends to the New Zealand farmer.
In this article, we briefly delve into the history of Beacon, and take a closer look at the logic and intent behind the acquisition.
Jock Roberts built his company, Beacon, from the ground-up. His association with heat detection aids began about 35 years ago, when, as an Australian-based importer of a US-manufactured heat detection product, he couldn’t get his hands on enough units.
Today, he says Beacon products draw their biggest competitive advantage from being self-adhesive. This eliminates the need to use glues or other substances to ensure the product remains intact on the animal. “I’m optimistic about the future, of course, because the use of heat detection aids is growing market, and that’s why I’ve kept a 25% share of the business – it’s a very good investment. The strength of LIC in New Zealand and in other markets means there’s a very bright future ahead.”
From an LIC shareholder viewpoint, Paul Dunbar agrees. Paul is an LIC business advisor who helped stitch together finer details in February this year.
“The purchase of 75% of Beacon is a good example of a successful acquisition on behalf of our shareholders,” he says. “LIC was Beacon’s largest customer, and for a number of years our Farm Solutions Managers have been distributing and selling an increasing number of Beacon’s products to New Zealand farmers – so we were aware of the strong growth they were experiencing in both production (manufacture) and end-user sales.”
Among the Beacon family of products was a heat detection aid that had been, over the years, specifically designed and developed for LIC’s EZ Heat solution (the automated assisted heat detection system that complements Protrack-equipped dairy sheds).
The EZ Heat patch is today known as the ‘Protack square’. “It’s fair to say both companies were already very familiar with each other,” Paul says. “So the first thing is that the purchase of Beacon really secured supply of the Protrack square, on behalf of LIC’s EZ Heat customers,” Paul says. “For LIC it was a case of vertically integrating, and simply aligning our artificial breeding solutions to a series of heat detection solutions.”
Aside from the Protrack square, Beacon has an array of heat detection devices – Bulls-i, the LIC heat patch, ScratchE, Heat Seeker, and Bulling Beacon.
“All of those products have also seen good growth across New Zealand, Australia, and other international markets,” Paul says. This has helped LIC capitalise on revenue opportunities that accompany changing trends in dairying.
As herd sizes grow, heat detection products are increasingly important in taking pressure off farm staff, and enabling more-informed decisions at mating time. Better information is helping bring a sharper focus to reproductive practices.
The Beacon purchase therefore matched LIC’s strategic intent, Paul says. “We’re utilising on-farm hardware that enables dairy farmers to collect data to help with reproduction. “Ultimately, assisted heat detection devices help improve the national six week in-calf rate.” The support of heat detection aids on farm has spin-offs in the form of better staff effectiveness during pre-mating and mating. In the case of self-adhesive solutions, Beacon products also provide application efficiencies.