A shift in timing pays off

Because of the increase in our carrying capacity, we have enough feed to maintain those weaners ...

Shifting to an earlier weaning time has seen cattle producers Matt and Angela Pearce reduce supplementary feed costs while still keeping enough pasture to face a challenging season ahead.

The Pearce family run a self-replacing autumn calving herd of 300 Hereford/Angus females at their 560-hectare property ‘Muronga’, near Adelong, NSW. They are part of a group of six beef and sheepmeat producers from across Australia selected to participate in the inaugural Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Challenge to improve efficiency and productivity within their farming operations over a year.

The MLA Challenge second quarter judging results were announced today, with the Pearces ranked fourth in a highly competitive field.

Mr Pearce said early in the quarter he used an opportunity to meet with his mentor Terrey Johnson to work through two of MLA’s production tools – the Cost of Production Calculator and the Feed Demand Calculator – with accompanying budget analysis.

“It was clear after the analysis that we could lift the profitability of our enterprise by raising our carrying capacity at different times of the year, which would mean getting better utilisation of our pasture, while still maintaining ground cover, at a minimal cost,” Mr Pearce said.

The Pearces based their plan on the fact that a lactating cow with a large calf had a much higher nutritional requirement than if the calf is weaned and the two are run as dry animals. They weaned as many calves as possible in December, rather than waiting until February, and are optimistic that once all the weaning is complete, the calves will reach their target average weight of 250kg.

“We had a disappointing finish to our spring rainfall and previously in that situation we would have offloaded weaner calves into a drought-affected market,” Mr Pearce said.

“Because of the increase in our carrying capacity, we have enough feed to maintain those weaners and we will carry them through and join a high proportion of heifers next year as part of our efforts to stock the additional property we’ve just purchased.”

In addition Mr Pearce started fencing according to land class and is working on additional watering points – one of the cheapest ways to increase carrying capacity, particularly in the native unimproved country.

“Seeing the results from those changes is very rewarding and paying the dividends. The early weaning has had immediate results for us, and we’re heading into the next season with a good amount of feed.”

Peter Vaughan, MLA’s Livestock Production Innovation general manager, said the second quarter of the MLA Challenge saw these families working extremely hard to take on board the feedback they received in the first round.

“As a result of their efforts – and the fact that they are putting in a huge amount of time to document them in such a personal and practical way through blogs, Twitter and videos – the program is building up an accessible body of evidence for how production tools and resources can help other beef and lamb producers really make a difference to their bottom line,” Mr Vaughan said.

The MLA Challenge is supported by Woolworths, Westpac and QantasLink. For more information about the MLA Challenge, the six farming families involved and the resources they are using, visit www.mla.com.au/challenge.

MLA ChallengeMeet the participants in Meat and Livestock Australia's Challenge, where producers identify how much their business is returning, what's driving profit and how to put a plan in place to capture the business' potential over a 12-month program.


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