ACHIEVING 100 per cent ground cover in an extremely hot and dry period, and building up a feed surplus that will lead to heavier turn-off weights, are just some of the measurable productivity improvements NSW beef producers Matt and Angela Pearce hit in the third quarter of the inaugural Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Challenge.
The Pearces, who run a self-replacing autumn calving herd of 300 Hereford/Angus females near Adelong, NSW, adopted a new grazing method following an early weaning program last year, allowing them to achieve year round ground cover, cut back on supplementary feeding, maintain cattle condition scores and build up a future feed surplus.
“In the past we set stocked adult females and only moved our heifers in closer for calving. While body condition scores may have been higher at times, our ground cover suffered,” said Mr Pearce.
“Now we are focused on making sure cows have the correct nutrition to maintain body condition scores through locking up feed areas, mobbing the cattle together for targeted grazing, and spelling the country that is susceptible to baring.
“The areas where we implemented the changed grazing regime all had 100pc ground cover and as a result, the MLA Feed Demand calculator shows us we will have feed surpluses in spring, and can take our steers and cull heifers to heavier turn-off weights.”
The Pearces, along with five other producers across Australia, are competing to improve efficiency and productivity in their farming operations over one year in the MLA Challenge.
The other competitors are beef producers Andrew and Megan Miller from Windorah, Queensland (who lead the third quarter of the MLA Challenge), followed by sheep producers John and Annie Ramsay from Bothwell, Tasmania; sheep producers Marcus and Shannon Sounness from Amelup, Western Australia; beef producers Bill and Georgia Wilson from Edi Victoria, and beef producers Lachlan and Anna Hughes from Dulacca Queensland.
All six families have seen improvements in their businesses since joining the MLA Challenge due to improving their skills and using tools and evidence as the basis of planning decision-making.
“The Challenge has made us far more focused, as we are publicly accountable for our progress, and more importantly, we have a sense of being more in control and having options,” said Mr Pearce.
“We’re making informed decisions rather than leaving things to chance. We are working for an outcome now, and every key performance indicator we meet gives us encouragement that we are really achieving results.”
MLA’s general manager Livestock Production Innovation, Peter Vaughan, said that the third quarter of the MLA Challenge has seen the six families make the most of the information, tools and resources available to them, along with the advice of their mentors, to plan and make business decisions.
“Three quarters of the way through the competition, the Challengers are really appreciating that while they can have little influence on the end prices, they do have significant scope for reducing their production costs,” he said
“The judges are impressed with how the participants are planning ahead and working through their decisions, based on evidence and research.
“All producers have improved their skills in measurement, tracking and analysis, and their efforts really paying off.”
The MLA Challenge is supported by Woolworths, Westpac Agribusiness 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.