Setting new benchmarks

Andrew Miller leases Coniston Station near Windorah, Queensland.
Andrew Miller leases Coniston Station near Windorah, Queensland.

Andrew Miller

  • Property: Coniston Station
  • Location: Windorah, Queensland
  • Rainfall: 280mm
  • Property size: 28,328ha
  • Livestock: 1000 Droughtmaster-cross cattle
  • Soil type: Black soil, sand hills
  • Pasture type: Mitchell grass and river grass

    AS part of the challenge, Sam Newsome from Agripath has benchmarked our business, to enabled us to see what areas we need to work on and where we can do better.

    We discovered that our $ per head received was well below average when compared to other similar businesses.

    Although this is not the sort of feedback you like to hear about your own business, we found that the information reinforced our recent decisions and the steps we've taken around a spring calving to wean better calves, growing progeny out to 400kg+ and introducing new genetics.

    It was great to see the benchmarking revealed the areas that needed improvement were the areas that we had been focusing on already. We look forward to an on-farm visit from Sam to go over the benchmarking results in greater detail.

    One KPI for us is distance between watering points. We are working on a maximum distance of 3km from water. We have recently setup one new watering point in a paddock where stock were walking up to 6km for water. They now have a maximum distance of 2.5km. This has given stock better access to available dry feed and shade from trees.

    We think this will be better for our land because it will ease the overgrazing around existing watering points and allow cattle to utilise better feed. We also believe this will decrease the likelihood of us having to supplement feed our stock before we get some much anticipated summer rain.

    MLA studies show that while cattle will walk up to 10km from water, up to 80 per cent of the grazing occurs within 2km of water. We have also applied for drought funding to set up a new watering point in a different paddock where we are facing the same issues.

  • Several KPIs in the MLA Target Production Tool require an understanding of feed measurement and budgeting. This is not something we have any experience with and we have identified this is an area where we need help.

    We are fortunate enough to have a local Natural Resource Management Officer who is coming to Coniston to set up some monitoring sights for pasture calculation of standing dry matter and to run through some of the basics of feed budgeting with us. She is also hoping to organise a Stocktake Workshop at Coniston in late November.

    Preg-testing is still our next big job and we are looking forward to it this weekend. It will be good to get the results so we can start taking steps toward our new calving time of October to December. We are also hoping most of the dry cows will be in good enough condition to sell, as it would be good to get some more mouths off the place and we could also do with the cash.

    Our ewes are lambing well and their lambs look strong and happy. I estimate at least 30pc have lambed which is not as many as perhaps could have, but given the current conditions and the age of our ewes (a lot of them are quite old) this is probably not too bad. Megan is not as happy with the number of lambs but they're only two weeks into a 9-week lambing, so still early days.

    I have also recently spent another week contract fencing. This is not something that either of us look forward to but the money that this earns for us has been critical to the survival of our business through its first two years. It will be great when our business is in a strong enough position that it no longer requires outside money to keep it going. This is part of the reason we entered the MLA Challenge and we feel like we are on the right track.

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    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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