BEEF producers Lachlan and Anna Hughes have doubled the daily weight gain of their cattle in the midst of dry conditions during the second quarter of the inaugural Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Challenge.
The Hughes cost-effectively achieved daily weight gains of up to 1.4kg for 500 backgrounder cattle by combining paddock and production feeding after November rainfall brought grass to their southern properties.
The MLA Challenge second quarter judging results were announced today, with the Hughes ranked sixth in a highly competitive field.
The Hughes family runs 7000 Angus-cross cattle over four different Queensland properties – ‘Banchory Station’ near Clermont and ‘Crescendo’ near Capella in the north, and ‘Dulacca Downs’, and ‘Heatherlea’ at Dulacca in the south.
They are part of the group of six beef and sheepmeat producers from across Australia competing to improve efficiency and productivity in their farming operations over a year in the MLA Challenge.
“We started working with our feed on offer, aiming to keep it in the range of 1800-2500kg/dm/ha, and using ration feeding to keep our backgrounder cattle moving forward and gaining enough weight to be eligible for our feedlot system,” Mr Hughes said.
“After last November’s rain we had grass in the paddocks with growth of 500-1000kg/dm/ha. Normally we would have put the cattle on to that grass and achieved weight gains of 0.5–0.8kg/day. Instead, by putting them out with supplementary feeding, we gained 1–1.4kg/day, costing between $0.45–$0.62/kg.
“That was a huge difference for us and it meant that when our cattle went into the feedlot they were already going ahead, gaining weight and in good health.
“It also meant we were not flogging our country in dry conditions, as we moved the feeders once pastures went below 1000kg/dm/ha.
“Our mentor Robert Gill was extremely helpful in working with us to calculate the feed on offer, feeding requirements and stocking rates, using the MLA tools.”
Mr Hughes said the MLA Challenge had been important to the family’s farming system.
“We’ve come through the quarter really understanding that if we want to feed, we have to feed for a market, not just to keep cattle alive,” he said.
The six families are sharing their experiences through social media and blogs, documenting the changes they are implementing to reach their goals, so other beef and sheepmeat producers can learn from them.
“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,” said Peter Vaughan, MLA’s general manager Livestock Production Innovation.
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.