Location: Lemontree, Millmerran Qld
One-time capacity: 20,000 head
Annual turnoff: 48,000 head
2015 Top 25 position: 17; 2003 position: 18
Lemontree feedlot has undergone a 6500 head expansion since our previous 2015 top 25 Lotfeeders list, with part of its increase in capacity coming from re-purposed dairy sheds.
Located near Millmerran on Queensland’s southern Darling Downs, Lemontree is under its third generation of management by the McNamee family, who have owned the yard for more than 20 years.
Lemontree grows its own lucerne hay and sorghum silage and is able to source most of its feedstuffs locally in good seasons.
Plenty has changed at the feedlot over the past decade, with its 20,050m2 of permanent shedding – originally built for dairy – now housing 2000 SCU for the beef operation. The family has also put in two more rows of traditional feedlot pens.
The feedlot complex is run off solar, with extensive panels established on top of some of its sheds (see image below).
The company has multiple custom-feeding agreements involving longfed Wagyu programs. Feedlot manager Alexandra McCallum said this was a growing side of the business.
“We like the longfed programs because they take away the need to source 1000 crossbred feeders a week. We used to have 1000 in and 1000 out every week, which makes the feedlot very busy,” Mrs McCallum said.
“With the custom-feeders using the yard, we don’t need to source them at all and they are all mates – which means lower rates of respiratory disease and less pressure on our stockies.”
About 40pc of the feedlot’s capacity is used for Wagyu feeding, with the rest of the yard’s turnover used for various 100-day programs – going to Kilcoy Global Foods and JBS Dinmore. The facility also runs a 150-day Angus program for client, Jack’s Creek Beef.
While the facility has infrastructure to steamflake grain, it does not currently utilise the grain processing system for energy/economic reasons, instead tempering wheat and dry-rolling Barley.
Performance benefits in shedded pens
The McNamee family ventured into intensive dairying more than 12-years-ago with a growing market in China, milking up to 1900 cows, utilising part of the feedlot licence and infrastructure. The beef side of the business was significantly wound-back during this time.
But the beef feedlot has been scaled up again, with the dairy operation finishing in 2018. Mrs McCallum said the infrastructure used for milk-production provided significant performance benefits in beef cattle.
“We definitely see a difference with the cattle in the shedded pens, especially in longfed cattle with the marbling score they return,” she said.
“In pens where the feed bunk is covered, we see the most benefit with increased feed intake and better performance off the back of that. It is also an advantage with our Angus cattle over summer.
“If we had all the money in the world, we would definitely put a shed over the entire feedlot.”
Increasing the breeder herd
The McNamee family has grown its operation into other parts of the supply chain in recent years, with about 5000 breeders spread on agistment properties in Central-West New South Wales and near Cunnamulla in Western Qld.
Targeting the F1 Wagyu market, the McNamees have been using Wagyu bulls over Angus cows.
“Depending on the market at the time, we either feed them ourselves or sell them as feeders to other buyers,” Mrs McCallum said.
“We are keen to grow our breeder herd and that will be somewhat determined by the availability of feed.
More investments on the cards
Alongside the growing breeder herd, the McNamee family is planning to upgrade some of the facilities at Lemontree.
They are planning on building a new set of draft and dispatch yards at the end of this year and making the feedlot completely shaded.
About 5pc of the feedlot’s pens are currently unshaded and, with the upgrades, the yard will be 85pc shade-covered, with the remaining 15pc under shed.
Third generation of the McNamee family
Lemontree Feedlot has now had three generations of the McNamee family managing it – who have a combined 125 years of lotfeeding experience.
The business was purchased in the late 1990s by John McNamee – with his sones James, David and Benjamin and 29-year-old grand-daughter Alexandra McCallum all currently working in the business.
“We see a bright future for the lotfeeding industry, we provide a very consistent product for consumers that is grass-raised and grain-finished,” Mrs McCallum said.
“As the world’s population continues to grow, demand for quality protein is essential. In meeting that demand, animal welfare and cattle comfort is a top priority for the Lemontree Feedlot.”
The feedlot has 28 permanent staff, with 46pc of them being female – a common trend among the businesses profiled so far in this series.
Feeder cattle inquiries: Dave McNamee 0429952960
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