Kimberley cattle producers have been looking closely at the station-to-boat supply chain, with an MLA-supported trial revealing the most cost-effective methods for managing cattle prior to export.
Livestock export is a core activity of WA’s cattle industry, especially in the Kimberley where many of the region’s 706,000 cattle are destined for shipment. The sale price is determined by the weight of cattle when entering an export depot so distance, time off feed and management pre-sale can have significant implications.
An MLA Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) to assess the influence of pre-sale feeding regimes was initiated by the Kimberley Beef Research Committee (KBRC) and the WA Department of Agriculture and Food.
The trial was held at Leopold Downs, Fitzroy Crossing, and 400km away at the Roebuck Export Depot.
Three strategies were trialled:
- retaining stock in the station’s holding paddock pre-trucking and allowing them to graze on native pastures;
- transporting pellets or oaten hay to feed on-station;
- delivering stock direct to depot.
The bulls in the trial (see box for details on how the trial was conducted) lost an average 13.1kg during the five-hour road trip between Leopold Downs and the export depot.
In addition to replacing the gut fill lost during transport, the bulls already accustomed to hay or pellets at Leopold Downs went on to gain an average 16.6kg after 14 days at the depot. This was an average of 7.3kg more than the group which grazed in the holding paddock.
Counting the costs
Once the costs of feeding were accounted for, the best option was keeping stock in a holding paddock and allowing them to graze on native pastures until required for transport.
The difference in net value between the holding paddock and the next best option (delivering stock direct to Roebuck Export Depot and putting them on feed until the point-of-sale if a secure,
watered and well-grassed holding paddock is not available) was about $10/head.
The least attractive option was to feed pellets or hay on-station. Downstream impacts KBRC Chairman Mike DeLong of Dampier Downs, Broome, said the PDS built producers’ awareness of what happens to livestock after leaving their station.
“Kimberley producers have made significant genetic and management gains, but often miss opportunities to pick up profit down the supply chain,” Mike said.
“While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about weight change pre-shipment, this trial quantifies the impact of different preparation regimes.
“Every producer must weigh up their own unique circumstances. Hopefully the findings from this PDS will help the decision making process. The hard and expensive work done on station to produce a quality product can be diminished by not following up to the point-of-sale and beyond. This highlights that the entire supply chain has an influence on the bottom line.”
Source: MLA. Find out more about the Livestock Export R&D program at the 2013 LivExchange Conference in Townsville next week – more details here