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Is a calf-factory more profitable than a bullock operation?

by Beef Central, 10 July 2018

What is the best age to sell steers, or to cull cows, in northern Australia?

A recent BeefConnect webinar explored these questions and drew on a range of research, herd data and economic analysis to provide some answers, some of which may challenge long-held beliefs.

Among a range of production scenarios assessed was whether the calf-factory model often commonly used in the North Queensland Gulf is more profitable than turning off older steers.

Analysis of an example herd, based on market conditions over the past decade, suggested the calf-factory model of turning off weaners, either to sale or another growing property, and running more breeders was not necessarily the most optimum plan.

As discussed by QDAF economist Fred Chudleigh in the webinar (click on the video above to watch a recording the 39 minute webinar in full), once Phosphorous deficiencies and land condition issues were sorted out, the opportunity cost of turning off steers as weaners instead of at 2-3 years old was in the vicinity of $45,000 per year at long term prices.

The analysis also looked at what sale price a weaner-turnoff program would need to receive to be no worse off than had it been turning off older steers, suggesting a price of 355c/kg would have been needed, well above the 260c/kg that was the reality for restocker steer prices over the period.

However it also acknowledged that the cost of switching strategies would involve incurring a significant initial deficit that would not be recouped until the third year, a cost that the property in the economic model would not survive.

The analysis explores how various factors such as the price of each class of cattle, proportions of steer and female beef sold in different herd structures, the number of passengers (in particular young females yet to reach breeding age that need to be carried in weaner-turnoff operations) and treatment and opportunity affect the optimum age of turnoff strategy.

To watch the full presentation click on the video above.

UPCOMING WEBINAR JULY 26:

Improving beef business performance with high quality forages

Join us for a webinar on Jul 26, 2018 at 12:30 PM AEST.

Register now! click here
Whole farm economic analyses have shown that perennial legumes are a profitable intervention for many areas of northern Australia.

In particular, analyses for central Queensland have shown that perennial legumes (and especially leucaena) are the most profitable of all available beef production strategies as well as being the most profitable of all forage options. However, most producers only have a limited area of arable soil suited to planting to high quality forages such as perennial legume-grass pastures or annual forage crops. Therefore, they have to make decisions regarding:
1) Which high quality forage to plant, and
2) How to allocate the high quality forage amongst different age groups of steers in the herd (i.e. when should steers start grazing high quality forage, for how long, and for which target market?).

In this presentation, Maree Bowen (Principal Research Scientist – DAF) will address these two research questions using forage oats and leucaena-grass pastures grown in central Queensland, as an example.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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