ATTENTION to detail and addressing those small ‘one-percenters’ that collectively contribute to meat quality performance have helped a Toowoomba district couple claim the inaugural Queensland MSA Producer of the Year award.
About 200 producers and other MSA stakeholders gathered in Toowoomba yesterday for an MSA forum and awards presentation, where local beef producers Graham and Kay Kahler received the winner’s trophy from MLA managing director Richard Norton.
Meat Standards Australia and MLA are hosting a series of MSA Producer of the Year awards in each state over the next fortnight, culminating in Western Australia in mid-April (click here to view earlier item).
The other Queensland finalists last night were Evan Densley from Paranga, and Barry and Melanie Hardacre from Loch Lomond near Warwick.
Proving that operational size is no impediment to performance, Graham and Kay Kahler run just over 100 breeders on their home property is at Geham, just north of Toowoomba, with a second breeding property at Yarraman, in the South Burnett.
They typically turn off only about 100 MSA-eligible steers and heifers each year, around 12 months of age at slaughter weighing 240-260kg.
“We were surprised when MSA rang us to learn that we were in the top five, let alone winning the award,” Mr Kahler told Beef Central last night.
The Kahlers run an integrated breeding and finishing operation, mostly relying on oats and grain-assisted grass-based finishing systems using improved kikuyu, Rhodes grass and couch pastures. This year’s oats planting is a little later than normal, completed only on Easter Saturday.
A home-prepared grain-based supplement fed in the paddock is based on hammer-milled wheat/barley/sorghum plus molasses, oils, trace minerals, bentonite as a buffer and a liquid concentrate including rumensin from Riverina Stockfeeds.
The herd is based on rotational crossbreeding, using Angus, Charbray, Limousin and Shorthorn genetics, with emphasis on temperament and doing ability. Attention is focussed on imprinting steer and heifer weaners during yard work at weaning, to make them easier to work and manage later in life.
“We think it’s important to have the right breed type for this MSA article, and handling them quiet plays a big part,” Mr Kahler said.
Their business targets the heavy domestic trade, with most of the turnoff directed through JBS Dinmore or wholesaler Pat McMahon, McMahon Bros in Warwick.
Apart from their cattle interests, the Kahlers also operate their own livestock transport business which they feel contributed to the strong grading performance.
“We transport all our cattle ourselves, which we think contributes to the result. Nobody looks after your cattle better than yourself, in transit, and we never over-pack them on the truck.”
Transport distance helped, being only an hour from Dinmore or Churchill abattoirs where most of the cattle are consigned, and the finished cattle always have a full glycogen bucket before transit.
The Kahlers had previously relied on Toowoomba or Warwick saleyards to market their annual cattle turnoff, but on adopting MSA four years ago, have swung to direct consignment. That was done partly in recognition of the impact that co-mingling in a saleyards environment can have on MSA performance, but also because of better net returns by avoiding yards fees and commission, and the premiums available for MSA-eligible stock.
“It was the premium prices for MSA cattle that originally attracted us to the program,” Mr Kahler said. “Dinmore at that time was offering 15c/kg carcase weight over and above, and when we looked into it, the requirements to meet MSA were not particularly difficult, so we got started.”
“There’s a little bit more involved, but it means we’re handling our cattle more, and the jigger stays in the shed.”
Mr Kahler said compliance rates against MSA and company specs had been high ever since they joined the program.
With the strong rise in cattle prices seen over the past 12 months, the Kahlers are keen to try to lease more country, preferably with cultivation, to further expand their cattle operations.
MSA’s Jarrod Lees said the performance data showed that the Kahlers’ steers and heifers presented with low ossification scores, indicating good age for maturity.
“That perhaps reflects that they breed and finish themselves, getting them to market weight as soon as they can through an integrated feeding program, without setbacks,” Mr Lees said.
Monday: Beef Central profiles the NSW state winner of the MSA producer of the Year awards being presented on Friday night.