Productivity focus at Pacific Beef field day

James Nason, 26/03/2012

Geoff Willett, Maydan Feedlot, Warwick, in front of a pen of cattle on feed for the Primex Pacific Beef Carcase Competition. Practical management tips to improve productivity and updates on the progress of Meat Standards Australia took centre stage at the Primex Pacific Beef Carcase Competition field day at Geoff Willett’s Maydan Feedlot near Warwick last Thursday.

More than 50 producers and industry representatives were at the feedlot to catch up on the progress of the 68 cattle entered in this year’s Primex Field Days’ Pacific Beef Carcase Competition.

The field day featured a diverse line-up of speakers including nutritionist John Doyle, Integrated Animal Production, Toowoomba; AA Co group manager Wagyu operations and feedlots Greg Gibbons; Red Meat Advisory Council chairman Ross Keane; MSA national manager Michael Crowley; Woolworths national livestock manager Brett Thompson; Maydan Feedlot representatives Geoff Willett and Chris Rickert and Primex director Bruce Wright.

43 days into the 70 day feeding program, the 17 teams of four cattle currently on feed at Maydan for the Pacific Beef Carcase Competition are averaging weight gains of 2.34kg per head per day, and achieving an average conversion ratio of 6 to 1 – “about as good as it gets,” Maydan feedlot manager Chris Rickert told the audience.

Two of the three highest performing teams on an average weightgain basis at the half-way point are Shorthorn teams entered by John and Liz Manchee, Manchee Agriculture, Yamburgan, Narrabri, NSW, with average daily gains of 2.8675kg and 2.825kg.

An Angus/Santa Gertrudis cross team entered by Yugilbar Santa Gertrudis, Baryulgil, NSW, has the third highest average daily weight gain at the midway point of 2.8kg/day.

Maydan owner Geoff Willett said the weight gains and conversion rates had been outstanding.

“There are certain lines of cattle in there that have been bred very well by the breeders, that is showing up in the results, and I’m sure it will show up in the carcases at the end,” Mr Willett said.

“They are just a very good quality bunch of animals.”

The final results will be announced on the Friday of the Primex Field Days at Casino, which runs from June 14 to 16 this year.


Frame score as a predictor of carcase end-weight

Toowoomba-based veterinarian and nutritionist John Doyle discussed the value of frame score as a predictor of an animal’s likely carcase weight at the end of a feeding program.

Using a hip-height measurement to obtain an animal’s frame score provided a more accurate indication of an animal’s likely carcase end-weight than days on feed, Dr Doyle said.

While body weight had the potential to fluctuate significantly from day to day as a result of shrinkage (trials showed that total body weight typically shrank by 2pc overnight and as much as 6pc when animals were held in dry pens without food and water) skeletal size did not change, which underpinned the reliability of frame score as a prediction tool.

“If we know their age in months and we know their frame score we can accurately predict where that mature body size will be,” Dr Doyle said.  

The minimum hip height required for heifers or steers going into a domestic market feeding program was 1.2m at 10-12 months. For export bullocks, the relevant hip-height measurement was 1.25m or greater.

HGPs effectively increased the natural frame score of an animal by a factor of one, taking a frame score animal of four to five or five to six etc.

On the topic of optimising animal growth, Dr Doyle also emphasised the importance of avoiding nutritional setbacks.

“Any time we limit some amount of growth in cattle basically from the time of birth through inadequate growth, inadequate grass, just for a very short time, we are limiting that animal’s potential for life,” he told the audience.

“When people say they’ll catch up – liar. They never catch up, the damage is done. It is already past tense. We have proved this through many experiences.”

Management lessons from AA Co

AA Co group manager, Wagyu operations and feedlots, Greg Gibbons, shared some tips on practical management from the company’s vast cattle breeding, growing and lot feeding operations.

Mr Gibbons is responsible for a team that manages 40,000 feedlot cattle, 3500 stud Wagyu cows, 1500 multiplier cows for breeding composite bulls for the north, and about 15,000 to 18,000 grower cattle.

He said his team was constantly looking at different management approaches and testing new ways to lift the productivity and profitability of its cattle operations where possible.

Some of the key areas of interest he touched on last Thursday included:

Cross breeding: Crossbred cattle were generally commanding a 20c/kg premium to straightbred equivalents on current markets, providing an added incentive for cross breeding on top of the growth benefits provided by hybrid vigour and heterosis;

Body condition of breeders: The company’s goal of achieving one calf from every cow each year requires breeders to re-conceive within their first two cycles, which effectively means breeders must have a minimum body score of three when re-joined. AA Co manages and feeds first-calf heifers separately to ensure they achieve the required body score.

Younger joining age: AA Co is moving toward joining all heifers at 12 months of age instead of 24 months, based on internal modelling that has shown greater lifetime returns from earlier-joined breeders.

Yard weaning: A four to 10 day yard weaning process meant cattle were healthier upon entering the feedlot, were comfortable with being handled and, based on the company’s anecdotal experience, produced better feedlot performance and conversions.

Rotational grazing: Last year Mr Gibbons’ team split a herd of 3000 heifers two ways. One went into a set-stocked paddock, the other entered a rotational grazing program and was moved every 7-10 days. Over nine months the rotationally-grazed group gained 111 grams per day more than the set-stocked group, translating to a gain of 30kg, or $60, more per head. While the rotationally-grazed group had to be moved every 7 to 10 days, mustering took a quarter of the time required to muster the set-stocked group.

Saleable meat yield: A recent internal AA Co trial highlighted the potential gains that exist from focusing genetic selection on increasing saleable meat yield. The trial involved an analysis of 1237 grass and silage-finished MSA-graded heifers. The overall group produced an average carcase weight of 241kg and average retail meat yield of 61.5pc. The best heifer in the group yielded 70.5pc and the worst 52.5pc. The difference in value between the top to the bottom performer was $227/head. “As an industry we really need to be focusing on reducing waste,” Mr Gibbons said. “We can control that through genetics and genomics.”

For more information on the Primex Pacific Beef Carcase competition, click here

Click on each image below to view in larger format. 


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -