Roadshows will re-acquaint producers with lotfeeding options

Jon Condon, 08/03/2013


Charlie MortAfter two or three memorable grass-growing years when the motivation to lotfeed cattle has been much less, two of the nation’s largest custom-feeders will host workshops across Queensland’s heartland breeding areas to re-acquaint producers with the prospects offered via lotfeeding.

Charlie Mort, from Mort & Co lotfeeders, said while his company’s ten-stop workshop circuit starting on Monday across central, western and northern Queensland had been planned well before the current dry conditions had set in, the seasonal outlook would certainly come under scrutiny during the sessions.

A second, similar workshop circuit is scheduled the following week by the 20,000 head Smithfield feedlot in Queensland’s South Burnett region.

“Essentially we want to increase the number of custom-fed cattle that we feed, and there are strong reasons for producers to do so,” Mr Mort told Beef Central yesterday.

Coordinator of Mort & Co’s Private Clients business, Ben Maher, will be one of the speakers at next week’s workshops. He will be joined by Ben Thomas from MLA discussing industry outlook, and local producers discussing their experiences with retained ownership feedlot programs. Pre-vaccination strategies for optimum feedlot health outcomes will also be discussed.

Mort & Co currently manages about 50,000 head of cattle on feed, both company-owned and client-owned cattle, through three of its own feedlots and five others.   

Mr Mort said while it was certainly very dry in parts of Queensland, some of the scheduled workshops next week are in areas that have had rain.

“It’s not just an effort to target dry areas as a short-term drought mitigation tool,” he said.

“Were looking to stimulate interest in longer-term programs producing turnoff 12 months of the year, as a management tool and to help cash flow.”

“The workshops were scheduled six or eight months ago, but as it’s turned out season-wise, it is very timely that Ben will be out in heartland breeding areas talking to people,” Mr Mort said.

Not only did a lotfeeding program allow a producer to manage pastures better, due to turnoff on a more regular basis, but it provided a means to hit the market with finished cattle outside of the busiest turnoff period from April to July, when prices could be more favourable.

Other benefits of finishing steers in the feedlot, included freeing-up country normally used to grass-finish steers for more breeders.

Mr Mort said because of the seasonal circumstances in western and northern Queensland, Mort & Co had a lot of clients who were ‘having a go’ at retained ownership lotfeeding at present, including some first-timers.

“We have various programs with customers for which we are looking for certain numbers of cattle every month, and we are looking for people to fill those all the time – either with retained ownership cattle, or cattle we buy ourselves,” he said.

“These cover a wide range of market segments. Just this week, we have a livestock customer who is going to be placing a certain number of HGP-free cattle with us each month, either for the high-quality EU grainfed, or no HGP markets.”

“We’re seeing good demand at present for some classes of grainfed cattle, particularly evident in MSA and EU categories, and we are filling a number of domestic shortfed 60-70 day Brahman orders.”

“It’s one of the times, surprisingly, where we have more grainfed options than we did in the past. There’s a lot of options that have opened-up, some moving away from the traditional 100-day ox into niches. While volumes are still very small, processors we deal with are already growing grained exports into China, for example. That can only grow over time.”

One of the key messages being delivered to producers during the workshops will be the value in knowing what their cattle were capable of.

“There are cattle we feed on a regular basis for customers that they would never consider selling as store cattle, because they know they perform so well in the feedlot,” Mr Mort said.

Cattle like that are always better to retain, rather than selling them to somebody else to benefit from, at an ‘industry average’ price.

Part of each workshop will be devoted to why producers should place more emphasis on feed conversion ability, and not just weightgain.

“Everybody talks average daily gain, but our industry needs to start talking more about feed conversion rates and cost of gain. Both have a huge bearing on profitability – much more than weightgain,” he said.

Part of that could be explained by the fact that custom-feeding ‘comes and goes’ in the Australian market, whereas in the US industry people are feeding all the time.

“That’s where we need to get to.”       

Mr Mort said there was still a great deal of scope to implement pre-vaccination programs in cattle destined for feedlot placement, to iron out any potential respiratory problems.

While he agreed that the uptake of more crossbreeding across the north potentially opened up more attraction for retained ownership feedlot programs, he said Mort & Co had a wide range of markets open to Brahman cattle as well.

“Brahman cattle feed as well as any – it’s just that they have to be fed for the right period of time and managed appropriately.”  

He said there was a relatively high percentage of retained-ownership cattle under Mort & Co management at present. But while that reduced the need for cattle to be fed by Mort under company ownership, at the same time, it had expanded into two other feedlots, as well as its own sites.

The Smithfield feedlot workshop circuit being held the following week will include feedlot principal, Jason Shearer-Smith talking about retained ownership and other lotfeeding opportunities, plus sessions on ways to optimise MSA cattle performance, use of HGPs to optimise production, and a finance sector segment looking at cash flow driven by lotfeeding and related issues.

  • The Mort & Co feedlot workshops have been advertised on Beef Central. Click here to see the full itinerary and program
  • The Smithfield feedlot workshops will be held at Clermont (Town Hall) Tuesday March 19; Emerald (West Gateway Motel) Wednesday March 20; and Moura (Kianga Hall) Thursday March 21. All start at 10am, concluding with an MSA steak BBQ lunch.   



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