Trial backs high-input finishing systems

Beef Central, 23/09/2013

A southern Queensland producer demonstration site (PDS) has found that steers in high-input finishing systems (leucaena, oats, feedlot) can produce significantly higher returns than steers constantly grazing improved grass pastures.

The three year MLA-funded PDS was conducted on Ranald and Sally Ferrier’s property, ‘Bannockburn’ at Bell, in southern Queensland. It doesn’t officially wrap up until next month, but the numbers have been crunched providing some key findings for producers to consider.

The PDS evaluated the economic performance of finishing systems incorporating: improved grass pastures, elevated (predominantly frost-free) leucaena-grass pastures, oats and an on-farm feedlot.

The project team, led by Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (QDAFF) FutureBeef extension officers Tim Emery (Project Leader) and Roger Sneath, worked with the Ferriers and Property Manager Steve Munge to regularly weigh cattle, collect faecal samples to monitor diet quality, compile the data and organise field days. QDAFF Economist, Fred Chudleigh, compared the economics for each system.

Two mobs of non-HGP, predominantly crossbred steers, with a 350kg entry weight, were assessed: 87 head over a 364-day period in 2011 and 100 head over 320 days in 2012. They were destined for the European Union.

“While the 2012 trial had to be shortened by 40 days due to well below average rainfall and resultant management decisions, we were still able to capture invaluable data,” Tim said.

“Our project design had about three-quarters of each mob on leucaena-grass pastures for six months up until June, then the group was split three ways onto oats, into the feedlot and back onto leucaena. The remaining steers stayed on improved pastures of Bambatsi, green panic and Rhodes for the whole period.”

The PDS showed that steers grazing leucaena (on a predominantly frost free site) year-round delivered more than double the kg/ha compared with improved pastures, producing 252kg versus 125kg in 2011.

“The average daily gain on leucaena-grass pastures was 0.7kg/ head/day across both years and the steers on improved pastures averaged 0.58kg/head/day and 0.48kg/head/day in respective years,” Tim said.

“The feedlot in both years allowed the steers to put on just over 1.5kg/head/day.”

Seasonal variation

Despite access to quality improved pastures, steers went backwards by about 0.25kg/ head/day during winter in both years. Those on leucaena during winter added 0.1kg/head/day in 2011 and 0.56kg/head/ day in 2012.

“In spring, the steers on improved pastures definitely kicked away again (compensatory gain probably assisted) and during summer the weight gains on improved grass pastures were pretty much on par with those on leucaena,” Tim said.

“Low weight gains in early 2011 were a result of extremely high rainfall.”

Steers grazing elevated leucaena year-round performed slightly better economically than those which grazed oats and slightly worse than those that went into the feedlot. This result is dependent on many factors, including rainfall, cattle performance, cattle prices and grain prices.

In both 2011 and 2012, the economic analysis found that cattle fed first on leucaena and then at the on-farm feedlot recorded the highest annual return (31pc in 2011 and 19% in 2012), followed by cattle fed leucaena during both grazing periods (26pc in 2011 and 18% in 2012), then cattle fed leucaena then oats. Cattle fed improved pastures recorded the lowest return in both years.

Source: MLA. To view original article on MLA website click here

RELATED ARTICLE: Crunching the numbers on finishing systems


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