The beef industry in Australia is continually growing and is held as the second largest of Australia’s agricultural industries. Due to the continual decrease in commodity prices and increase in input prices, the beef industry in Australia is under constant pressure to increase productions efficiency in order to maintain practical levels of business profitability. Beef producers need to have a wide understanding of many factors if they wish to build and maintain a successful business For this to happen, when creating a beef production enterprise, one needs to take into consideration many husbandry and herd management events in order for a farm to work most productively and be most financially beneficial.
Breed of Cattle and Location:
Australia’s beef industry is all over the country (refer to figure below); however some parts are more suited to particular breeds than others. Bos Taurus cattle are found in the more southern areas, where the climate is cooler, whereas Bos Inidicus, also known as Zebu breeds, prefer hotter conditions, therefore are found more in the Northern parts of Australia. In this particular enterprise in Bega, NSW, Bos Taurus cattle would be better suited due to the cooler conditions than say Northern Queensland. The Black Angus breed I believe is a better breed to start an enterprise with due to low rate in calving difficulties, finishing quicker than others e.g Herefords, and marbling ability. Also, Black Angus are a more desirable breed to farm compared to others, as they are completely black in colour and have dark eyes. For example Herefords are known for their light eyes and are prone to eye cancer. (D’Arcy, M, 2011) This is important as it is very popular among the Japanese market, which is one of our major exporting countries for Australia’s beef
Abundance of Beef Production Enterprises in Australia
Sire selection is an important procedure as it will affect the future performance of the herd. Over 87% of the genetic composition of calves is influenced by the sire selection over the last three generations (V. G. Cole, 1976) Therefore making sure your bull is free from disease, suits your environment and has good history in fertility is very important. The two characteristics I would look for in a herd bull is to insure it has a high fertility rate and produces calves with potential for rapid growth. A fertile sire must have 3 qualities: good libido, ability to serve and good quality semen. Stress affects the libido of bulls and it is important when purchasing bulls to purchase them with plenty of time before being used to get used to their surroundings and new environment. I would purchase an Angus bull, to provide pure-bred breeding. Crossing with a Limosem is also an option; however, Limosems have a high temperament, therefore not as beneficial as an Angus bull with low temperament.
Calving is the most important aspect for managing a beef farm. Knowing the variations in market price, fertility of the dam and general growth period for a calf to get to the market stage is very important for deciding when to join the cows and bull.
Heifers must first hit puberty before they are joined, the average age and weight for an Angus heifer to first come on heat is about 12 months, weighing 280kg (V. G. Cole, 1976). However, if stunted during growth may not reach it until several months later, this would then impact greatly on production, therefore making sure the calf is well fed after weaned is imperative. I would make sure the majority of cows got into calf in the first cycle, or very early in the second, so they have ample time between calving and getting back in calf. For any that don’t they would be culled. As it is important to get the cows in calf early as cows which calve late tend to wean lighter calves and generally calve late in later years (V. G. Cole, 1976)
The bull would be joined with cows aged from 15months, for about 4 weeks. To ensure the bull was efficient, at 6 weeks-8weeks one would get a vet out to the property for preg-testing. Money spent on Pretesting is worthwhile as if bull is infertile and your herd is not impregnated, you can ensure a new bull is purchased and put with the herd. This is could be very costly in the long run if this “check” process isn’t carried out.
There’s a major store sale in August in this area of the Bega Valley, so working around this time could benefit the farm greatly. Therefore joining in spring, around September/October will mean a July/August calving, giving the calves 12-13 months to develop, ready for the store sale.
Disease management and control:
Although Australia is such an isolated country compared to others across the world, when in the Beef production industry, this can be seen as quite an advantage. Australia is free from many serious diseases listed by the World Organization prevalent among cattle for Animal Health (OIE), therefore deeming Australia’s source of meat and quality of product the palpable choice.
Drenches, vaccinations and other disease controlling products can be quite expensive, so selecting the right product for the environment you are in is very important. Barbers Pole Worm and Liver fluke infestations are generally affected by the younger generation (Abbot, 2009), and are quite are serious disease in this area of NSW therefore, treating them for worms and Liver fluke would be necessary and beneficial in the long run. They would be treated at around 9 months once taken off their mothers as they are generally not affected before they are weaned (Abbot, 2009),, with “Tirodax” which is effective against these infestations. Treating the younger cattle, rather than older cattle as well, is found to be more financially beneficial as older cattle are more immune to worms (Abbot, 2009).
By rotating paddocks for cattle to graze on can also help with disease management, as drenching alone doesn’t always control worms. Rotating paddocks for around 3-5 months (Russel1, R, 2011) allows for a break in the cycle and less worms to be present in that specific area. Therefore, putting in the younger cattle after this spell period in these paddocks rather than the older cattle would be the way to go, due to low presence of worms and older cattle being more immune.
Also, treating calves at 3 months with a 5 in 1 vaccine is important. The vaccine 5 in 1 is for clostridial diseases including tetanus, blackleg, pulpy kidney, malignant oedema and black disease.(Russell, R 2011) Treating them at 3 months as from birth to this age the calves are getting enough antibodies from their mothers through the colostrums milk, however once this stops the 5 in 1 provides rapid and effective protection against these diseases.
Weaning and marking:
Weaning is aimed at providing the calf with a good start, with as little stress as possible. Stress provokes weight loss, so by providing them with a good source of feed and keeping the mothers in close proximity in the early stages is seen to be very beneficial.
In most beef enterprises, weaning occurs when calves are 6-10months of age (Abbot, 2009). “Yard weaning” has beneficial effects on the attitude and response of the cattle when put in yarded areas for the rest of their lives. For this specific enterprise, calves are weaned of their mothers at 9-10months, where they are then fed on hay and watered in a yarded area for around a week, giving them ample time to get used to being separated from their mothers, but with good feed at hand to minimize weight loss from stress. The advantages of yard weaning are that the calves are hand fed, become used to the yards and become easier and quieter to handle. By weaning at 9-10months, this also gives the mother ample time to recover before calving again.
Marking is a good way of identifying cattle from property to property. Either by each notching, ear tags, NLIS tags or branding. Branding isn’t seen nearly as much anymore, due to bruising of meat quality and the stress it puts on the animal (D’Arcy, M, 2011). Ear notching and ear tagging I believe is an effective way of identifying your cattle and quite an easy and inexpensive procedure.
Marking is normally performed from 2 -12 weeks of age (Abbot, 2009). In this case, once the calves are weaned off their mothers at 3 months, this would be a good time to tag and notch the calves, as they are just leaving their mothers so keeping track of who they are is important. NLIS tags are compulsory since 2006 (MLA, 2011) and need to be put onto any form of cattle if at some stage will be leaving the property. This can also be done at this time. It must be performed on the property of birth.
Nutrition is a major aspect of beef production; it influences every phase of production from conception through to the marketing of the animal (Zerle L. Carpenter, 1996) . It is very important to understand the seasonal changes of your farming environment so one can judge whether or not supplementary feeding is going to be needed throughout the year. In the Bega Valley, rainfall has been quite good recently so pasture would give an adequate feed source for the herd and supplementary feed is unnecessary. However, in the winter months when there is little feed about, silage and hay would be used as the cattle wouldn’t be getting enough feed without this. Otherwise, you could be looking at a decrease in weight, therefore a step back in production.
The type of supplement required for supplementary feeding will depend on whether it is needed to make up for a shortage of pasture or a fall off in nutrient value. For example, I would use silage or hay for a shortage in pasture quantity and grain or meal for a drop in nutrient value as they are higher in protein than hay and silage (V. G. Cole, 1976).
Depending on the cattle prices at the time, will also impact or depend on what supplementary feed can be purchased. Protein, such as meal, and Non-Protein supplements, such as urea, could be invested to improve cattle growth. Urea can be converted into protein by cattle and may not be as affective for younger calves, however work well for yearlings and older cattle therefore would be effective for this type of production.
For a beef production to run smoothly and be financially beneficial there are many husbandry and herd health requirements that need to be managed effectively. From bull selection and breed of cattle to suit the required market, to feeding and calving strategies. There are many areas of a beef production enterprise, therefore by researching and investigating other farms and the general industry, one will ones knowledge of what needs to be done in order to run a productive and profitable production.