Southern beef producers milk the chance for a feed wedge

11-07-2018 by admin

Widespread rain in southern Australia has beef producers looking to set themselves up for winter by accumulating feed.

WIDESPREAD rain across southern Australia has beef producers looking to build a feed wedge to underpin production goals through winter.

In northern NSW and Queensland, however, it is a story of weighing up limited options after a failed summer and autumn.

The falls in excess of 100mm across North Eastern Victoria and the Southern Riverina, combined with mild temperatures, have created the ideal conditions to accumulate feed.

The advice for producers now is to contain cattle and continue feeding for the next few weeks.

Victorian cattle consultant Rod Manning said the aim should be to get those paddocks that have had rain to between 1200 and 1400 kilograms of dry matter, which allows the plant to put out enough leaf area to collect energy.

“Build a wedge conducive to keeping the plant growing into a cold winter,” he said.

With soil temperatures still sitting around 12 degrees Celsius and moisture no longer a limiting factor, plants should grow at 25 to 35kg per hectare per day, providing there are no frosts, he said.

Strategic use of nitrogen such as urea can provide a good deal of extra growth for not a huge amount of outlay.

“The rule of thumb is you get a ten-to-one response from nitrogen under these conditions,” Mr Manning said.

“On good phalaris-based pasture, as soil temperatures fall, strategic use of gibberellic again might be another option to consider.”

Cattle that have been on a full feeding regime should not be taken off overnight.

“Taper off over two to three weeks – feed every second day for a week, then twice a week – to let the rumen flora adjust to a new diet,” Mr Manning said.

“When you make a sudden change, you’re opening your cattle up to nutritional stress and imbalance.”

If the mild weather continues and feed really gets going, producers could find themselves in a feed surplus situation quickly.

“Rapidly increasing carbohydrate levels can be conducive to clostridial diseases such as pulpy disease, so look closely at your vaccination strategy,” Mr Manning said.

“Also on the animal health agenda is grass tetany in autumn calvers. Older cows are most at risk and need attention – supplementation with hay and ensuring they have plenty of salt may be required.”

Northern NSW beef consultant Bill Hoffman.

Weighing up optionsThere is no feed wedge opportunity further north at this stage but the patches where rain did arrive this month in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland has facilitated the germination of oats crops sown dry.

Follow-up was missed and is now desperately needed to ensure there is reasonable growth in crops.

If that does arrive there is optimism that some level of recovery is still possible.

Beef consultant Bill Hoffman said in the absence of oat crops ready to graze, a range of strategies were being put in place.

“Feeding high-value weaners (Wagyu first-crosses) a grain-based ration to achieve feeder weights of 330 kilograms-plus is an option highly likely to return a positive gross margin because of the high feedlot entry price,” he said.

“Supplementary feeding weaners is a means of holding those animals in a reasonable condition for the next six to eight weeks until the late oats crops can be grazed.”

Ensuring weaner heifers, currently likely to be only 230kg, make a critical mating weight of 300 to 300kg by September, and the minimum 4mm of rib fat at joining, will be challenging.

“Spring calving cows are also at risk of failing to meet the fat score three target later in the season – dry lick and cottonseed meal are popular as supplementation where some dry paddock feed is still available,” Mr Hoffman said.

Cattle traders in these dry regions appear to have been proactive and sold any cattle which were heavy enough to meet feeder specifications.

Mr Hoffman said they had now adjusted their buying plans and were tending to purchase less numbers and/or at lower live weights to reduce their overall total dry sheep equivalents on hand.

Some producers who would normally retain all their weaners to grow out for the feeder or slaughter markets had already sold a portion into the weaner market and will sell more soon if the season doesn’t improve, he said.

“It’s highly likely that across the board in the New England and North West slopes there will be lower numbers ready for the traditional spring market either as feeder cattle or slaughter animals,” Mr Hoffman said.

There is general agreement that costs of production for this financial year will rise as a result of lower kilograms of beef produced – hopefully the higher sale prices will offset some of that.

Meat and Livestock Australia has put together a list of resources for how to build a feed wedge and manage pastures and grazing after an autumn break. Visit http://老域名mla老域名备案老域名/News-and-events/Industry-news/Top-tips-tools-and-resources-for-building-a-feed-wedge.

Think long termAS cattle prices surge on the back of the rain, producers have been urged to think long term and not be tempted to offload too heavily.

Consultants and farm business advisors say making informed decisions, keeping in mind that once you sell you lose ability to have a cash flow later on, is critical at the moment.

Victorian consultant Rod Manning said forward feed budgets, working in agistment and nitrogen costs, should be in full swing at the moment.

Economic rationale to decision making, rather than reactionary selling, was the key to longevity in the beef game, he said.

“Ask yourself where do you want to be sitting next spring when prices are through the roof,” Mr Manning said.

“Will you have enough stock to capitalise?”

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