The Australian red meat and livestock industry prides itself as being world leaders in sustainability of our environment, our livestock, our people and businesses and our climate. Sustainability goes hand in hand with productivity, profitability and industry longevity. It sits squarely with our 2025 Red Meat strategy to double to value of our products as the trusted source of the highest quality protein.
For fifth generation beef cattle breeders, Erica and Stuart Halliday, it was the devastating drought and the depletion of their property’s topsoil that was the catalyst to switch their grazing management regime. With the support of their agronomist, the Hallidays have switched to no-till, multispecies plantings and rotational grazing. The results have been dramatic and include a significant improvement in the nutrient, organic matter and microbe load in their topsoils, a dramatic reduction in input costs and significant improvements in weight gain and reduction in metabolic and husbandry issues in their cattle. The Hallidays believe that by switching their grazing management regime they are building their business to be more drought resilient and through multispecies plantings and regular rotations, they are managing their cattle to sequester carbon and will be on track to be carbon neutral by 2030.
For Wilmot Cattle Co, it was a shift in grazing management philosophy that was instrumental to turning the beef production business around to becoming more productive and financially resilient and as a result, has radically improved the ecological health of their soil. As Manager, Stuart Austin explains Wilmot Cattle Co is first and foremost a beef production business with animal performance their driving metric, but by shifting their thinking on grazing management to work in harmony with nature, the business has reduced its stocking rate but increased turn-over and overall profits and grown to become more ecologically and financially resilient. And by utilising the best science and technology currently available and measuring all activities and actions, data has become a powerful decision-making tool to track their performance and progress and respond according to changes in markets and seasons.
Central Queensland grass fed beef producers, Melinee and Rob Leather are unashamedly opportunistic in chasing the best available science and technology, and monitoring their performance through benchmarking and data to capitalise on market opportunities. The Leather’s operate three cattle properties in central Queensland and run around four and a half thousand head of cattle. By investing in key programs and tools such as BREEDPLAN, leucaena forage crops, best animal welfare practices and pain relief, ground cover satellite mapping and renewable energy, the Leather’s are pushing their herd’s productivity to the limits whilst improving their environmental footprint and preparing their business to become more drought and climate resilient.
First generation Central Queensland cattle producers, Adam and Jacynta Coffey run a pretty tight bar over every decision they make, it has to make a positive return and it has to increase their productivity and profitability, because they don’t have the capital reserves to fall back on. The Coffey’s bought into the industry five years ago, purchasing a 2500 ha failed hardwood timber plantation in relatively marginal country, outside Miriam Vale in Central Queensland, and set about transforming it into a grazing property amidst three tough years of extreme drought. What the Coffey’s have demonstrated is that productivity goes hand in hand with ecological outcomes, that boosting organic matter and soil carbon is key to ecological health and that synchronising stocking rates with pasture density and rest periods has significantly improved their productivity and drought resilience.
: For Smithfield Cattle Co’s partners, Barb Madden and Jason and Andrew Shearer-Smith, their clear business strategy was ensuring business profitability continued to grow to allow subsequent generations the opportunity to join the business and this required careful strategic planning around their expansion decisions along with a commitment to optimising cattle performance and providing superior customer service. The partnership has grown and evolved over four generations and close to 100 years and is now focused on grain feeding cattle, operating two feedlots, Smithfield Feedlot outside Proston in the Southern Burnett and Sapphire Feedlot outside Goondiwindi on the Darling Downs, collectively custom grain feeding cattle from 100 up to 500 days and at a total capacity of 40,000 head. As Andrew, Jason and Barb explain optimising cattle performance has required a commitment to operational excellence in the quality, nutrition and conversion efficiency of their feed rations; best practice animal husbandry and welfare which is infused in the culture of the business and the responsibilities of all staff; and major investments into state-of-the-art technology and renewable solar energy.
As a cattle breeder, Darren Hamblin’s commitment to commercial producers is to breed an animal that delivers good fertility and reproductive capacity, good meat-eating quality for consumers and sustainability traits including the polled trait and feed efficiency because he knows these traits will become increasingly important to both producers and consumers. Central Queensland cattle breeders, Darren and Melanie Hamblin, breed Waygu cattle, running around 6,000 head across their three properties in Central Queensland and on the Darling Downs. The Hamblin’s shift into Wagyu’s was driven initially by fertility concerns, but the clear and resounding advantage has been the superior carcase and meat eating quality traits of the breed. The traits they are now chasing include the polled gene, fineness and distribution of marbling and Net Feed Intake because Darren believes the market will in the future financially reward these traits and as a breeder supplying commercial cattle producers, he wants the industry to be ready to capitalise when that opportunity arrives. Darren Hamblin has been a long-term user of BREEDPLAN but has moved into genomic testing and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNPs). SNPs provide Darren with the DNA markers that when linked with sufficient historical performance data increases the accuracy of his selection decisions. The production and carcase data he has collected over many years has been valuable in tracking historical trends and progress but when combined with SNPs become extremely powerful predictors of future selection outcomes. And it is that attention to capturing data to support his selection decisions, that has enabled Darren as a cattle breeder to breed an animal with superior eating quality and sustainability attributes and a significantly more valuable carcase.
Tottenham sheep producer, David Greig faced the double challenge of lamb survival and lamb production in an environment, marked by tight climatic times and unreliable rainfall, with the need for a resilient and robust style of sheep that required little hands-on management. David and his wife Melissa and two daughters, operate a mixed farming – winter cropping and merino sheep enterprise outside Tottenham in the central west of NSW. Their main enterprise is selling ewes, both first-cross ewes to prime lamb producers and merino ewes to first-cross ewe and wool producers. As David explains a deliberate decision to introduce more robust, plainer bodied merinos through the use of Estimated Breeding Values; coupled with learnings acquired through AWI’s Lifetime Ewe Management program, which taught him the importance of matching animal nutrition and condition scores with reproductive cycle; have been pivotal to addressing lamb survival with lambing percentages now double what they were eight years ago.