Enterprise: Cattle breeding
Producer: Simon and Di Matear
Simon and Di Matear have transformed production on Wantabadgery Station by focusing on feed demand and supply to maximise the sustainable production of kilograms of beef per hectare through their Angus breeding operation. This has involved implementing fundamental changes which have dramatically increased production while at the same time reducing the cost of production.
Focus on the calving system
Central to the Wantabadgery Station operation is the calving program. Here the focus is on minimising the need for large scale supplementary feeding in a normal season by calving and weaning at particular times such that peak feed demand coincides with peak pasture production. This practice has allowed the stocking rate to be increased and fertility optimised by delivering well conditioned cows to joining in the late spring and early summer.
Heifers begin calving at the end of July for six weeks and cows calve mid-August for nine weeks. Calving the heifers for a shorter period, earlier than the cows, allows for greater supervision and attention to any issues that may arise and, importantly, allows the maximum time possible for heifers to regain condition after calving and return to oestrus prior to joining. The timing of weaning is driven by cow condition score with fertility in mind and can commence from early January if required to maintain condition on the breeders.
All in the timing
The Matears have achieved a dramatic improvement in their productivity by changing their calving time to better match feed supply to demand.
“We changed from calving in autumn to a spring calving in the late 1990s and this allowed us to dramatically increase our herd size and our per hectare production while reducing our cost of production per kilogram. The number of breeders we could sustain increased by almost 50% and we also saw a marked improvement in our fertility along with less variation in calving results,” Simon said.
Pasture improvement has also played an important role. The inclusion of both summer and winter active perennials in the pasture mix has meant that pastures will respond to rainfall regardless of when it falls. This has optimised pasture production throughout the year, helped sustain higher stocking rates and minimised the need for supplementary feeding.
The Matears recently hosted a More Beef from Pastures ReproActive event on Wantabadgery Station.
ReproActive is an initiative of Zoetis Australia who engaged an independent steering committee of Australia’s leading vets, cattle specialists and rural business experts to develop a specialised training workshop series designed to help maximise the reproductive potential of herds through best practice management strategies.
Topics covered in the workshops include:
- the significance and assessment of critical mating weights
- how to plan and achieve shorter joining periods and
- the implications of condition scoring and the best corrective action to take
- bull management and assessment for reproductive success
- the impacts of reproductive disease and preventative management strategies.
Simon considered the most important messages from the event to be the importance of critical mating weights and cow condition for joining. These aspects of production have been central to the Matear’s success in lifting productivity and profitability on Wantabadgery Station.
Measuring for success
The Matears fully appreciate the impact of the changes they have made because they are constantly measuring their business’ physical and financial performance. In fact, Simon believes that being aware of your financial performance and the main elements that drive your profitability is critical to business success.
“It’s easy to focus on per head performance but you need to also look at your per hectare production and costs to gain a clear idea of overall business performance. By quantifying and understanding these variables you can make the changes that will really make a difference to the business. For us, this started with time of calving. Now we are looking at refining this further through fine tuning of our stocking rate and further pasture improvement,” Simon said.
For more information on ReproActive contact the NSW More Beef from Pastures State Coordinator, John Francis 0427 259 005.
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