MSA bonuses inspire change on property

Location: Burdekin, Qld

Enterprise: Droughtmaster beef breeding and finishing

Producer: Robert and Donna Rea

Soil type: Variable, from sandy loams to marine plains

Pasture type: Indian couch, improved stylos and Burgundy bean legumes

Second generation producers Robert and Donna Rea are continuing 50 years of genetic improvement in carcase quality traits but involvement in the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) trial has shed light on the future direction for their enterprise. 

During the PDS trial, 89% of the family’s 241 Droughtmaster heifers and 60% of 370 steers consigned to JBS Australia in Townsville met company specifications for MSA and 46% and 21% respectively received an MSA premium.

A small proportion were ungraded MSA because they did not meet pH, meat colour or rib fat specifications.

Robert said, ultimately, the ability to supply premium grade MSA cattle could provide a bonus of up to $34/head at certain times of the year (at maximum weights of 340kg).

“Our main challenge is fine tuning the parameters of achieving weight for age, marbling and ossification,” he said. 

Breeding emphasis in the Lisgar herd was aimed at boosting fertility, growth rates, intramuscular fat (IMF) and external fat cover.

“Our turnoff age has dropped to three years old from four-and-a-half years old and we want to bring it down to two years old and 0–2 teeth, while maintaining 320–340kg dressed weight and good MSA premium grade compliance,” Robert said.

We’ve introduced legumes to our pastures and we wean calves on to a molasses supplement until the season breaks. Weaners go into the wet season with a 20–30kg weight advantage.

“It is cost efficient because of increased herd productivity.”

The Lisgar herd averaged about 88% pregnancy rates in the past three to four years and 2012 maidens achieved a 94% average after a three month joining period.

Meeting MSA specs

The Reas strongly believe in low stress animal management and muster sale cattle up to three weeks ahead of slaughter into a paddock closer to the yards, which has helped overcome meat pH problems.

Stock are scanned at 18-months for IMF and rib fat to identify sires for progeny with rib fat averages of 5–9mm and good marbling. Robert saw marbling as a trait which would reduce the impact of ossification scores.

“The PDS highlighted that using HGPs was creating ossification levels penalising us, so we’ll now use them more strategically,” he said.

They are also continuing to provide valuable genetic information to researchers through their use of DNA testing and evaluation of scanned carcase data against a range of BREEDPLAN Australian Breeding Values.

Burdekin, Qld
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