The learning process
Location: Port Hedland, WA
Enterprise: Beef - predominantly for live export
Producer: Geoff and Jacinta Mills
Pasture type: Buffel grass and spinifex
The Mills family are using every tool on offer to drive that 1% and, after helping shape the Grazing Land Management (GLM) pilot program for the Pilbara, see GLM as offering the next profit driver.
“We have to constantly look at how things are progressing and changing to stay viable,” Geoff Mills said.
“You can’t just carry on the way you always have – you have to be prepared to keep learning and be open to new ideas.
“It’s about accepting new technology such as telemetry and monitoring, and it’s also about the care and welfare of our animals in regards to supplements, medications and testing.
“We were plodding along with about 60% calving then, through some testing we did, we discovered we had vibriosis (a venereal disease transmitted by mating infected bulls to susceptible cows) in our young heifers. We put a vaccination program in place to deal with it and are now getting up to 80% calving (the average calving rate in northern Australia is around 70%).
“We are in a benchmarking group and every 1% increase in calving makes $100,000 difference to our bottom line. Injections and drenching aren’t cheap, but they make a big difference,” Geoff said.
Geoff believes that when the land is in better condition, the cows are in better condition, resulting in more calves on the ground – also in better condition.
Learning from others
Geoff’s daughter, Jacinta, had wondered whether they’d get value from participating in the development of the GLM workshop program as the original information was based on production in the Kimberley.
“At the start, I was unsure about whether the GLM workshop in Karratha was going to be appropriate for us,” Jacinta said.
“Most of the speakers were from other areas and I wasn’t sure if it would be applicable to the Pilbara.”
However, once she discovered the course developers wanted to hear her experiences, rather than the other way round she was won over.
“I really appreciate the fact that these workshops are held – not only are they an opportunity to educate ourselves and each other, but it’s also a social opportunity for us. Sometimes we don’t see other people much for six months of the year.”
Jacinta is one of the youngest of three generations that live and work on Warrawagine Station. Her father, grandfather, uncle and cousins also work in the family beef business.
She said the biggest thing she learnt from the GLM workshop was the importance of what is happening on the ground surface.
“It’s not just a matter of seeing that the cattle are fat and there is grass around – there’s more to it than that,” she said.
“I can walk out into a paddock that once I thought had no feed left, that it had been overgrazed, and now I can see that there is potential to bring that paddock back, through better management.”
Port Hedland, WA
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