No stress is key for WA's best MSA beef producer
15 April 2016
Western Australian cattle producer Gerald Young believes the secret to producing high quality Meat Standards Australia (MSA) beef is to ensure minimal stress while handling the animals in the yards.
Gerald and his partner Denice Brookes run 70 Angus-Friesian cows on their Bridgetown property, with the cows joined to Simmental bulls to turn off about 60 MSA-graded vealers each year.
The low-stress environment they have created, combined with a focus on good nutrition and genetics, has resulted in such high quality beef that they were recently awarded the inaugural title of Western Australia’s MSA Producer of the Year.
“For better handling of my cattle, my yard is designed so that I can draft the cattle by myself,” Mr Young said.
“I don’t open my mouth one little bit – sometimes I feel like it, but I don’t – and that’s why they are not stressed out, because I’m not shouting at them.
“I stick to my Simmental bulls because I find they’re good to handle and the calves have got plenty of muscle, and they produce the ideal calf for the market I am targeting.
“Recently, one vealer made $1780, which I think was the State record - he was only eight or nine months old and he weighed 520 kilograms.”
Mr Young grows oats for hay on his 150-hectare property, which receives an average of 650 millimetres rainfall each year.
Regular feeding and even stocking rates regardless of the season are also influences of his high MSA scoring cattle.
“I feed the stock hay early in the morning every second day without fail, and I make sure I’ve always got plenty of hay on the property,” Mr Young said.
“History has shown if I try and run more cattle to make more money I end up out of pocket. I find if I just run an even herd of cattle, I’m prepared for when a bad year hits and I still come out in front.”
MSA is a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) supported program where the eating quality of every beef cut is determined using a grading system that measures key attributes such as carcase weight, ossification, marbling, rib fat, tropical breed content, meat pH and temperature, hanging method, hormonal growth promotants and meat colour.
Each carcase receives an MSA Index value that represents its potential eating quality based on the measurements collected.
To be eligible for the MSA awards, a producer’s annual MSA-graded volume had to be equal or above the average for the State they were produced in during 2014-15.
Each producer that met the eligibility criteria received a score out of 100 weighted on two factors: the compliance to MSA minimum requirements, and eating quality performance as determined by the MSA Index for cattle consigned to MSA in 2014-15.
Mr Young’s cattle stood out due to their low ossification scores, which indicate that his milk fed vealers have an easy path to slaughter.
Mr Young also recorded zero dark cutters, which is a testament to the low-stress handling the animals receive.
The honour of being named as the WA champion has made Mr Young’s 2016 a year to remember. But selflessly, he hopes other Bridgetown and WA producers can learn from the secrets of his success.
“I’ll continue doing what I’m doing and I hope other farmers can cheat off me, because that’s the only way you can learn is to cheat off someone who is doing well,” Mr Young said.
“It’s a great honour for me to have this reward. If only Dad could come back and see what I’ve done – he’d say I always knew you could do it. Even to be named as a finalist is a great honour - thank you very much.”
More information on MSA is available at www.mla.com.au/msa
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