How to get the most out of carcase feedback

27 February 2020

Using carcase feedback and estimated breeding values (EBVs) to improve his herd provided a solid basis for SA beef producer Andrew Johnson to achieve high rates of compliance with Meat Standards Australia (MSA).

Andrew is the second generation of the Johnson family to run ‘Mount Boothby’ near Tintinara in the state’s south‑east. He’s been a registered MSA producer for 10 years.

Andrew won the Most Outstanding MSA Producer in SA category for Band 2 (producers consigning smaller volumes) in the 2019 MSA Excellence in Eating Quality Awards.

He achieved MSA compliance of 92.7% and an average MSA Index of 64.69.

Benchmarking is key

Andrew said the carcase feedback provided by MSA, accessed through mymsa.com.au has helped him achieve performance targets.

He uses this feedback to improve herd management decisions, meet supermarket specifications and achieve outstanding compliance.

myMSA provides producers with the opportunity to benchmark their compliance and MSA Index performance with national, state and regional performances. It also provides a suite of easy‑to‑use reports to look at individual carcase attributes, with the functionality to download carcase data to import into on‑farm systems.

Andrew runs a self‑replacing herd of 400 Angus females, turning off milk vealers early to target around 400kg live weight. The rest are grown out to finish to a heavier carcase, and sold at 12 months.

“They’re run predominantly on improved lucerne‑based pastures with a mix of clover and grasses, providing a combination of protein and energy. We supplementary feed hay when necessary,” he said.

“Matching pasture production and feeding regimes to manage lactation intervals in good seasons allows us turn off animals earlier and heavier.”

Andrew believes if everything goes right from an on‑farm management perspective (assuming there are quality controls throughout the supply chain) feedback data can be used to achieve 100% compliance.

“We’re constantly tailoring and targeting our breeding herd based on estimated breeding values (EBVs), with calving ease, eye muscle, development, weaning weights and carcase weights key focuses when selecting genetic stock,” Andrew said.

“Previously, we would have selected breeding stock purely on subjective measurement of obvious traits, but this risked going too far with certain parameters, throwing other traits unknowingly into and out of the herd.

“Selecting stock for a range of traits allows for objective measurement. Understanding this data from fertility and growth rate perspectives allows us to make more informed decisions to ensure we meet performance targets.

“We use the myMSA platform to access this carcase feedback and the tools to guide on‑farm decisions.”

Low stress, high compliance

In addition to genetics and nutrition, Andrew recognises the importance of well‑handled cattle. Low‑stress stock handling is another important element in their production system.

For Andrew, the key to managing cattle for MSA compliance is through adopting sound business principles.

“If we can adopt some principles of intensive agriculture including breeding plans, EBVs, feeding regimes, nutrition, growth rates and cash flow requirements throughout our extensive operations, we’ll produce a more compliant product,” Andrew said.

“The MSA program helps us see which cattle are meeting market specifications, allowing us to achieve performance targets and a return on investment.”

Andrew encourages other producers to get on board with MSA and make the most of the valuable information and feedback data that’s provided to producers as part of the process.

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