Meeting the MSA market

25 November 2016

Beef producer Geoff Roberts has the needs of the consumer at the heart of his Meat Standards Australia registered Murray Grey herd.

Geoff, who runs the 1,600ha property 'Wingelo' at Wagga Wagga, NSW with his wife Gaye and son Tim, was one of the early adopters of the MSA program. In the past two-and-a-half years, 95% of the Roberts' cattle were MSA compliant when processed, with an average MSA Index of 61, above the national average of 58.5 for grassfed cattle in 2015-16.

“It’s just a matter of talking to the processors about what they need, where we might be coming up short and doing something about it," Geoff said.

“A better understanding of what makes a good end product can only help the producer, the processor and most importantly the consumers as well as the cattle industry as a whole.”

The self-replacing Murray Grey herd forms 75% of the operation, with lamb, wool, grain and hay making up the difference.

Steers are grown out to meet a 300-320kg carcase specification for sale direct to processor Teys. Here are Geoff's strategies to consistently reach MSA standards.

Genetics

Constantly aiming for above average MSA Index scores, Geoff said improved genetics would take his family’s herd into the future. “There’s always room for improvement, when you stop improving that’s when you slip back,” he said.  More recently bulls have been selected for improved eye muscle marbling and rib fat coverage.

Breeder management

“The profitability of our herd is based on fertility,” Geoff said. Selected heifers are retained for breeding. All females are preg-tested as the Roberts don’t retain empties or cows after their fifth calf.

Cattle care

“Welfare has always been a top priority for us, obviously well-fed, placid cattle are going to score better on the MSA Index and eat better for the consumer," Geoff said. “We know there’s a growing market out there for grassfed cattle, and consumers want to know they’ve lived a healthy, contented life."  The enterprise is also Pasture Cattle Assurance System accredited.

Behaviour

“If the cattle don’t have a good temperament they’ll fall down and give high pH meat,” Geoff said. Training begins early as the Roberts feed calves silage for at least two weeks while they’re still on their mothers, before weaning them in a paddock with limited pasture. “This way, they get used to us being around while they’re still young,” Geoff said.

To predict the potential impact of production changes on your scores visit the MSA Index calculator.

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