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New research to optimise heifer development and increase whole herd profit

11 July 2019

Acknowledging the connection between whole herd profitability and heifer conception rates, calving ease, mothering and early re-breeding, a new Davies Research Centre, University of Adelaide led project will seek to identify the impact of growth path from weaning to joining on heifer productivity.

The project is one of 13 on-farm research, development and adoption (RD&A) projects from the 2018-19 annual call to receive Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) funding, instigated through MLA’s RD&A regional consultation process.

The process enables grassfed beef and sheepmeat producers to have input into the direction of RD&A funding most relevant to them.

The project will aim to increase the ‘wet-and-pregnant early’ (WAPE) status of heifers joined in temperate production systems by at least 10% relative to current on-farm levels.

Researchers will work with producer groups, commercial beef producers and their advisors to develop up-to-date, regionally relevant and practical management recommendations across a region comprising more than two million breeding cows.

University of Adelaide scientist, Dr Stephen Lee, said the project will provide clear management recommendations for producers to increase productivity without increasing risk or management complexity.

“By collecting detailed animal performance and feed records from autumn and late winter/spring calving systems across southern Australia, we will develop a better understanding of the optimum growth path for modern phenotype heifers to achieve WAPE. This will allow us to benchmark the current status of heifers across southern breeder regions and drive improvements in whole herd profitability,” Dr Lee said.

“The research will provide enhanced knowledge of interactions between heifer growth, mating weight and joining season nutrition with heifer pregnancy conception rates and dates. This information will then help inform better management practices for producers seeking to increase heifer performance.”

The project is being delivered in partnership with Holbrook Vet Centre and Agriculture Victoria and will work with producers across the Limestone Coast in South Australia, the NSW Riverina, and Victoria, and cover a range of calving periods.

MLA General Manager – Producer Consultation and Adoption, Michael Crowley, said the project was an exciting and important piece of work for the beef industry.

“This project represents an excellent opportunity for data underpinning recommended heifer management strategies to be refreshed and updated,” Mr Crowley said.

“Links between heifer performance and whole herd profitability are well established. The  ability of this research to inform clear management recommendations which  will assist southern  producers to cost effectively increase productivity without increasing risk or management complexity is very promising.”

MLA's annual call is aimed at attracting one to five-year projects which address the RD&A priorities identified for the sheepmeat and grassfed beef industries.

For details about the 13 RD&A projects, please click here.

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