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Tips to boost MSA compliance

01 May 2019

The Nolan name is synonymous with beef, with links across the supply chain, including production, processing at the family-run Nolan Meats, and involvement in industry taskforces.

Nolan Meats director Terry Nolan was on the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) steering committee at its inception in 1997 and is a current member of the MSA Beef Taskforce, so he has a solid understanding about breeding and managing cattle that stack up against the MSA grading system.

Using carcase feedback

A pen of the Nolans’ home-bred steers won the medium trade grainfed (180–269kg) category in the National Beef Carcase Competition at the Beef Australia 2018 expo, which assessed cattle against market specifications, lean meat yield and the MSA Index for predicted eating quality.

The family uses carcase competitions to benchmark their commercial herd, which runs alongside a small Blonde d’Aquitaine stud at their Cinnabar breeding property and on land around their Gympie processing plant.

The Nolans' commercial herd is a Brahman cross base, to manage the tick-favouring coastal conditions, with Blonde d’Aquitaine sires preferred to produce cattle for a premium grainfed market.

Terry said MSA scores are important from a processor’s perspective to ensure a consistent product, and are used to underpin two Nolan Meats brands. For example, yearling cattle directed into the Nolan Private Selection brand need to have a pH of 5.50–5.60 and an ossification score of 100–110. 

Boosting MSA compliance

“While there is no silver bullet, there are lots of tools producers can use to achieve MSA compliance,” Terry said.

The Nolans select for fast-growing cattle with good length of carcase and target a fat range of 5–12mm of fat at the P8 (rump) site.

They back up selection for carcase traits, fertility and temperament with feeding and low-stress stock-handling strategies to optimise eating quality of the end product.

Nutrition begins with the breeders, especially heifers, to ensure they cycle at 14 months to calve at two years.

The Nolans use rotational grazing and utilise improved pastures at their Gympie farm, which are irrigated by waste water from their Gympie processing plant.

Cows are joined in late September to calve in mid-winter, and then calves are yard-weaned in April/May in the Nolans’ Wide Bay Feedlot.

Terry’s compliance toolbox also includes well designed stockyards for easier handling, and only transporting cattle on trucks with airbag suspension to further reduce stress.