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High-Input Systems for Northern Breeding Herds

Project start date: 01 January 2004
Project end date: 04 March 2008
Publication date: 01 January 2007
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
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The potential of northern beef producers to profitably produce 500 kg steers at 2.5 years of age in a dry tropical environment, thus meet specifications of premium markets, using a high-input management (HIM) system was examined.  HIM included targeted high levels of fortified molasses (FM) supplementation, growth promotants in steers and short seasonal mating.  It was compared at a full-business level to best-practice, strategic low-input management (SLIM) using commercial-scale herds at three sites. Compared to SLIM herds, early concentrated calving in HIM herds increased weaning weights by ~30 kg, and annual growth by ~30 kg after wet season weight compensation, enabling almost all steers to exceed 500 kg at 2.5 years of age.  Very few contemporary SLIM steers reached this target.  HIM was most profitably applied to steers. Where HIM was able to achieve high pregnancy rates in yearlings, its application was recommended in females.  Well managed, appropriate HIM systems increased profits by around $15 per adult equivalent at prevailing beef and supplement prices.  A 20% supplement price rise without similar elevation in premiums for young slaughter steers would eliminate this advantage in many situations.  HIM should only be applied after SLIM is well developed.

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Project manager: Rodd Dyer
Primary researcher: Department of Primary Industries