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Red Meat Targets: Applying known feed base technologies to increase output from beef production systems at Winnaleah-Ringarooma

The above results clearly indicate a series of benchmarks for beef production from management systems based on adoption of a range of well-understood technologies. Obviously the absolute value of these benchmarks can vary according to season but their relativities would be expected to remain similar. Even under set stocking, good pasture utilisation can annually produce at least 1000 kg live weight gain. The driving force of this level of animal production is growth and utilisation of pasture. Animal production systems can focus on either achieving high individual animal performance or high group performance by having more animals with lesser individual production. In reality, economics dictate a compromise, so this work has been undertaken with the aim of achieving such a situation.  

Over the years the system has been fairly successful in achieving this compromise because the observed levels of animal production per hectare have not been at the expense of performance per animal. Although individual animal performance varied with season it remained within the window of 0.75kg - 1.62 kg/head/day irrespective of stocking rate. In order for a system to annually produce 1628 kg live weight, about 11.4 tonnes of pasture dry matter must have been consumed per hectare. Accepting utilisation of 70% implies 16.3 tonne of dry matter must have been annually produced per hectare. This equates well to pasture production reported by the dairy industry. 

Economics must always be considered as part of the decision making process associated with adopting new technology. Adoption of an intensive grazing management system does require adequate sub division and provision of sufficient water points. Portable electric fencing may also be required to sub divide areas but paddock size can be adjusted to suit herd size. In this experimental area each plot is 1.86ha, divided in half by a two wire permanent electric fence. Each half is then further sub divided into six breaks with temporary electric fences requiring about an hour's labour per week. The break-even cost for this operation and capital equipment is the value of about 200kg of beef live weight per hectare. The economics of applying nitrogen and or irrigation will largely be driven by the response of the pasture to these inputs.  Although the pasture botanical composition at this site is characterised by a low level of legume and a ryegrass cultivar (Jackaroo) developed over a decade ago, it is responsive to all the managements imposed. Over two years, application of 30 kg/ha/month of nitrogen resulted in a pasture response of 24 kg dry matter per kg of nitrogen. 

Assuming 70% utilisation, this dry matter would produce about 70kg beef live weight. If nitrogen costs $1.76/kg applied, the breakeven price for beef is about $0.75/kg. Similarly, the break even beef price for applying nitrogen and irrigation is about $1.30/kg live weight. This work has set pasture and beef live weight production benchmarks for perennial pastures typical of those found in cool temperate and temperate environments. Consequently they should be applicable to all producers in this climatic zone with a production system based on finishing weaned steers as local trade or feedlot entry animals at 450kg live weight.

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This page was last updated on 24/07/2017

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