Retaining quality while increasing stocking rate

Producing more from each hectare, the aim of feedlot trial winners

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Georgie, Olivia and James Knight with their Angus cattle at Mortlake, Victoria. The Knight's won the Beef Spectacular this year, managing to continue producing quality cattle even with a large increase in their stocking rates. Photo by Georgie Selman.

Georgie, Olivia and James Knight with their Angus cattle at Mortlake, Victoria. The Knight's won the Beef Spectacular this year, managing to continue producing quality cattle even with a large increase in their stocking rates. Photo by Georgie Selman.

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The winners of the 2020 Beef Spectacular.

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The winners of this year's NSW Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial have increased their stocking rate by 45 per cent in the past four years but still manage to produce award-winning, high-performance feeder steers.

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James and Georgie Knight of RG. Allen and Sons, Mortlake, Victoria were awarded the grand champion team of five steers with their Angus cattle earning 834.5 points out of 1000.

The score included the maximum possible 350 points for the feedlot performance with their cattle averaging more than three kilograms a day.

They entered the trial averaging 391kg and exited at an average of 708kg.

Their team was also named Teys Certified Premium Black Angus Champion Pen, placed ninth in the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) index ranking and received a gold medal in the new eating quality section.

Additionally, it was the second time in four years a Knight's team of steers was the most profitable in the trial with their winning team earning a profit of $1348.

It was the second time the Knights had taken out the overall award after winning grand champion on debut in 2017.

"We're a bit overwhelmed," Mr Knight said of the results.

He said they used the trial as a benchmarking process in their feeder steer business.

"Other than being involved with a fantastic group of people, the feedback trial for us is about benchmarking a representative sample of what goes to the feedlot market annually out of our business," Mr Knight said.

"What's also great about the trial is that we have data behind our feedlot steers which we can use when marketing our progeny each year."

He said one of their main aims was to achieve consistency among the teams they entered.

"We had our second-team bomb out due to a bloat mortality, which was really disappointing," Mr Knight said.

"But every other team performed in the top 30 over the past four years, that's been very important to us."

James Knight said they aimed to produce cattle with good average weight gains and top 10 per cent carcase traits. Photo by Georgie Selman.

James Knight said they aimed to produce cattle with good average weight gains and top 10 per cent carcase traits. Photo by Georgie Selman.

Mr Knight said his father-in-law Bruce Allen, who they took over the business from, taught them to make sure they were producing a product for someone to add value to at the end.

"I think that's a fantastic attribute, Georgie and I have been conscious of carrying that through as we've increased the stocking rate and the numbers we turn out," he said.

"We're not the next generation that's wanting to over complicate things, we're just trying to produce more from every hectare we operate."

The Knights calve down around 850 cows, joining close to 1000.

Mr Knight said they have increased stocking rates by 45 to 50 per cent since they took over the business three and a half years ago.

The increase was achieved through measuring pastures, changing grazing systems and moving to a spring calving.

"With a spring calving we can run more cows through the middle of winter to increase numbers and better utilise spring feed," Mr Knight said.

He said despite the increase in numbers, they had managed to retain the standard of feeder steers they produced due to benchmarking, genetics and a thorough understanding of profit indicators.

"A huge part of these results go to my father-in-law and the strength of the female herd he bred," Mr Knight said.

Selecting for growth and carcase traits

They were particular about what sire lines they brought into the business and were loyal clients of Victorian stud Murdeduke and NSW studs Wattletop Angus and Glenavon Angus.

Bulls are selected based on estimated breeding values to produce good feeder steers and improve their female herd.

"Those three studs put together our complete bull team annually and I think they will continue to do so," Mr Knight said.

"The sires we select will have good phenotype, a moderate birth weight, good to really good 400-day, good 600-day, moderate mature cow weight and above average IMF and EMA."

Mr Knight said he was interested in how profitability in the feedlot industry was going to be addressed and believed the main profit driver in the feedlot business was average daily weight gain.

"I think value based marketing probably does have a place if animals aren't performing to a level that they need to," Mr Knight said.

"Having good average daily gain and a top 10 per cent carcase really puts you in good stead for everyone to make some money across the supply chain," Mr Knight said.

"So as long as the cattle can put on weight and produce a decent carcase, we don't get any better than that."

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