Grass finishers chase gains and eating quality

Glenbrook Pastoral Company monitors weight gain with Optiweigh

Beef
Bill and Jacqui Mitchell from Glenbrook Pastoral Company, Aberfoyle, use in-paddock weight gain monitoring to reduce labour and ensure productivity. Photo: supplied

Bill and Jacqui Mitchell from Glenbrook Pastoral Company, Aberfoyle, use in-paddock weight gain monitoring to reduce labour and ensure productivity. Photo: supplied

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New England cattle producers run up to 2500 head for their 1625ha property that focuses on producing a grass-fed product for Coles.

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When it comes to buying in cattle, Glenbrook Pastoral Company at Aberfoyle are more focused on selecting animals with higher eating quality potential than gaining a quick profit.

Producers Bill and Jacqui Mitchell along with their teenage children Sophie and Henry aren't afraid to chase productivity in their business.

The family buy female weaners or yearlings and run up to 2500 head for their 1625 hectare property to produce a grass-fed product sold direct to supermarket Coles. Going direct to kill, heifers give them flexibility in terms of weight range they can kill them at, as "you can have a killable heifer at 420 kilograms live weight right through to 550kg," Mr Mitchell said.

"It gives us the ability, if the season cuts out, to have them go out at a lighter weight, whereas steers have to be around 500kg before they are fat enough."

It takes just two to three days to get an indication of a mob's weight gains without having to ever leave the paddock.

Stock are run on improved pastures in mobs of 175 to 200 head and automatically weigh themselves on an Optiweigh scale.

Weight gains over time with Optiweigh. Photo: Optiweigh website

Weight gains over time with Optiweigh. Photo: Optiweigh website

The unit is set up in the paddock and features an attractant lick block or feed to entice animals to step onto the machine. Once their front feet are on the platform, the RFID tag is read and data is sent to the cloud.

"We can basically manage the whole herd with one (Optiweigh) unit," he said.

"It takes two to three days to get an indication of how a mob is performing before moving it to the next mob. I can get enough weights on every mob once a month to know how they are all going."

They source mostly local cattle, but also buy straight lines of cattle eligible for the grass-fed programs through AuctionsPlus.

"We have a preference for British-bred or British/Euro cross cattle," Mr Mitchell said. "We are about two-thirds stocked at the moment, and will carry those numbers through winter."

Chasing animals that will produce a superior eating quality product, they have found that cattle have to consistently be on a rising plane of nutrition. "Cattle that have been on a rising plane of nutrition their whole lives have better eating quality than cattle that have had a nutrition set back," he said.

"They might weigh the same, have the same fat depth, but those that have never had a set back have better marbling and eating quality. Because of this we are starting to look for cattle without set backs, the ensure better product, better consumer experience."

Monitor weight, check health

Finalists in the 2020 Multimin Challenge, Bill and Jacqui Mitchell, and their teenage children Sophie and Henry, from Glenbrook Pastoral Company, Aberfoyle, will look at whether trace minerals will give benefits in terms of production and reduced health issues, both of which will be measured through weight gain,

"If you have health issues for every one you see, you probably have others with a few sub clinical issues. And the best way to identify those is weight gain," Mr Mitchell said.

"Optiweigh gives us the opportunity to have weight gains recorded not just once off, but over time."

The Mitchells are one of four NSW based finalists. The others include; Tim Reid, Roslyn, Tim Phelan, Clarence Town, and James Burge, Cootamundra.

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