Rebuilding after drought and paralysis ticks

Northern producers Ben and Joanne Ree on paralysis tick, trading out of drought and maximising performance

Beef
Joanne and Ben Ree along with their children Hayden, Emily and Callun, currently run about 100 head. Photos: Supplied

Joanne and Ben Ree along with their children Hayden, Emily and Callun, currently run about 100 head. Photos: Supplied

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In the thick of the drought they opted to buy trade cattle as a form of cash flow.

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The Ree family from Birraleigh, north of Tenterfield, had big plans to grow their 80 head breeder herd but drought wasn't the biggest problem stalling their success.

Paralysis tick infection hit their calves and their future income so badly that in the thick of the drought 12 months ago they opted to begin buying trade cattle as a form of cash flow.

The program has not only improved their ability to fight-off ticks but a grain assist approach is making the switch pay off despite high cattle prices.

"What we have done is just reinvested that capital (from the breeders) back into the marketplace," Ben Ree said.

The performance and weight gain of their 70 bought in Angus weaner steers will also be analysed in the Multimin Performance Ready Challenge in which half will be treated and the other half not.

Ben and Joanne Ree along with their children Hayden, Emily and Callun, currently run about 100 head on their own 121 hectares (300 acres) and another 809 hectares (2000 acre) lease block.

The grain assisted steers and heifers are fed one per cent of their body weight during the 100 to 120 day trade and all inducted with PyThon ear tags to improve their chance of fighting ticks.

"For the last five or six years it's been progressively getting worse," Mr Ree said.

"The country that we own we bought off my Grandad and back in his day they used to do control burns all the time and they never had problems with the ticks but now we do not burn we seem to have more and more problem with ticks that haven't been there before.

"Our lease country is state forest and it's very hard to get them on board to do control burns.

"We are hoping that out of all this bushfire inquest there may be a change in policies where we can either engage with the traditional owners or put together a program ourselves just to control or to be able to manage the fire hazard and the paralysis tick."

Predominantly Angus cattle are being bought in and sold into feedlots or back through the saleyards.

Mr Ree budgets for the cattle to achieve an average daily gain of 1kg per head on grain bins and believes there is more profit to be made buying grain than hay and roughage supplements.

"We did it (fed) through the dry because we knew we had to do something and it paid off," he said.

"Even though feed is still very expensive we are sort of controlling how much feed they are eating and we have still got grass in our paddocks.

"We find grain or the energy side of things is still economical to do but it's when you start feeding hay and roughages that we find it's not as economical.

"As long as we have got grass in our paddocks, feeding them a grain supplement still works for us in a controlled amount."

Historical changes in paralysis tick boom

Northern Tablelands Local Land Services district vet Lisa Martin said a change of land use may play a role in the more recent cases of paralysis ticks.

She encouraged producers who may be in susceptible areas to carry out good biosecurity and implement chemical control on introduction and movement of stock.

"Traditionally in that more timbered eastern country they weren't necessarily run with breeders," she said.

"If we are talking about going way back we also had a fairly intensive cattle tick control program that involved some integrated control with regular musters and dippings.

"I think that sort of suppressed numbers a bit just as a byproduct of the cattle tick program.

"Everybody ran bullocks in that rougher sort of country and then people moved more to using it to run breeders because you had that cattle tick control program and you had those products like Bayticol that made it easy to do.

"It worked fine but then of course Bayticol got restricted in its use so they couldn't have that product to use as easily. People had gone away from dipping because of the labour input...and they didn't have intensive management of those areas."

Ready for a challenge

Mr Ree will share the progress of their trial cattle on Facebook and encouraged more producers to join the Performance Ready Challenge group.

Weight data will be collected throughout the three month period including at induction, half way and sale.

The treated cattle averaged 264 kilograms at induction while the untreated averaged 260 kilograms.

Mr Ree said the cattle only needed to gain an extra 925 grams at an output price of 400c/kg to have paid for the injection.

"We really like always looking at new things and performance is a key thing for us especially with trade cattle; we want to get a good return on our investment," he said.

"The cost of the actual product is less than 1kg of weight gain so the return on investment should be pretty easy."

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