Angus cattle are a key ingredient to the success of the Herbert family's award-winning Gundamain feedlot operation in central west New South Wales.
In late 2021, the family was recognised as one of the nation's top lot feeders for the second time since 2014.
They received the Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA) 2021 Feedlot of the Year award in the 3000 to 8000 head capacity category.
This was in recognition of their efforts to be sustainable, adaptive and resilient.
The Herbert family has been operating in the agricultural industry for more than 150 years.
Current principals Andrew and Tess are the fifth generation leading the farming business - with their daughter Caitlin and son Lachlan now also on board.
Gundamain feeds a combination of 100-day grain-fed and 70-day domestic cattle.
These are all owned by the Herberts, and mostly forward-contracted to processors. This is predominantly Teys at Wagga Wagga and Woolworths.
The Herberts also have their own Angus breeding herd.
It is made up of 1000-head and supplies cattle for the feedlot.
But this herd is too small to supply all of the feedlot's full needs, so other stock are bought in from local growers and nearby saleyards.
Mrs Herbert said the Angus breed had always played a central role in their feedlot operation, but other breeds were also used. These were mostly British Breed cattle.
"About 60 to 70 per cent of what goes on feed in the feedlot is Angus," she said.
The Herberts established their original Gundamain feedlot near Eugowra in central western NSW in 2002, growing in stages to its current operating capacity of 6000 head.
There is a strong emphasis on animal welfare management.
There has been heavy use of Temple Grandin designs in the yards and processing area to minimise stress - both on the cattle and the operators.
Dr Grandin, a pioneer of curved race designs and other innovations used widely in feedlots and processing sites, has been promoting the importance of good animal handling techniques for the past 40 years, with the aim to reduce stress.
The Herberts also went on a fact-finding trip to the US where they consulted with US experts about the latest research around feedlot design and planning before making some significant modifications.
"Everything we do on the farm now revolves around the feedlot - excluding our sheep operations," Mrs Herbert said.
"Feedlot rations are based on tempered and rolled barley, silage, cottonseed, lucerne hay, a molasses supplement and meal mix pellets.
"Much of the hay and silage we use is grown on our property and the feed rations are overseen by a nutritionist and vet."
There has been more focus by breeders to improve marbling in particular. Marbling and meat colour are very important to our suppliers and we need to get this right.- Gundamain feedlot co-principal Tess Herbert
In 20 years of operating the Gundamain feedlot, Mrs Herbert said the quality of cattle coming through had dramatically improved.
She said genetics for improved carcase traits had come to the fore and feedback was that meat eating quality was top class.
"There has been more focus by breeders to improve marbling in particular," she said.
"Marbling and meat colour are very important to our suppliers and we need to get this right."
As Caitlin sinks her teeth into the business, there are plans to hopefully expand the Gundamain feedlot to a 10,000-head capacity in the next five to 10 years.
She said she was most excited about the opportunities for young people in the feedlot industry, and the ongoing training provided by the sector.
Caitlin is still completing her studies at the University of New England in Agricultural Science.
She is contributing to the family operation and helping to grow the feedlot business in response to a high and expanding demand for quality grain-fed beef.
"I have observed a growth in the Angus cattle being procured for the business - both in terms of quality and quantity," she said.
"Average daily gains for Angus cattle have proved to be consistently increasing.
"They perform well in a feedlot environment and produce the meat quality our markets are seeking."
Caitlin said the Angus cattle going through the feedlot had high compliance rates with the grid specifications.
She is responsible for entering data into the business's software and so monitors carcase compliance and closeouts.
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