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Beefing up our engagement and knowledge of WA Feedlots

CAED members, Montana Baddeley and Dr Fiona Dempster, have been busy visiting sites from the Midwest to the South-West of WA, as part of the BeefLinks' Feedlot Performance Project. They visited two feedlots, a backgrounding property and participated in an organised tour by the WA Lot Feeders Association (WALFA). The purpose was to learn more about the industry, the various production systems and data collection techniques, and to build relationships throughout the beef industry.

 

Background

This BeefLinks project is titled 'Understanding feedlot performance and eating quality of beef cattle sourced from rangelands through the WA Supply chain' and aims to improve the quality and efficiency of rangelands cattle in the domestic supply chain by working together with all stakeholders, from producer to processor, to understand how rangeland cattle perform in feedlot and processing operations. By understanding key aspects of cattle performance the producer can choose to make management and genetic improvements, which may improve their profitability by access to higher value markets.


Feedlots and processors may benefit from access to higher performing cattle from alternative cattle suppliers.


The property visits provided Montana and Fiona an opportunity to understand how smaller scale feedlots and backgrounders operate, along with some of the challenges faced with relation to data collection and analysis. The team hopes to assist in overcoming these challenges through establishing methods for the feedlots and backgrounders to analyse the data collected in a meaningful way. This analysis will not only assist that business, but also add to the overall understanding of the challenges and opportunities for data collection and sharing within the WA North-South supply chain, to assist producers in their breeding and management decisions to produce cattle better suited for the domestic market.


A clearer understanding of the variation within the WA supply chain was also realized through these visits. One of the feedlots operated predominantly on ‘trading’ cattle, opportunistically purchasing smaller animals from a saleyard and growing them out to marketable weight on hay and rations. In contrast, the other feedlot operated as a closed-loop system using only their own animals sourced from their station in the Southern Rangelands. They then background the animals on pivot-irrigated grass prior to entry into their grass- and ration-based feeding system.



The backgrounder operated predominantly through agistment of rangelands cattle at their property where the animals grow out on grass prior to sale. These family-owned systems contrast greatly with those seen in the Eastern states, which are predominantly large-scale corporations. The variation in size and operation highlights the need for a different approach to data analysis and sharing in WA, which the BeefLinks team are eager to investigate.


Montana also got to witness the muster of a mob of cattle that were to be trucked to a processor later that day, as well as a detailed explanation of the hydraulic powered weighing system in the yards, adding to her understanding of the industry. She also got to broaden her knowledge through attending the second day of the WALFA agribusiness tour, where the tour group visited the PureEarth Composting Facility in Woottating and the Linley Valley Pork Abattoir in Wundowie.



After meeting at the Vines Resort, the group of 14 industry representatives from DPIRD, Universities and AgTech companies travelled by bus to PureEarth. There, they were given an extensive tour of the facility discussing all things compost, including inputs, processing and waste water management. It was explained how the waste from various industries, including brewing slurry, garden/food waste and animal droppings and carcases, could be broken down through the system to provide nutrients back into the soil, using something that was once waste to remove the need for fertilisers. The company expressed their willingness to assist in training of smaller operations (such as feedlots) with getting started in composting as a waste management technique.


 

Following a fantastic lunch at Café Chidlow, where the group rapidly discussed the exciting waste management techniques they had just witnessed, they arrived at Linley Valley Pork Abattoir for a tour around the facility. The group were amazed by the sophistication and rate of processing, as well as the successful utilisation of most parts of the animal. Even stomach fluid was collected and could be processed as a blood thinner. The company had a high regard for animal welfare, having designed the facilities to be as stress and pain free as possible, whilst utilising technology to efficiently meet market demand for pork products.

 

Although these facilities were not directly related to the beef supply chain, they provided a unique opportunity to understand the systems, technology, and efficiencies in place for both processing and waste management, as well as providing an opportunity to connect with a variety of industry professionals.



 The BeefLinks team is excited to continue to develop these connections to maximise the outputs and outreach of the feedlot project and collaborate on research.

 

The project is part of a broader research program using producer insights to increase adoption of innovative cattle management practices throughout the Western Australia cattle supply chain. BeefLinks is funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and University of Western Australia.


More details about the BeefLinks projects can be found here: https://www.mla.com.au/research-and-development/livestock-production/beeflinks/


If you are interested in getting involved in the BeefLinks Feedlot project or would like further information, please contact Montana Baddeley (montana.walshbaddeley@uwa.edu.au) or Fiona Dempster (fiona.dempster@uwa.edu.au).

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