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Australian Cattle Council : Yearbook 2009
Beef Beef Better Beef More Often More Often More than a quarter of all Australian cattle fail to meet market specifications. At a direct cost to producers of between $15 and $30 a head, it means hundred’s of thousand’s of dollars are being drained out of their pockets each year. But a new tool developed by the Beef CRC and funded by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) allows producers to predict carcass weight and fat depth months in advance. Whether they are supplying the local trade, the butcher trade, supermarkets or even the export market, producers get paid on the weight and fatness of their animals. But if those animals are under-done or over-fat producers are hit with significant penalties. So that’s why the BeefSpecs calculator is so exciting. Meat & Livestock Australia’s Southern Beef Manager, Angus Hobson, said the simple-to-use BeefSpecs calculator will help producers better meet market specifications by allowing them to make more accurate management decisions. “Increasing carcase compliance rates for fatness and weight targets specific to various beef markets is an important profit driver for beef businesses, especially those supplying feeder steers and finished cattle for high quality markets,” Mr Hobson said. The BeefSpecs calculator requires users to input initial live weight, P8 fat depth and frame score (an indication of frame size relative to age) to define the growth and maturity parameters of cattle while still on-farm. The calculator then uses information supplied by the producer about HGP usage, average daily weight gain, feed type (grain or grass), the system and duration of grazing/ feeding to calculate, on a group average basis, final fat depth and live and carcase weight attributes. Mr Hobson said by using BeefSpecs, producers can better understand what is required for their cattle to meet market specifications within the production environment and identify management options that may assist them in meeting these specifications. “If the calculator predicts the animals will exceed the required specifications, the input information can be revised and the animals can be managed accordingly so that they do meet specifications,” he said. “This has obvious advantages in terms of improving production and cost efficiencies.” A recent study of feedlot cattle showed that of 20,000 cattle finished for short-fed markets, 28 per cent missed Hot Standard Carcass Weight (HSCW) specifications, forfeiting $31,000 or $5.50/head. Some 16 per cent missed P8 fat specifications, forfeiting $54,000 or $17.50/head. Dr Heather Burrow, CEO, Beef CRC said the BeefSpecs calculator is a practical example of how the Beef CRC is helping put more money in the pockets of producers. “We have set a target of adding $179 million dollars to the value of the Australian and New Zealand beef industries each year from 2012,” Dr Burrow said. “The BeefSpecs calculator will go some of the way to helping us achieve that figure.” Nick Wright runs a breeding and fattening operation between Bostobrick and Tyringham in New South Wales. He was involved in validating the BeefSpecs calculator. Mr Wright said he found the tool extremely valuable. “While there is never a magic bullet, this calculator did alert me to a danger,” he said. “Last year the calculator determined that the steers I had wouldn’t have grown enough and would be too fat to meet the market I was targeting. The weather meant it didn’t quite come to that, but it did allow me to manage that risk.” Dr Burrow paid tribute to the dedication of the team of scientists involved in developing the BeefSpecs calculator, adding it truly was a collaborative effort, led very capably by Mr Bill McKiernan, NSW DPI, Orange. “This launch wouldn’t have been possible without the large team of scientists, extension staff and industry collaborators,” she said. “New South Wales Department of Primary industries (NSWDPI), University of New England (UNE), the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (QDPI&F), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and also the University of California, Davis all contributed to getting this calculator up and running.” The current version of BeefSpecs is limited to group-only applications with Bos taurus (British/ European) steers, however work is already underway to enhance its application to heifers and steers of all breeds and composites. The free BeefSpecs calculator is available for download from the More Beef from Pastures section of MLA’s website www. mla.com.au/beefspecs 1117_CCA Yearbook 2009.indd 15 5/5/09 7:59:47 PM