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TAS Country : February 16th 2012
8 Tasmanian Country Friday, February 17, 2012 News Focus on growth of top-quality pasture ROD MANNING: There are good returns if you do it properly.'' KAROLIN MacGREGOR SPENDING money now to grow high- quality grass will reap higher rewards for beef producers in the long-term, Tasmanian farmers have been told. About 30 farmers turned out for last week's third annual beef production field day at the Stewart family's Dunlop Park. The theme of this year's field day was Profitable Beef Production. Victorian-based cattle producer and vet Rod Manning was a guest speaker at the field day. Mr Manning has a large beef enterp- rise near Mansfield where he runs about 1500 breeding cows. He told field day participants it was essential to recognise the most import- ant profit drive in any grazing enterp- rise and that is growing grass. ''The only mission a beef producer has is to be able to match the feed availability to the nutritional needs of the cows,'' he said. ''There are good returns if you do it properly.'' Mr Manning said analysing dif- ferent farming operations across the country had shown there were clear business performance differ- ences between the top 20 per cent of producers and the average. The top 20 per cent of producers use higher inputs to drive pro- duction and spend $88 per hectare compared with the average of $41 per hectare. This helps increase gross mar- gins significantly with the top 20 per cent producing $790 per hectare compared with average of $365 per hectare. As a result, operating profits are also much higher for the top pro- ducers at $402 per hectare compared with $183 for the average. Mr Manning told those at the field day that to be a successful beef producer, their focus should be on growing top-quality pasture and utilis- ing it effectively. ''The cheapest feed you'll ever have on farm is what you grow,'' he said. ''It's all about how we allocate feed to the stock classes that need it.'' Mr Manning said animal perform- ance to maximise genetic potential was determined by nutrition. Cows used about 80 per cent of the feed they ate for maintenance and only 20 per cent for reproduction. ''So really we're operating in a very in inefficient system and any gains we can make will make a difference'' Mr Manning said. ''It's about understanding what the biological constraints are.'' Mr Manning said while some stored fodder was needed for risk manage- ment, pasture should be the main priority of beef farmers. ''We need to prioritise expenditure so that we get more bang for our buck,'' Mr Manning said. Establishing critical control points in the production system is the best way to manage risk. In his system, Mr Manning said pastures were constantly being monitored and growth rates assessed and plotted so that any potential shortfalls in feed were identified early and addressed. ''You need to know where are the weak points in your system,'' he said. Maximising winter stocking rates would allow more flexibility during high growth rates time of the year. ''I view cows as a tool to manipulate the pasture base,'' Mr Manning said. This normally involved using large mobs and smaller paddocks to eat the pasture evenly and maintain quality. In Mr Manning's system, pastures were grazed for between three and five days. While controlled grazing reduced individual animal performance, Mr Manning said it increased performance per hectare, which was a crucial factor in running a successful beef business. *Interest rates and information current as at 7 February 2012. The issuer of the Cash Management Account/Premium Cash Management Account is Rabobank Australia Limited ABN 50 001 621 129 AFSL 234 700. 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February 9th 2012
February 23rd 2012