Beef Talk: Monitoring the herd

Monitoring framework in place at Brian Pastures

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Baseline recording while checking troughs on Brian Pastures.

Baseline recording while checking troughs on Brian Pastures.

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As part of its role as a DAF facility that benchmarks grazing best management practices, a framework has been put in place at Brian Pastures Research Facility in SE Qld, to monitor cattle performance and grazing management.

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The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Brian Pastures Research Facility, located in south east Queensland, has been in operation since 1952.

It has facilitated a vast amount of research over its lifetime, with a large focus on pasture and grazing research in earlier years. More recent projects include phosphorus mobility in female beef cattle, and fertility genetics focussed on improving the reproductive performance of beef cattle in northern Australia.

As part of its role as a DAF facility that benchmarks grazing best management practices, a framework has been put in place to monitor cattle performance and grazing management.

Cattle performance measurements recorded include; changes in herd body condition, diet quality, and diet digestibility (through faecal sample analysis). The paddocks that are grazed during monitoring are assessed for pasture composition, estimated pasture yield (kg/ha dry matter), and per cent green pasture.

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A forage budget is conducted at the end of the wet season to determine pasture yield estimates and land condition. This information, in conjunction with animal performance and pasture monitoring paints a clear picture of how the facility is performing with regards to pasture availability, pasture quality, and cattle performance from one season to the next.

From this data, calculations are made to determine safe stocking rates on different land types on the property, and decisions such as supplementation and paddock rotation intervals can be supported. This in time can be compared over a number of years to support future management decisions.

The animal and pasture assessments can be easily performed in conjunction with other property management practices, linking to weaning weights, conception rates, and other cattle performance indicators. This may provide an explanation of both positive and negative changes in cattle performance.

This framework can be used by graziers as a valuable support tool for making management decisions on property, gaining a more in depth understanding of how their pasture and cattle are performing.

Jo Campbell

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Brian Pastures Beef Research Facility

Phone: (07) 4161 4007 joanne.campbell@daf.qld.gov.au

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