Premium market options necessary in central Queensland

Mace family focused on mastering the balancing act


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"We still find that the top-priced steer in a consignment is the heavier steer that grades EU not MSA. The premium is insufficient because the cost of producing that composition of animal in this environment is greater." - Lachlan Mace.

"We still find that the top-priced steer in a consignment is the heavier steer that grades EU not MSA. The premium is insufficient because the cost of producing that composition of animal in this environment is greater." - Lachlan Mace.

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With Queensland's beef industry on its knees, one producer has called on processors to step up to the plate and provide better premium market opportunities.

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With Queensland's beef industry on its knees, one producer has called on processors to step up to the plate and provide better premium market opportunities. 

Central Queensland grazier, Lachlan Mace, Toorilla, Kunwarara said if processors wanted graziers to produce good beef, they must be willing to pay a premium. 

"Processors have got so much power to shape the future of the quality of beef produced in CQ," he said.

"They have to be prepared to pay a premium on either MSA index or boning group, or something that is scientifically based to say that that is a good piece of meat and then producers will do what they need to do to produce that.

"They need to put a price signal there to say, if you're going to give me a boning group one to four and you're going to get it killed in Queensland, I'm going to give you 50 cents above everyone else."

Mr Mace said current premiums of 10 cents per kilogram above EU was not enough.

"We still find that the top-priced steer in a consignment is the heavier steer that grades EU not MSA," he said. 

The premium is insufficient because the cost of producing that composition of animal in this environment is greater.

Mr Mace said the industry needs to continue to make beef a premium product and provide a great eating experience to consumers so they'd choose it over pork or chicken. 

"We can't compete with Brazil or any other commodity producers, so we've got to have a quality product and processors need to put out a decent price signal to say we will pay you for that product."

Spread across 10,000 hectares of coastal forest and alluvial floodplain country, Lachlan and Trudy Mace, Toorilla, Kunwarara run up to 2400 head in a Brahman and Angus cross-breeding operation. 

For the past 12 years, the Mace family has been putting Angus bulls over Brahman cows and vice versa, giving them hybrid vigour and an animal in the middle of the Bos Indicus and Bos Taurus type.

Mr Mace said sometimes there were variances at either end of that as with any cross-breeding operation, but they were happy with the performance of their fifty/fifty animals.

"We still find that the top-priced steer in a consignment is the heavier steer that grades EU not MSA." - Lachlan Mace

"We still find that the top-priced steer in a consignment is the heavier steer that grades EU not MSA." - Lachlan Mace

Joining the PCAS system when it first kicked off and then transitioning to the Teys Grasslands Beef range at a time when beef prices 'tanked', Mr Mace said they were able to target a niche market.

"We're EU accredited too, so it really helped us get through. Since then it's gone to Grasslands and made it a company-audited system, so a lot more people have come in and the premiums have eroded," he said.

"Originally it was a premium above EU of 30 or 40 cents, now it might be 10 or nothing above EU, and of course anything in the PCAS or grasslands system has to be graded MSA."

Despite the success of breeding an animal combining Bos Indicus and Bos Taurus traits, Mr Mace said they were thinking about going heavier into the Bos Taurus. 

"I probably will offend a few people here, but the easiest way to improve your eating quality is with the use of Bos Taurus cattle.

"There are good cattle in your Brahmans but the whole system is predominantly based against those cattle, especially with hump height being in your MSA index, but we see it here time and again that your Angus-type cattle, even your 70pc Angus-type, are standouts in that system." 

Mr Mace said the trouble was that it's a balancing act.

"You've got to try and balance up eating quality and getting a Bos Taurus animal in our environment, so it's a constant battle to get that mix right. 

"How far you go down that track to Bos Taurus and eating quality will increase your running costs because they're not environmentally adapted and the more you go towards Indicus cattle, the harder it is to meet meatworks specification."

Mr Mace said one of the main benefits of going down the Bos Taurus line was the productivity and reproductive performance of the females.

"We've got records here going back 10 or 12 years and our Brahman paddock compared to our Angus paddock is 10 or 12 per cent behind in pregnancy rates and has a bigger loss rate between pregnancy testing and branding," he said.

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