Truckies take feedlot tips

Phil Conaghan shares animal handling tips with livestock transporters


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Lynise and Phil Conaghan, Barmount, Clarke Creek.

Lynise and Phil Conaghan, Barmount, Clarke Creek.

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Getting drivers that understand how to move cattle around is hugely valued by feedlot operators.

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Getting drivers that understand how to move cattle around is hugely valued by feedlot operators.

It was one of the main messages Phil Conaghan had for the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Queensland when it held its annual forum in Rockhampton last week.

Phil, in partnership with his brother Sean, operates the 10,000 head Barmount feedlot halfway between Rockhampton and Mackay on the inland highway.

This equates to just over 1000 decks of cattle trucked in and 1300 decks trucked out per annum for the third generation business.

Phil's presentation was avidly received by the 60 livestock trucking representatives present, a number of whom said the way the Conaghans treated drivers made it a pleasure to go there.

"You get a shower and you get a feed. You treat us well and we appreciate it," one said.

In response, Phil said working together was what they were trying to achieve.

"Good communication with the livestock carrier is essential," he said.

"Punctuality and forward planning means that the cattle are prepared well for shipping and arrival.

"When you arrived at your resort, the bed would have been made up, the bar fridge stocked.

"Our cattle on arrival need their yards prepared - hay out for the long travellers, feed in the bunk, clean water.

"Knowing in advance when trucks are due enables us to get the room ready.

"The quicker we can get these cattle eating and drinking reduces stress, disease and improves performance."

Phil Conaghan demonstrating how the layout of the Barmount yards helps with animal handling.

Phil Conaghan demonstrating how the layout of the Barmount yards helps with animal handling.

He also said that transport companies had changed from using people who only knew how to drive trucks, to getting people who know livestock as well as drive.

"With the value of the livestock, they're worth a lot of money. So that's a big thing we've all got to work on, is getting drivers better trained to work livestock."

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In the thoughtful information exchange, Phil spoke about the factors that either contribute to deaths or injury to the 400,000 cattle on feed in Australia, including Bovine Respiratory Disease, lameness, dark cutting and bruising, and how transport can either contribute to or reduce the chances of it happening.

He said the windflow of more open trailers helped keep cattle cool in transit in their climate, even though he was aware that design was frowned on in more metropolitan areas because of effluent spillage.

Along with the livestock transport industry, feedlot industry margins can get tight, with fluctuations in cattle and commodity prices.

Facility design - high quality stockmanship, preparation of cattle and well-maintained livestock trailers all play a vital role in reducing the incidence of BRD, lameness, dark cutting, and bruising.

Some 1000 decks of cattle are trucked in to the Barmount feedlot each year.

Some 1000 decks of cattle are trucked in to the Barmount feedlot each year.

Watching a video, attendees saw how Phil handled cattle, side-loading at the truck's rear, partly to enable drivers to pull forward and get in position on the ramp faster than backing, and because the cattle loading were running back the way they came.

"This assists the driver to pen the cattle with very little force or electric use," Phil said.

He told the forum the future pointed to an electronic road, where drivers may not have to carry paperwork, which would be electronically linked to the driver, transport company and processor instead.

"We've already started seeing this happen with crossing papers," he said.

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