When commercial beef producers the McNicholl family claimed the first place in the RNA Paddock to Palate for the best average daily weight gain of 2.951 kilograms/day for a pen of six steers feed over 70 days of the competition it really didn't surprise anyone.
Lee and Megan McNicholl of Arklow near Dulacca are well known for custom feeding all their turn-off through the feedlot, and were the overall winners in the 2012 RNA Paddock to Palate 100-day Competition scoring a total of 717.84 points.
"It is the continuous bench marking and the way our cattle perform in the competition that re-confirms to us that our cattle perform in a feedlot environment," Mr McNicholl said.
It was back in 2012 that Mr McNicholl was first encouraged to enter the competition by Ben Maher, who had just started as private client manager for Mort and Co's Grassdale Feedlot.
"I was drafting some steers at the time when he dropped it and he said why don't I enter the RNA competition?
"I recall he had a truck so he trucked them to Grassdale for me, and we won the overall 100-day competition."
Custom feeding is profitable
The McNicholls run 1200 predominately Angus Shorthorn cross breeders joined to Shorthorn and Angus bulls spread over 10,526 hectares at Arklow and Melrose near Dulacca and on Forest Grove at Wallumbilla district.
Their Angus base is a fusion of Raff Angus, Sandon Glenoch and Bulliac genetics, while Shorthorn bulls are bought from the Morgan family of Arubial Shorthorns.
All the progeny have been custom-fed at Lillyvale Feedlot for the past 15 years with pleasing results.
"I find that with the genetic growth in my cattle this management is profitable and we feed cattle with a weight of 250kg onwards," Mr McNicholl said.
When the season allows Mr McNicholl joins five bulls to 200 cows from November to March.
The McNicholls enjoy a 80 per cent pregnancy tested conception rate and any dry cows and those over eight years culled and send direct to the meatworks.
Due to the season the family currently has 600 breeders on the road doing a loop between Tambo, Jericho and Blackall with drover Ben Mitchell. Mr McNicholl is the first to admit that until it rains their future is unknown.
As well the McNicholls have 400 heifers and 150 steers on a 70 day feeding ration and 150 cows on a 45 day freshen up ration before heading to slaughter at Lillyvale Feedlot.
Due to their drought management strategy the McNicholls have been off-loading females, but they have earmarked a line of 400 number 9 heifers to keep as replacements.
"I have access to 1700 round bales of hay plus some cottonseed so will have enough fodder for the next four months until the summer storms kick in," he said.
"Our properties are watered by 20 good dams, but as the drought continues to bit they are getting very low.