Droughtmasters play a major role in the Donovan familys integrated cropping, beef breeding, backgrounding, and feedlotting business situated across three properties in Central Queensland.
Headed by Bruce and Beryl Donovan, the family conducts mixed farming and feedlotting activities on Duaringa Station, north of Duaringa. They also run 1100 Droughtmaster females on a breeder block north of Gogango, and background on country north of Dingo.
The Duaringa cropping program is managed by their son Simon, who produces coarse grains, pulses, cotton, and silage, while their daughter Sarah is the feedlot manager on Duaringa.
Sarah said her parents decided to build the 3000 SCU feedlot when the price of sorghum fell below $100/tonne in the 1990's.
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"We finish our own cattle and also custom feed with the majority of cattle supplying the 70 and 100-day grainfed markets via abattoirs in CQ and SE Qld. We also feed cattle destined for the live export market," she said.
"The feedlot ration is driven by what we can grow, what is grown in the region, and the price of those ingredients. Our ration mainly includes dry rolled wheat but it can also include other grains, depending on availability.
"Custom feeding now represents close to 60 per cent of the feedlotting operation, which evolved as a result of dry conditions across CQ."
Sarah said the feedlot has proven a great drought risk management tool.
"It's enabling us to prevent our paddocks from being eaten out and is keeping cattle numbers ticking over. It has also allowed us to extract greater value from our grain at times when grain prices are less attractive.
She said other benefits of feedlotting include the ability to tracked feed to weight gain conversions and the impact of ration variations on intake and performance. Their weather station data has also allowed them to clearly see the correlation between extreme weather conditions and feed intake.
"The past summer proved to be particularly challenging and various management strategies were implemented to help alleviate heat load in animals but what was particularly noticeable was how certain types of animals coped better than others."
Droughtmasters feature prominently in the feedlot and over the above mentioned period of intense heat and humidity, Sarah found they maintained a higher level of feed intake and in turn weight gain in comparison to other types with one mob achieving a feed conversion ratio of 4.4:1 (DM basis).
"I was impressed that these animals achieved the desired fat cover despite their low net feed intake and recorded high MSA grading across the mob. With ration prices being so high over the past year, this level of feed efficiency is highly desirable and more economical."