Benchmarking part of the recipe for success

RNA Paddock to Palate showcases commercial strength

Wagyu Challenge highest individual weight gain - Austpec Pastoral, 1.39kg ADG. Photo: Kate Jones Photography

Wagyu Challenge highest individual weight gain - Austpec Pastoral, 1.39kg ADG. Photo: Kate Jones Photography


Beef producers have long used the RNA Paddock to Palate competition as a way to benchmark their operations.


The RNA Paddock to Palate competition may be the nation's richest beef competition of its kind, but for many entrants it's about more than the prize money up for grabs.

Commercial and stud producers alike continue to enter the prestigious event as a way to benchmark their operations against other producers.

For first-time entrants Austpec Pastoral, Drillham, taking out the best weight gain for a pen of six grain-fed steers (370 days) in the Wagyu Challenge shows the operation was on the right track, says general manager Jamie Sturrock.

Their pen of Wagyu-cross steers recorded an average daily weight gain of 1.239 kilograms, and they also claimed the highest individual weight gain with an ADG of 1.39kg.

"We had pretty humble expectations with entering the competition, we certainly didn't expect to go as well as we had," Mr Sturrock said.

"It was just to get going and see how we were going to sit amongst our peers or our competition; if we performed poorly, we'd know we had some work to do and if we performed well, we knew we were headed in the right direction."

An investor-owned business, Austpec Pastoral is currently in the process of being wound up making it "a bit of a unique situation to be bragging about competition results", Mr Sturrock said.

"Austpec Pastoral started five years ago, so we're very new to the Wagyu game.

"At the peak of our powers a few months ago, we were operating on about 21,000 acres of country based at mainly Drillham and Roma and some agistment blocks in between, with 2500 head of cattle.

"All of our cattle had Wagyu content, but we built up to about 300 registered fullblood females, and the difference was Angus cows producing an F1 and about 250 F1 cows producing an F2."

The fullblood herd was breeding replacement females, as well as bulls to service the Angus and F1 female herds.

The difference of those male calves were being sold as feeder cattle, while the Wagyu-cross were targeted at the 425kg heavy feeder job.

"It's a very ironic position that we're in. Personally and professionally it doesn't hamper the excitement to have done so well," Mr Sturrock said.

"Is it a bit disappointing that we're not going to go on with that specific job, certainly, but it's an accolade all the same and some reward for the five years work we had put in and we were headed in the right direction."

McIntyres' Angus power achieves an ADG of 3.61kg.

McIntyres' Angus power achieves an ADG of 3.61kg.

Fellow south west Queensland producers Hamish and Mary McIntyre, McIntyre Agriculture, St George, also performed well in the Wagyu Challenge, placing second and third with an ADG of 1.116kg and 1.101kg, respectively.

Their fourth year entering the competition, Mr McIntyre said it was great to follow up their success in 2019 and show some consistency in their herd.

"It was just great to see our commercial herds up there with those bigger operators at the top of the game and particularly the stud game," he said.

"It's pleasing to see our cattle matching it with them, which is what we aim to do."

Running a predominantly Angus herd, the McIntyres had cattle on agistment at Windorah because of the drought, and purchased Canaway Downs, Quilpie, when their lease ran out.

"We shifted about 7000 younger cattle onto Canaway and that enabled us to maintain our breeding herd through this horrendous drought we've had around St George and Dirranbandi," Mr McIntyre said.

"At Dirranbandi last year, we only had 47mm for the calendar year and already this year we're up to 300mm, so it's a complete turnaround there which is wonderful.

"We've been bringing females home and weaning calves, bringing them back and getting back onto our backgrounding country at St George and Dirranbandi."

The progeny are then put through their feedlot on Mooramanna for 100 to 120 days.

"We value add the commodities we grow - wheat, barley, cotton seed and cotton trash - through our own cattle. Most of our cattle end up at Kilcoy or Stanbroke as part of their HGP-free Angus brands," Mr McIntyre said.

McIntyre Agriculture also won the highest individual weight gain in Class 38 (70 day grain-fed steers), with an Angus beast achieving an ADG of 3.61kg.

Mr McIntyre said despite being happy with the weight gains they see in their feedlot, the result has created a few questions as to whether they could do better.

"It's set a very high benchmark for our team in the feedlot to try and achieve," he said.

"We're seeing weight gains, when the conditions are okay, of 2 to 2.5kg a day, but to get 3.61kg he was obviously really enjoying the menu on offer.

"Congratulations to everyone at Beef City, they've done a wonderful job."


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