Driving profits in beef operation

Riverina producers, Simon and Di Matear, have transformed production on Wantabadgery Station by focusing on feed demand and supply to maximise the sustainable production of kilograms of beef per hectare through their Angus breeding operation.

This has involved implementing fundamental changes which have dramatically increased production while at the same time reducing the cost of production.

The Matears run about 1300 Angus cows, with steers predominantly sold into feedlot markets, while surplus heifers go to the supermarket trade or feedlots.

Central to the 2600-hectare Wantabadgery Station operation is the calving program.

Here the focus is on minimising the need for large scale supplementary feeding in a normal season by calving and weaning at particular times such that peak feed demand coincides with peak pasture production.

This practice has allowed the stocking rate to be increased and fertility optimised by delivering well-conditioned cows to joining in the late spring and early summer. Heifers begin calving at the end of July for six weeks and cows calve mid-August for nine weeks.

Calving the heifers for a shorter period, earlier than the cows, allows for greater supervision and attention to any issues that may arise and, importantly, allows the maximum time possible for heifers to regain condition after calving and return to oestrus prior to joining.

The timing of weaning is driven by cow condition score with fertility in mind and can commence from early January if required to maintain condition on the breeders. The Matears have achieved a dramatic improvement in their productivity by changing their calving time to better match feed supply to demand.

“We changed from calving in autumn to a spring calving in the late 1990s and this allowed us to dramatically increase our herd size and our per hectare production while reducing our cost of production per kilogram. The number of breeders we could sustain increased by almost 50 per cent and we also saw a marked improvement in our fertility along with less variation in calving results,” Mr Matear said.

Pasture improvement has also played an important role. The inclusion of both summer and winter active perennials in the pasture mix has meant that pastures will respond to rainfall regardless of when it falls.

This has optimised pasture production throughout the year, helped sustain higher stocking rates and minimised the need for supplementary feeding.

The Matears recently hosted a ReproActive event on Wantabadgery Station, supported by Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) More Beef from Pastures program.  Topics covered in the workshops include the significance and assessment of critical mating weights; how to plan and achieve shorter joining periods; the implications of condition scoring and the best corrective action to take; bull management and assessment for reproductive success.

Mr Matear considered the most important messages from the event to be the importance of critical mating weights and cow condition for joining. These aspects of production have been central to the Matear family’s success in lifting productivity and profitability on Wantabadgery Station. The Matears fully appreciate the impact of the changes they have made because they are constantly measuring their business’ physical and financial performance. In fact, he believes that being aware of your financial performance and the main elements that drive your profitability is critical to business success.

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES: Simon Matear of Wantabadgery Station in southern NSW with some of the family’s cattle.

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES: Simon Matear of Wantabadgery Station in southern NSW with some of the family’s cattle.