FOR grassfed beef producers the Harvey family, having a constant supply of pasture is vital.
An investment in irrigation technology is helping ensure they have year-round pasture and is also helping them to increase the number of cattle they turn off.
Grant Harvey, along with brother Ley, daughter Melissa and nephew Josh, farms at Lindsay, Strathdownie, Vic, supplying beef direct to Coles, which is sold under the Graze label and marketed as solely grassfed.
Earlier this year they were one of 16 farms and food producers Australia-wide to share in $5 million in the Coles Nurture Fund, which was established by Coles to help its suppliers protect their business from the impacts of drought in the long-term.
The fund is helping them to replace an old permanent pivot - which covered a 64-hectare block - with two towable pivots, which will each water 32ha.
Grant said these pivots would increase the accuracy of their reduce irrigation and water costs.
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All up, the Harveys have about 243ha under irrigation across their operation, with these two new pivots to be the only irrigation at that end of the property.
He said irrigation was critical to them filling their contract with Coles, with the emphasis on grassfed beef meaning they were unable to rely on grain to supplement feed gaps.
"To supply the Graze program, we need pastures 12 months of the year and we can't do that without irrigation," he said.
The Harveys supply between 2000 and 2500 cattle to Coles, spread across the year.
They buy in 270-kilogram to 320kg cattle from the South East and western Vic through saleyards and AuctionsPlus, with an emphasis on Angus, as well as some British and European breeds.
The cattle are sold about six to 10 months later, with the heifers turned off at 250kg carcaseweight and steers at 290kgcwt.
Grant said the increased confidence in their pastures, through improved irrigation, would enable them to increase the number they turn off.
"We hope to increase numbers to 3000 in the first year," he said.
"Our business is growing and after that we will see where it takes us but knowing we've got the pastures helps."
The first of the towable irrigation pivots has already arrived and is in the process of being installed.
Grant said they expected to have the system up and running by the end of November.
"We've got good early feed so we will use this for finishing grazing cattle during winter," he said.
The Harveys will also be renovating about 400ha of pastures in autumn.
They focus on high performance pastures, growing lucerne, phalaris, chicory and clover mix.
Grant said they were also investing in constructing new cattleyards at that end of the property, because their existing yards were about six kilometres away.
"It means less stress and more ease of handling of the cattle," he said.
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