REEDY Creek Angus weaner producer Michael Cobiac has been reaping the rewards of a renewed emphasis on post-weaning nutrition, animal health and docility as his business embarks on its next phase.
Formerly running a mixed enterprise, Mr Cobiac has made significant changes in the past eight years.
After undertaking a business analysis, all sheep were sold and Mr Cobiac began focusing on running a profitable single enterprise.
He runs a 800-head self-replacing Angus herd on 1100 hectares of annual pastures on redgum flats between Kingston SE and Robe, turning off about 625, 16-month-old weaners every November.
While Mr Cobiac now sells feedlot entry cattle at 450 to 500 kilograms, it was feedback from Meat Standards Australia-consigned cattle a few years ago that led him to hone in on supplementary feeding, animal health and docility as ways of improving his herd. Ossification and high PH were the reasons given for the few cattle that fell out of MSA grading.
"The primary causes of ossification are age and stress events," Mr Cobiac said.
"I thought if they're having stress events, that's not good because they won't reach their full potential.
"The conclusion I reached was to reduce stress by implementing as good a weaning program as possible and minimise any disease issues with a comprehensive animal health program.
"I benefit from those principles as a breeder because I'm producing a greater proportion of healthy animals that are as heavy as they can be. The fact those principles are beneficial for feedlotters is a win-win. I don't necessarily get paid for it but it will help me build relationships and ensure there's always a customer to sell to."
Post-weaning is often the most stressful period during a steer's life, so Mr Cobiac decided to counter any potential nutritional deficits by buying in supplementary feed during that period when paddock feed was also low.
While it can be expensive, buying in hay has multiple benefits for Mr Cobiac as it mitigates any nutritional stress, ensures cattle don't go backwards and reach their turn off weights at the desired time, and frees up his entire farm for grazing throughout the year.
"Essentially buying in supplementary feed from someone else is like having a slightly larger farm because I'm using their paddock for part of the year to get feed to bring to my place," he said.
Mr Cobiac said with beef prices in such a robust position, there was plenty of margin with a $3 a head investment in supplementary feed resulting in a $6 a head improvement at selling time.
A rotational grazing system is in place for the remainder of the year, with pastures grown to their three-leaf stage, then intensively grazed by the herd, who then move to the next paddock.
REEDY Creek beef producer Michael Cobiac is an avid benchmarker and it is helping him grow his business while also reaching his overall goal.
That goal is to be able to retire and leave his kids with opportunity.
He says beef production is "the how and not the why".
After embarking on his own professional career, Mr Cobiac returned to Reedy Creek a dozen years ago and purchased the property off his father.
"I decided I needed to keep upgrading the business and my background was very much about using science so I sought out the best information I could find and that led me to benchmarking," he said.
"It's really business analysis and just using some form of mechanism to see how your business is going and where you can do better."
The process led to him deciding to buy more land, transitioning to a single enterprise and improving infrastructure.
It has resulted in a labour-efficient farm where Mr Cobiac can do the majority of tasks himself and use contractors sparingly for jobs like spraying or tractor driving.
He also selects genetics for fertility, calving ease and docility, and has reached a point where he says he can focus on improving growth attributes.
"All of those things contribute to a greater amount of beef turned off and a high quality of beef due to the reduction of any potential stressors," he said.
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