While industry-wide recommendations based on the Cash Cow project can’t be made just yet, preliminary findings point toward a number of best practice approaches to managing breeder herds in northern Australia.
•Implement foetal ageing at annual pregnancy test to enable identification and management of ‘out-of-season calving females’ and more appropriate timing of branding/ weaning musters.
•Assess wet season pastures by using faecal P testing to determine P status of females.
•Implement a heifer replacement program, and cull heifers that fail to conceive within three months of joining.
•Assess body condition score of all cows at annual pregnancy test during first-round muster. Aim to have cows at body condition score 3 or better at time of calving.
•Ensure weaning occurs before cows lose too much condition, and that cows have sufficient time and access to adequate quality pasture to recover condition prior to next calving.
•Ensure pregnant cows are on a good plane of nutrition (protein and energy) in the last trimester of pregnancy. (This is another good reason to manage out-of-season calvers as a separate group, as it’s difficult to achieve this in the last months of the dry season).
Many of these practices are explained in two MLA publications, Heifer management in northern beef herds 2nd edition and Weaner management in northern beef herds.
About Cash Cow
Cash Cow data was collected from:
3 states Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia
78 commercial beef cattle breeding properties located between south-west Queensland and the Pilbara for three to four years
2–3 breeding cycles of 78,256 breeding females more than 45,000 weaners
1,633 dung samples
8,499 blood samples
275,000km travelled for data collection
The data collected from participants included bull selection and management policy, vaccination programs, supplements fed, rainfall, distance to water, stocking rate, mustering technique, weaner weights, cull cow information and disease status.
To help producers increase reproductive efficiency in their northern beef herds, the Cash Cow database will be used to identify realistic benchmarks for major reproductive traits (eg percentage of females pregnant four months after calving) based on the value achieved by the upper 25% of mobs in the study.
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