If livestock producers want to improve and grow their business into a more profitable enterprise then technology and data recording is a useful tool in which to continually benchmark livestock performance and efficiency.
Applying this information in order to make better decisions both in breeding and management situations has proved to be invaluable for livestock producer and lotfeeder Alexandra Riggall.
While Ms Riggall admits that producers were not always compensated at the other end for taking those extra steps to produce better quality beef, there will hopefully be a time when efficiency and improved carcase traits will be an advantage over competitors and producers will be rewarded.
"The aim of the game is that we as producers need to be doing everything we can to make our product better and more efficient," she said.
Ms Riggall has spent more than eight years interpreting feedlot data obtained from the Pugh family business with their northern and southern feedlots and the information she has gathered has helped the business understand which cattle perform best for different markets .
Focusing on supplying beef cattle for the domestic grainfed market, she said there were a number of ways the family had been utilising both processor feedback and their own records to ensure they ran an efficient operation.
"By collecting data daily including weights and carcase feedback, and inputting that data into a specialist program we were able to record that information against each individual animal and work out just how that animal had performed," she said.
While Ms Riggall said this method was extremely helpful in their type of intensive feedlot situation, for the normal cow-calf producer it was highlighting the fact that by using data feedback you could improve your profitability and keep a better eye on productivity.
"Stock management and genetic selection are the easiest ways in which to ensure you're not an easy target for penalties at the processing end," she said.
"Some management issues to consider are the reduction of dark cutters and bruising, through handling and lowering stress levels prior to trucking and keeping the muscle glycogen high in the animals, making sure the nutrition is right to maximise growth rate and get the adequate fat depth and marbling in the meat".
"However, on the breeding front having all this data at our disposal really got us thinking about ways in which we as cattle breeders could get the best from our cattle.
"We are involved in all aspects of the supply chain (apart from processing) in that we have a stud, run a large commercial herd and have a feedlot which gives us a clear view of what is needed in all areas of those sections."
"Number one in supplying the domestic market, we need to hit the required weight and fat specifications," she said.
"However, while these issues were relatively easy to achieve with steer progeny there was always that 10 cent discount for heifers by some processors which dragged us down.
"By using a crossbreeding program to incorporate more muscle in our calves through use of crossbreeding with both British bred and a European breed we started making ground in trying to alleviate that negativity associated with heifer progeny by breeding females with comparable muscling to steers.
"The feedback we have been getting from processors regarding our heifer bodies has been excellent."
Another aspect, as yet not rewarded by processors, is the lean meat yield of the animals at slaughter.
The Pugh's focus on getting better dressing percentages and more yield per animal as they believe that is what the industry was all about.
"Benefits of increased yield includes producing more beef per animal and reducing carbon emissions which means we will be needing less animals in order to get the same amount of meat off them."
An example of the differences possible in yield per animal were illustrated in a small bone-out trial involving the Pughs' genetics.
The bone-out trial involved both steers and heifers in which some were of Pughs' breeding and some that were bought in, all the animals met the weight and fat specifications for the domestic market and would have received the same price per kg.
The carcases were boned out and every cut of saleable beef was weighed to gain percentage yield with interesting results.
A Gelbvieh cross heifer came out on top with 76.21pc total saleable meat which was 13pc more yield than the lowest steer in the trial at 63.11pc.
While the heifer was a standout animal, Ms Riggall said it was an interesting result which demonstrated the possible variations between different cattle types and breeds and also showed how a carcase could be more valuable to a processor.
"If processors are able to provide information which measures yield and meat quality on a per animal basis it would give producers specific information on what animals perform better," she said.
"This additional feedback will give producers more incentive to produce better beef.
"While it is clear that from looking at these attributes that there are definite ways in which we as producers can better our product, it will be good when there are extra incentives provided by processor which extend through to our back pocket."
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