As the four-year, $2.3 million beef research project Ca$hCow reaches its conclusion, there are some significant findings for northern graziers.
Ca$hCow has been a collaboration between some of Australia's leading experts in beef reproduction, funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and lead by the University of Queensland.
The QAAFI Research Fellow and veterinarian Dr Geoffry Fordyce, based at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Charters Towers, is part of the Ca$hCow team.
QAAFI is a research institute in the University of Queensland, which was formed through an alliance between the university and the Queensland government, which brings together scientists from across the plant, animal and food sciences, working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
Dr Fordyce said primary data analyses from monitoring the 70,000 cattle that had been undertaken since the research started had been very revealing - most valuable to emerge were new ways to assess cow herd performance, rather than the traditional weaning rate.
"Beef production efficiency, which is the kilograms of live weight produced annually per kilogram of cattle in the paddock is the yardstick. Kilograms of weaner produced per cow is emerging as one of the better indicators of production efficiency.
"The project is revealing ways of identifying achievable levels of reproduction performance for specific situations, and what are the keys to sustaining a productive herd."
The research team has identified that pregnancy within four months of calving coupled with loss of pregnancies or calves before weaning are the key drivers of beef production efficiency.
Four major factors lowered pregnancy rates within four months of calving - calving in the period July to September; a body condition score of less than three at the time of pregnancy diagnosis; low phosphorous availability during the wet season, and low diet protein late in the dry season.
To demonstrate the results, the range of performance was grouped according to land types downs, brigalow, southern forest and northern forest.
But Dr Fordyce also emphasised that breeder performance is limited by the inherent production capability of the paddock where the cattle are located, and the project will recommend a way of establishing this.
Dr Fordyce said researchers from Queensland and the Northern Territory interested in learning more about the Ca$hCow research findings could log on to www.screencast.com/t/8XLkT6pEe to see the Beef 2012 presentations and find key contacts.
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