Keen weaner producers warned: Don’t lose focus

20/08/2019 Posted by admin

Beef consultant Bill Hoffman, with yarded F1 steers on his leased country at Backmede, via Casino. Taking shortcuts with weaners now won’t build a future reputation.WITH market prices bouyant again as we enter the new year there are murmurs among some breedersthat effort exerted on yard weaning is wasted come sale day.

On the North Coast in particular,where yard weaning ahead of the autumn sales often takes place during wet and humid weather, there is strong evidence to suggest calves lose their beautiful bloom when they come off mothers’ milk and go backwards after time spent in muddy yards. Come sale day buyers then punish, rather than reward, those who follow this so-called ‘best practice’.

Beef Consultant Bill Hoffman, whose clients cover country from the coast to the north-west slopes, disagrees with that notion and says yard weaning remains a key step on the path to creating a reputation for quality.

“Yard weaning is a lifetime investment,” he says. “I say to people who are genuine long-term weaner producers the practice is a good investment. It might not pay a premium every year but in doing so producers are supplying a product that comes with a reputation that it will go ahead –not backwards – when it at the purchaser’s property. The industry respects good practice.”

Mr Hoffman, who trades in steers infused witha modest Brahman content (his favourite being first cross with Hereford) yard weans for ‘easier managementand production benefitsfurther down the chain’.

“My cattle are well handled,” he says. “They are co-mingled with calves from other properties. When they arrive at the feedlot they will do well from day one. They won’t get sick, they won’t succumb to Bovine Respiratory Disease or associated illnesses and I have the benefit of a reputation that attracts repeat buyers.”

Looking further ahead Mr Hoffman saysmarket forecasters predictprices are certain to retract as processors and feedlotters become increasingly desperate for sustainability; requiring positive margins to do so.

“Prices like these, above $4 per kilogram liveweight for light restocker cattle, simply can’t go on forever.Something, somewhere, has got to give,” he says.“Producers need to plan to manage their business with lowerpricesin the near future.”

Of course many producers on the North Coast, Eastern Fall and New England Tablelands were right now concerned with the impact of a very dry spring and early summer on calf growth.

“Many producers in northern NSW have clear memories of heat wave conditions last February,” he says, “and the resulting terrible season which continued through summer and autumn.”

Kilos of beef the key driverThefailed summer in 2016 for much of northern NSW can be blamed for a 10 per centrise in the average cost of production recorded by Hoffman Beef clientslast financial year.That was largely due to adrop in average beef kilos producedaccording to northern beef consultant Bill Hoffman.

Extrapolating the figures gleaned from his own clients he said producers were extended a hand by buoyantmarketprices which delivered positive gross margins.Withoutthose high prices producerswould have had to absorb those lost kilos and higher cost of production consequences.

“This highlights the need to stay focused on maximising the productivity of the business,” he said.“Kilograms of beef produced is the key profit driver over the longer term.”

For instance Mr Hoffman uses growth hormones in his Brahman cross steers.“I buy them as weaners, all local cattle,” he said,“and grow out to feeder steers in the420-520kg grid but increasingly sell in the lighter end of that.”

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