The summer seasonal rainfall pattern, with the exception of some areas that missed out, was exceptional. It was heartening to see areas in western and south western Queensland, as well as western New South Wales, receive worthwhile rain after such a long time in drought.
The Australian beef industry must address its economic future direction. Drought breaking rain does not correct fundamental economic problems. The cost of production in the Australian industry is strangling not only producer profits but threatening industry survival.
Some of the enterprising producers can manage per kilo production costs of 80-90 cents. So what!, you might say. Brazil and Argentina each have beef cattle herds five times Australia’s. Their production costs are around 70 cents per kilo and they are exporting beef into our traditional markets.
What can we do about it? It is easy to blame the high Aussie dollar (and it is a major factor), but the current rate will deflate just as surely as the drought broke. Beef producers have the power to dramatically change their production costs by considering the following -
• Breed Adaption. Take the fashion out of herd breeds and go with breeds that are totally suited to the climate, nutrition and parasites.
• Herd Fertility. The estrous cycle is the first function to shut down in bovine females when the animal is under stress, be it due to climatic, nutritional, parasitic or any other stressor. Cull females that do not produce for whatever reason in a given time frame.
• Time of Ownership. The longer you keep something the more it costs. All cattle herds have good performers and not so good performers. Cull the poor performers as soon as possible, turn them into cash and keep the grass for the better performing animals.
Some time ago I came across research that has been developed in Canada to produce ethanol from cellulose. I read the other day that work is being done here in Australia to commercialise cellulose/ethanol production from perennial ryegrass.
What a turn around if the ban on Gamba grass has to be reversed - as a tropical equivalent to ryegrass. Gamba grass produces enormous quantities of dry matter, as its opponents pointed out, and it has a very low cost of production. Perennial grasses that have deep fibrous root systems actually produce nitrogen from aerobic activity in these root systems. The plant then utilizes this nitrogen. Having a deep root system also gives extreme drought tolerance and a deeper profile from which to extract other nutrients. As well as this, Gamba is also a very palatable, productive pasture grass.
Professor Mark Adams, Dean of Agriculture at Sydney University, recently outlined research by that university on native grasslands near the Snowy Mountains. The research found healthy soil bacteria absorbs more methane per day than a cow produces in a year.
He states sensible stocking rates, pasture management and fire management is methane neutral, or even methane positive.
Have you ever wondered with dismay, as I have, as to why the shocking road toll is happening at present? Have you ever been held up with highway lollypop traffic regulators while someone cuts the grass on the road verges, until up to 10 vehicles back up? When waved on they travel in a bunch. If there is a slow vehicle or truck in the bunch the impatient drivers take enormous risks trying to pass sometimes four to five vehicles, not only endangering their lives but other lives as well. One of the basic traffic flow principles is to have even flowing spaced out traffic, not the clusters of vehicles that are part of our current system.
I do not know what the alternatives are, perhaps electronic traffic control with speed cameras to catch drivers who do not obey the signage, along with stiffer penalties for offenders.
Having travelled in China extensively where traffic densities are greater than we have here, I have seen few accidents and certainly no traffic lollypop systems. We travelled along four lane highways that were under construction. There was no traffic impediment at all.
Why did God make man before he made woman? Because he didn’t want any advice on how to do it.
~ Anonymous ~
ON THE ROAD
Bullocks grazing grass and legume pastures on the Atherton Tablelands
IMPROVE YOUR BOTTOM LINE BY 25% THROUGH LEGUMES
- Ross Newman -
If someone came to you and said they could provide you with at least a 25% increase to the bottom line in your grazing operation, would you take this person seriously or just laugh it off as not possible? Either way I guess I am going to have some people laughing at me and others reading with intent.
For many years, the benefits of having up to one stylo plant per square metre within a native pasture system within the northern grazing zone, have been well publicised, with substantial gains in carrying capacity and conception rates through an increased plane of nutrition. But what about our more fertile, higher rainfall areas that are traditionally used for fattening? Surely gains can be made here?
Recently I was asked to give a presentation to a group of Atherton Tablelands beef producers regarding the potential for legume introduction into their tropical grass pastures.
Before accepting the invitation I decided to crunch some figures to assess the viability of doing so, based on the knowledge that this is valuable land and there is a need for return on investment. Lo and behold, at the end of 12 months producers would be 25% better off through introducing legumes, having a sustainable pasture system and running 35% less stock, when compared with high fertiliser input pastures with heavy stocking rates.
One important factor, as one of the producers in this group pointed out, was that if the same heavy stocking rates as a traditional grass pasture are maintained in a legume and grass pasture, within a short period of time one can run into problems with preferential grazing of grasses, resulting in legume dominant pastures. The issue with this is that legumes traditionally do not produce the high dry matter levels common in straight grass pastures, resulting in significantly reduced grazing days.
For too long there has been the perception that as a producer you need to run large numbers to make ends “meat”. But if you are only running productive and reproductive animals (depending on your system) in a well maintained pasture system, with any luck at the end of the year you may have some spare change in the bank, instead of people knocking on your door.
Dear Lord, I know I don’t talk to you that much, but this past year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Sarah Fawcett, and my favorite musician, Michael Jackson. I just wanted to let you know that my favorite prime minister is Kevin Rudd.
~ Cairns Post 24.05.10 ~
SAVE SOME MONEY ON THIS YEAR’S SEEDING PROJECT
- Ross Newman -
Have you got a seeding project in mind this year and are looking to save some much needed dollars? For the month of June, Southedge Seeds will be offering significant discounts on any seed purchased and paid for by the end of the month. If you have concerns about your ability to store the seed in a safe environment, we will happily store the seed free of charge in our climate controlled store room until such time as you require it.
SEED AVAILABILITY FOR THIS YEAR
- Ross Newman -
This year will see the much awaited return of commercial quantities of Cardillo Centro, Aztec Atro and the Caatinga stylos. In an effort to secure reliable supply of these PBR cultivars, Southedge Seeds has invested in producing these cultivars itself. In the absence of some big frosts, these crops should be harvested within the next couple of months, resulting in seed being ready for sale in spring.
This year we have increased our production area of Bolton 495™ Pinto Peanut to hopefully meet market demand. We will aim to keep this crop going for as long as possible to ensure seed yield can be maximised. Perhaps by September we may see some seed come onto the market.
This year has been a great growing year for our Mekong Briz™antha, which we hope will lead to excellent seed quality. There will be Alto Pan™icum seed available within the next two months. If last year was anything to go by, seed will sell quickly.
There will also be limited seed availability of Jarra Grass and Humidicola seed. These stocks will surely go fast. There are reasonable quantities of most other seed lines, but the quality seed will be sure to move fast.
IN THE PADDOCK
This Year’s Mekong Briz™antha Seed Crop
One just has to sit and wonder as to what the Australian education system is really teaching our children. When I was going to primary school, I was taught about the pioneering efforts of John Macarthur in introducing Merino sheep into Australia, William Farrer and his revolutionary wheat breeding programs, and how the Archer brothers were some of the first graziers to run cattle in Central Queensland. We learnt that agriculture had ensured the survival of the colony that became Australia and that it would play a pivotal role in its future prosperity. Did I learn this just because I went to a small country school or was it because this was all part of the teaching curriculum? More importantly though, at what point did children stop being taught about how this country was raised on the back of agriculture, and start being taught that agriculture is damaging and degrading the Australian environment instead?
This was highlighted no better than in the recent NAPLAN Year 7 reading test, where the question was raised regarding kangaroo meat production versus beef production. The following text made much of the damaging methane emissions from cattle as opposed to those from native animals. Where was the balance in this argument that was given to our children as fact and not just someone’s opinion? I am not surprised by the lack of balance shown though, as the majority of the left wing life-time academics who write these exams have little concept of the real world that exists outside their offices. Are they, as the apparently educated adults in this equation, even aware of the potential land degradation and reduced levels of stored carbon from unmanaged pasture systems if the kangaroo population was to be allowed to increase to the levels required to replace our beef (and even sheep) production.
Even my two year old daughter is aware that food is an essential part of survival. She’s not aware of how the economy works, how carbon is emitted or how people like Rudd stay in power, but she is aware that eggs come from chooks, meat comes from cows, and vegetables (and rabbits) come from the vegetable patch. At what point did this message get lost to the wider community and stop being taught as basic facts to our children?
From the education system up, the wider community needs to understand that without food, we cannot live. And without the farmers and graziers who produce this food we cannot survive as a nation.
On the brighter side though, if the farmers and graziers aren’t making any money then at least we should be exempt from a super tax…for now at least…………but that is another story.