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Central West Queensland


18 September, 2020

Young females hold the biggest promise of a return to profitability

BEEF PRODUCERS from Tambo to Longreach travelled to Barcaldine last week to hear of better ways to manage their young replacement heifers as part of the Desert Uplands Committee's Girl Power Project.

Held on Wednesday, September 9, in the Ken Wilson Pavilion in Barcaldine Showgrounds, 30 graziers met to hear in layered and rich detail about how to improve critical aspects of their female breeders, so they're healthier, more productive and resilient through our increasingly dry times.

The Desert Uplands Committee is partnering with CHRRUP and Meat and Livestock Australia's (MLA) Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) program for the Girl Power Project, which discusses the needs of replacement females from weaning through to them having their first calves and becoming life-long productive cows.

Currently consulting to MLA as Animal Production Co-Ordinator for the Northern Beef Program, Dr Geoff Niethe presented information and data from over 40 years of beef research, detailing the key aspects of best management practice of breeder females in extensive rangeland beef operations.

As the single most important factor for a cow to reconceive is her condition at calving, understanding average rainfall patterns is vital to ensure they have green pasture in front of them, as that calf doubles its mother's energy requirements.

For a maiden heifer, this is critical as she is smaller framed, still growing and having to learn on the job her maternal skills. Preg-testing with foetal ageing, plus secure heifer and bull paddocks were also key takeaways from the sessions provided by Dr Niethe.

Well-known northern beef producer, Russell Lethbridge, consolidated these key elements by outlining how his family's multi-property multi-generational business has achieved over 85 per cent pregnancy rates in their two-year-old heifers through a 12-week joining period from November, culling any females failing to calf by the following December.

Fundamentals include lining-up production with pasture, phosphorous and supplementary feeding, and targeting days to calving and fertility EBV's in bulls.

The Girl Power Project will involve information and data sharing over the next four years. 

Participating graziers will monitor and collect data on their #9, #0 and #1 heifers from wearers through to calving, develop and implement a Heifer Management Plan, then tweak their practices to improve their replacement female program. Meetings, workshops and field days will enable shared learning between graziers in Central West Queensland.

Longreach-based QDAF Officers, Jane Tincknell and Leanne Hardwick, provided further regionalised information and relevant departmental updates, with Blackall-based Biosecurity Officer, Dan Burton, revising reproductive diseases and treatments.

The enduring dry and recent high prices for cull females has reduced northern breeder numbers.

Young females hold the biggest promise of a return to profitability, especially with the expectant good season approaching. 

They also pose the biggest threat to any self-replacing breeder operation if poorly managed through their early life.

The Girl Power Project seeks to demonstrate those heifer management practices that work in our rangelands, and to optimise the rebuild and productivity of our cow herds. 

Contact Robyn Adams, DUC Chair, or Ed Wood, CHRRUP's Project Officer for future activities and participation.  

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