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nA network of Beef Profit Partnership (BPP)
teams is being established across Australia,
comprising industry members, farmers and
nBPPs tightly link on-farm and supply-chain
innovation with improved profitability of beef
businesses and outcomes discernible from the
BY CATHERINE NORWOOD
Murray and Debbie Haigh own and
operate Redfield Pastoral at Washpool
in Central Queensland (CQ). Their
19,153-hectare property is devoted to breeding
and fattening a mixed Droughtmaster, Brahman
and Charolais cattle herd.
With management practices fine-tuned
through the Beef Profit Partnership (BPP)
program, Murray says he has been able to
steadily increase the value of his animals. "I have
a benchmark price and I don't like to sell stock
below that price," he says. "Over the past five
years our average price per beast has risen from
$795 to $863."
Murray has been a member of the CQ
BEEF Mackenzie River BPP group since 2006.
The group has six members, all of whom live
within 100 kilometres of each other. He joined
the group out of interest in the Profit ProbeTM
software tool, which is provided as part of the
program. He says the software provides analysis
that helps to concentrate his focus where it will
have the most financial impact for his business.
He was first introduced to Profit ProbeTM
as part of a Grazing for Profit course. While
aware that the program originated with an aid
initiative in Africa, he has found it valuable for
his own business, particularly now that it has
been developed as an online program.
Using these tools he quickly discovered that
he could achieve greater profits by buying in and
fattening his own steers, rather than leasing part
of his property to others, who were doing the
same thing. "Agistment only gave us about $2.50
per head per week," he says. "Running our own
cattle gave us a return of $4--$5/head/week."
It also helped identify the benefits of breeding
their own cattle and of increasing throughput
by mating heifers early. They now mate their
heifers at 12 months of age, rather than waiting
up to two years, and use supplements to help
the heifers gain the weight needed for successful
mating. The heifer calving percentage has
increased from 60% to about 76%.
Financial analysis indicated they needed to
increase calving by 12% to cover the cost of
the supplements. They not only exceeded this
benchmark but have earned extra income from
heavier cows when it comes time to sell.
Discussion with the members of his BPP
group has encouraged Murray to take an even
more rigorous approach to mating. He now
weighs heifers in advance and those with no
chance of reaching the 300-kilogram benchmark
are culled. He grazes these heifers for six months
or so on marginal land, which may not otherwise
be used, before selling them.
"The group discussions have been a valuable
part of the program, although it was a bit
daunting initially, exposing my finances and
business practices to other people," he says. "But it
is a good opportunity to hear what other people
are doing and to throw ideas around. You can
fudge the figures to make yourself look better,
but in the end, you're only kidding yourself."
He sells his cattle directly to the meatworks---
mainly the Japanese ox market---but a key part
of his strategy is to sell them when it suits him,
not when he is forced to ... a ploy also adopted
by beef farmers in South African BPPs.
"We stock about one beast per 10 acres," he
says. "If we pushed the land we could increase
that to one per 8 acres. But I don't want to be
put into a position where I'm forced to sell
because there's an interest payment due, or
because of the seasonal conditions."
Reducing the level of debt and diversifying
risk is his current focus so that he is better able
to ride production ups and downs. He is also
investigating other farming opportunities,
including cropping, but so far the numbers
have not stacked up.
Across the BPP program in Queensland,
25 teams made up of 250 beef businesses
and 600 partners have assessed more than
275 improvement options. More than 120
innovations have been implemented, each
with measurable impacts on productivity and
profitability at individual beef business level.
Preliminary analysis by the University of New
England has found that profits for 60% of 58
businesses studied were beating the comparable
regional industry average by more than 5%,
while 25% beat it by more than 20%. n
PROJECT: LPS/1999/036 -- Developing
profitable beef business systems for previously
disadvantaged farmers in South Africa.
CONTACT: Beef Cooperative Research Centre,
BENEFITS TO AUSTRALIA: FARMER CASE STUDY
Developed during ACIAR projects in South Africa, Beef Profit Partnerships proved so
successful it has since been adopted in Australia and New Zealand.
PHOTO: DEBBIE HAIGH
Murray Haigh is using techniques pioneered in an ACIAR
project on his central Queensland property to maximise
profits from his cattle breeding and fattening operation.
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