Bullseye 2 Livestock Productivity Project

Project Name: Bullseye 2 Livestock Productivity Project
Aim: Implement best practice livestock management to improve livestock productivity and range condition
Project Duration: Dec 2021 - May 2028
Funding body: Meat and Livestock Australia

Executive Summary:

The Bullseye 2 Livestock Productivity Project (Bullseye) aims to support producers through the selection, adoption and assessment of new or improved management strategies to increase the productivity and profitability of their pastoral enterprise whilst simultaneously improving the environmental condition of their rangelands property.

The project aims to achieve:

  • Effective livestock control
  • Seasonal stocking rates to meet range condition and body condition objectives
  • Livestock management strategies: effective weaning, botulism vaccination; breeder mortality
  • Utilisation of new technology
  • New skills and knowledge for producers transitioning from sheep to cattle production
Background:

The WA Southern Rangelands, particularly the Murchison and Goldfields districts, are home to landscapes that have suffered severe loss of perennial ground cover plant species and the consequent erosion due to a century of Merino enterprises that could sustain a profit with poor reproduction and mortality figures.

After the collapse of the Wool Reserve Price Scheme came the wild dog explosion that eliminated both sheep and goats, forcing many stations to develop alternative businesses servicing the mining industry.

Relief from grazing pressure has enabled some landscapes to regenerate and pastoralists are either erecting predator proof fences for the eventual re-introduction of sheep and/or re-engineering infrastructure to run cattle.

This project addresses the dual objectives of regenerating perennial ground cover species (rangeland condition) to protect against soil erosion and provide the limiting dietary energy sources, while improving livestock productivity with careful management of total grazing pressures.

Objectives:

By December 2027, 90% of core producers will have increased enterprise productivity and profitability as a result of adopting one or more practices. Priority productivity improvements will include, but are not limited to the following (estimated current and target ratios in brackets):

Increase in turn off (current 17%, target 22%).

Increase in mustering efficiency (current 70%, target 85%).

Reduction in breeder mortality (current 10%, target 8%).

Reduction in steer mortality (current 3%, target 2%).

Increase in branding rate (current 50%, target 65%).

By December 2027, 90% of core producers will achieve a 10% average increase in groundcover, as measured by remote sensing. At least 10 photo-monitoring points will be established across 10 properties to enable ground truthing and annual comparisons of rangeland condition. Seasonal climatic data and management records will also be kept.

By December 2027, 100% of core producers will have increased their knowledge of strategies and practices to increase the productivity of a pastoral business and provided a satisfaction rating of at least 7/10 for the project.

All core producers will keep a simple cost-benefit analysis showing how changed practices have impacted enterprise gross margin. This will be tracked and reported annually, as well as at project completion.

Note: Current livestock productivity figures quoted in these objectives are estimates only. Southern Rangelands herd recording data is insufficient to determine current production parameters with accuracy. Similarly, current gross margin data not available. An outcome of the project will be the generation of objective herd performance data.

Practices and activities:

Mustering efficiency

Bang tailing of mustered cattle and observing cattle at waters in following weeks will provide an indication of mustering efficiency. Infrastructure developments such as self-mustering yards and different mustering strategies including self-herding technologies will be employed to improve efficiency towards a target of ninety-five per cent. Individual animal ID will be explored as a tool to capture and manage mustering data.

Forage assessment

Remote sensing data will be accessed from the Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) service. CiboLabs remote sensing assisted forage assessments will also be used where available. These will be used as aids to the visual assessments that will be demonstrated in the field using the methodology documented in the Pastoral Profits Guide.

Forage supply will be assessed to inform stocking rate adjustments (accounting for non-domestic grazers) in line with range condition and body condition score targets. Installation and recording processes for range condition monitoring sites will be demonstrated and explained. Participants will participate in field activities identifying the key plants of pastoral value in different land systems and demonstrate this knowledge through monitoring activities.

Body condition scoring (BCS) of breeders

Photo guides and yard workshops will demonstrate BCS assessment to producers and a proforma will be provided outlining recording practices. Participants will be shown how to use current BCS and forage budgeting reconciliations to meet targeted BCS of 3. Correlations between change in BCS and liveweight will also be outlined through this exercise and liveweight measurements encouraged whenever scales are available on station.

Animal husbandry

Appropriate weaning strategies will be identified for available levels of station infrastructure, with benefits demonstrated through local case studies. Botulism vaccination will also be proposed and a standard practice. These combined practices will contribute to increased turnoff, increased breeder BCS and reduced mortality. Individual animal ID will be explored as a tool to manage animal performance data and inform culling decisions.

Animal nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies will be identified and discussed in collaboration with ongoing regional projects. Supplementation practices (particularly for P) will be explored where required and economically beneficial.

Enterprise structure

Participants will be provided with economic analyses and dry season risk profiles for various herd and flock structures and turnoff regimes. This will inform the proportion of breeders in the herd, and the challenges of planning a gradual change to older steer turn-off to avoid cash flow droughts.

Genetic Selection

As participants reach high mustering efficiency and effective animal control, the facilitator will provide reference material and individually discuss the benefits of using EBVs to select herd bulls. This would involve development of a breeding objective appropriate to their business and pastoral environment.

MSA and processor feedback

Participants with advanced herd management and high mustering efficiency will be exposed to the benefits of MSA for producers and how they can use MSA feedback sheets to inform their breeding objectives and bull purchases.
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