Braithwaite column | Landholders Driving Change

Beef production vet

Ian Braithwaite is a beef production vet who works in northern Australia with a range of corporate and family beef operations.  Ian maintains that production systems should be designed around the financial and climatic constraints of your business and region.

Possessing a great depth of knowledge of the bovine and beef production systems of northern Australia, Ian began honing his skills during the 1980s while managing health and disease eradication in beef cattle across the north.

He lives in Mt Isa and travels throughout northern Australia hosting herd management and preg testing schools, and speaking at conferences and workshops. 

Partnership

NQ Dry Tropics has worked with Dr Ian Braithwaite on a number of projects, including the Landholders Driving Change project.  

Earlier this year LDC ran a herd management and preg testing workshop focused on the theoretical and practical skills of pregnancy testing and foetal ageing in the cattle, as well as discussions on how to increase livestock efficiency and performance, business profitability and landscape resilience.

Read more information on this workshop here.

Ian says beef businesses often look for ‘blue sky’ ideas to try and solve problems.  He believes this often fails, and instead, businesses should go back to the basics.

Keep an accurate inventory

Fundamental to any business is having a known and accurate inventory (stock) the business has on hand at a particular point in time. 

Knowing the amount of inventory, the description of inventory, how it is sold and received, and the timing of this process, gives predictability to the business going forward.  This is in addition to the importance of budgeting accurate cash flows for the business.

Our cattle business is no different. Our inventory are the livestock. We need to know what is happening within our cattle inventory to be able to predict future sales and cash flows . 

Our inventory differs markedly from most businesses as it lives, breathes and grows over time compared to most other business inventories where if it sits on a shelf for 12 months it takes up no more room on the shelf. 

Our stock inventory is constantly growing either through liveweight gain or advancing pregnancy.  This has a huge affect on our stocking rates ie as pregnancy advances the cow consumes more grass and this should change our stocking rate dynamics.

Unfortunately when it comes to our cow inventory the only way to know what is happening within the cow herd is to pregnancy test the breeders. Without preg testing stockflows , sales and cashflow within the business become a questionable estimate done through averaging and for all good intents is not worth the paper it is written.

Preg testing in conjunction with foetal aging identifies optimal calving groups. Some of the benefits which flow through the business from identifying these calving groups include:

  1. predictability and accuracy  of stockflows ,sales and cash flows for the business;
  2. understanding the key dynamics of the cow herd that drive the business (KPIs);
  3. strategic supplementation of different calving groups;
  4. reduced mustering costs;
  5. making adjustments to stocking rates as cows calve; and
  6. drought mitigation strategies.

By Ian Braithwaite

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