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. 


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


Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
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KEQ #4

The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

KEQ #3

*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

KEQ #1

Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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