Workshop participants at the end of a highly successful workshop. Everyone agreed that they learnt a lot about preg testing and breeder and herd management.

Veterinarian Ian Braithwaite uses a bovine pelvic bone to demonstrate the correct technique when pregnancy-testing cows. 

Class is in… Theory first, practical later. Attendees at veterinarian Ian Braithwaite’s pregnancy testing and breeder management workshop pay attention during “class”.

Topics covered at the workshop:

  • Early detection of non-pregnant heifers and breeders, allowing for informed decisions on retention or culling of animals from herd.
  • Early detection of some reproductive abnormalities.
  • Real data on herd performance:
  • individual animal, group and herd conception rates;
  • death rates between mating and weaning;
  • accurately predict the size of the herd each season, and match actual stocking rate to available pasture; and
  • identification of reasons behind low reproduction rates (bull performance, female nutritional inadequacies, untreated diseases in mobs, or solely unproductive individual females).
  • Separation of groups of females calving at the same time:
  • sale of under-performing cattle if a shortage of grass is predicted; and
  • targeted mob supplement program specific to nutritional needs (rather than blanket supplementation).

Watch this video that features veterinarian Ian Braithwaite when he hosted a workshop near Glenden for the LDC project in 2019.

Workshop back by popular demand

By popular demand, veterinarian Ian Braithwaite returned to the BBB in September to run a  pregnancy testing and breeder management workshop. There were 22 people at the Havilah Station event.

Reproduction performance is probably the single most important factor affecting the economics and profitability of beef cattle breeding operations in Australia.

Producers are seeking help to manage their herds more effectively to achieve optimum breeder herd performance, especially reproduction performance.

For cows, reproduction is about the capacity to conceive and rear a calf to weaning each year following puberty. For bulls, reproduction is about the capacity and ability to sire a large number of viable offspring each mating year. 

The two-day workshop focused on the theoretical and practical skills of pregnancy testing and foetal ageing in cattle, and how to integrate the learned skills and information into decision-making practices about livestock efficiency and performance, landscape resilience and business profitability.

Mr Braithwaite said producers were seeing improvements to reproduction and scanning rates thanks to early weaning, containment feeding and joining in confinement.

“Early weaning can significantly reduce feeding costs and allow females to build condition ready for joining,” Mr Braithwaite said.

“Selecting replacement heifers from those weaned in the first branding round ensure producers get the genetics from the highly fertile ones.

“Managing nutrition requirements is also important. Knowing how much feed needs to go into the animals at certain periods of the year and how much that affects joining and reproduction rates means you can manage input costs.

“Making cattle, country and people the top priorities is the best foundation on which to build a successful beef operation and to trial innovations.

“Don’t overuse the pasture, treat the country right. Make sure all cattle are productive, don’t carry any passengers, and then make your management decisions fit in with what is best for livestock.“

The workshop is part of an integrated program that the LDC Grazier Support activity area is delivering in 2020.

Greg Lennox, from Eungella, attended the workshop.

Bec Lathwell of Havilah.

Gabby Kenny, of Llanarth, Belyando.

Larissa Browning , Gunnadoo.

Lachlan Cox, of Gattonvale.

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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

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 #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 #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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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.
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