Tasmania's beef producers issue challenge

by Bryan Salvage
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NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Tasmanian beef producers have challenged their Australian mainland counterparts to achieve beef production of 2,000 kilograms liveweight gain per hectare per year from pasture-based grazing systems.

This is one of the key outcomes of the five-year, A$2.1 million Red Meat Targets (R.M.T.) program, developed to help red-meat producers boost production and profits using existing knowledge and technologies, according to Meat & Livestock Australia (M.L.A.).

R.M.T. priorities were developed by M.L.A., the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research in conjunction with industry stakeholder groups.

Although the R.M.T. program identified considerable opportunities for red-meat producers in Tasmania, the opportunities also apply to southern Australia in increasing beef and lamb production and productivity from pasture-based systems.

The R.M.T. projects were undertaken in Tasmania as part of a unique red-meat industry collaborative research, development and extension initiative, said Alex Ball, M&LA lamb and sheepmeat R&D manager. "R.M.T. aimed to help Tasmanian red-meat producers overcome major limitations of increasing competition from other land uses, declining livestock numbers and rising input costs — issues that also affect producers across the Southern half of the country," he said.

Winnaleah Towards 2000, a program project in north-eastern Tasmania, achieved a top production result last year of 1,981kg liveweight gain/ha/year using a rotational grazing system with strategic nitrogen applications and irrigation. The program demonstrated a well-managed site using production tools that could lead to dramatic increases in beef output and profits, said Dr. Ball. He added the R.M.T. project results highlight the potential for beef producers in southern Australia to triple meat output from their pasture systems.

If most of Tasmania’s 2,976 beef producers could achieve a production increase to 1,200 kg liveweight gain/ha/year from the current average of 300 kg-400 kg liveweight/ha/year, it would significantly boost the state’s gross value of beef production from its current level of about A$170 million — or 16% of total agricultural commodities.

The R.M.T. program found sheepmeat producers had potential to lift gross income to A$675/ha from lambs grazing irrigated dual-purpose wheat crops — with 800kg-1,000 kg of dry matter/ha needed to maintain good lamb growth rates.

The projects also showed that significant lamb daily weight gains of 260 grams were possible during the summer grazing period by establishing Arrotas Arrowleaf clover in existing cocksfoot pasture.

"Importantly, the information that the 3,000-odd Tasmanian red-meat producers used to achieve these results are mostly contained within their current portfolio of resources including M.L.A.’s EDGEnetwork, Making More from Sheep and More Beef from Pastures programs," Dr. Ball said.

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