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Gains to Come from Breeder Mortality Recording

24 July 2012
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - A new study aims to give the northern beef industry a greater understanding of the impact of breeder mortality on their enterprises.

Recent surveys of beef operations across extensive pastoral regions across northern Australia indicate that most producers are unaware of the level of impact that breeder mortality can have on their profitability.

Many beef producers have traditionally estimated their breeder losses to be around three per cent but surveys conducted in the Northern Territory in 2010 indicated true breeder mortality rates could be as high as nine per cent.

MLA is now undertaking a study of seven regions across northern Australia to get a better understanding of the issue of breeder mortality at a station level.

Preliminary findings from this study indicate average regional breeder mortality rates have ranged from around three per cent to 12 per cent annually over the last three to four years.

The seasonal and management reasons for this range in mortality rates are being analysed. Alastair Henderson, a livestock consultant with more than 40 years’ experience in the northern beef industry, has teamed up with consultants Steve Banney and Nigel Perkins, to lead the research project.

The project team analysed station records from 39 properties across northern Australia.

Alistair hopes the research findings, due later this year, will give producers a better understanding of the negative impact breeder deaths can have on their bottom line.

“We believe that the economic modelling on individual properties that we are currently undertaking will show a significant economic impact at a property level,” Alistair said.

He commented that the accuracy of station records was not uniformly high and suggested northern producers could achieve a higher rate of accuracy by conducting bangtail musters every three to four years.

The results of the study will be finalised later this year, however Alistair said producers could start to consider ways to get a true understanding of their breeder mortality rate.

“The most important thing is to establish a recording system to accurately record cattle numbers handled, brandings and movements onto or off the property,” he said.

“If producers aren’t using electronic identification tags, a bangtail muster can be a starting point or a check method to compare with previous bangtail musters.”

A bangtail muster, if properly conducted, provides a very cheap and accurate tool for estimating the number of stock on a property. If all the stock that are captured (yarded) are identified with a cut tail (bangtail) and released back into the paddocks, then after a period of about 4–6 weeks it is reasonable to assume that they will be once again evenly distributed in the herd.

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