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Project helps fill the feed gap

Project helps fill the feed gap

The construction of a 500-head drought feeding facility is set to offer continuity in times of need for a dynamic beef enterprise in Queensland’s Western Downs region.

Justin and Kate Boshammer run about 500 registered Angus, Brangus, Ultrablack and Wagyu cows and 200 commercial cows across 6,330 ha of owned and leased land in the Condamine and Dulacca districts.

These include ‘Elgin’ and ‘Camilaroi West’ in the Condamine district and ‘Aberfeldy’ and ‘Warrema’ in the Dulacca district.

Located on ‘Aberfeldy’, the feedlot will be used, if needed, to grow out commercial weaners through to feedlot weights, thereby freeing up valuable pastures for growing bulls and the breeding herd.

“This project is 100% about filling the feed gap for our growing cattle and leaving the pasture for the bulls to grow out in the way our customers want them,” Justin says.

“In the paddock, the animals are walking to graze.

“In the feedpad, they are consuming feed purely to gain weight.”

The drought feeding facility comprises of four 45 x 50 metre pens, each capable of holding 125 head, and a 180-metre concrete feed trough.

The feedlot’s first ‘customers’ will be 200 Angus x Wagyu weaners returning from agistment.
“We’ll get them home and feed them for 60 days,” Justin says.

“They have the frame – we just need to fill them out in a way that aligns with our customer’s feeding program, to ensure ideal induction weights and capacity to reach their potential for marbling and carcase weight.”
“At the end of this feeding program, we’ll cover up the pit until we need it again next.”

The nutrition program will be based on silage contract grown in the Condamine region.

The forage sorghum crop was harvested and transported 70 km to ‘Aberfeldy’ by Wayne Galley Silage Contracting.

More than 1300 tonnes was packed into two 50 x 12 metre pits dug into a ridge.

“We knew Lallemand Animal Nutrition Technical Services Manager, Jordan Minniecon, through local Teys Feedlot Manager Phil Lambert, and he offered to come out and help us,” Justin says.

“We’re more than happy to work with Jordan,” he says.

“You can’t be across every detail and this is his area of expertise, so it reduces our risk.

The harvested crop was treated with MAGNIVA Platinum forage inoculant, a unique combination of bacteria that promotes rapid ‘front end’ fermentation and ‘back end’ aerobic stability.

The pits were sealed with Silostop Max oxygen barrier film to limit the growth of spoilage causing yeasts and moulds.

A second layer of Silacover black and white extra heavy duty film was placed over the top of the Silostop Max oxygen barrier film as an extra level of protection. This practice is recommended for when the silage will be stored for greater than two years.

The films were covered with SilageKeeper UV covers, which provides additional protection against sunlight and potential damage caused by animals and the environment.

Finally, the three layers were sealed with SealKeeper gravel bags, which provide a re-useable and environmentally friendly alternative to car tyres.

The silage will be balanced with processed grain purchased from a neighbour (the Hughes family of Banchory Grazing and Rangeland Quality Meats) with nutritional advice from Jim Wade of Wade Agricultural Consultants.

Justin indicated the silage cost about $130/t, including transport and sealing, equivalent to approximatley $400/t on a dry matter basis.

“At the moment, we’d be paying about $570/t DM for hay or $770/t DM for cottonseed meal, so this is cheap by any standard,” he says.

“The silage and feeding facility is a long-term investment in our business.”

“We want the feedpad to be a turn-key operation,” he says.

JK Cattle Co sells about 150 Angus, Brangus, Ultrablack and Wagyu bulls a year to beef producers, a number Justin and Kate are continuing to grow.

“We want to supply quality black genetics that produce quality meat for a range of markets and under a range of environmental conditions,” he says.

“Our customers tend to be working with premium supply chains and are trying to value-add to their cattle via genetics, nutrition and management.”

All cattle are run under commercial conditions.

“We use tools like breeding values and genetic estimates to identify the high performers with equal emphasis on natural selection – they have to perform on this place and for our customers,” Justin says.

“The fundamental drivers of profitability in any breeding enterprise is a calf every year, and as few inputs as necessary.

“Cows consume about 70% of your available nutrition, so it’s important they give you a calf
each year for the amount they are eating.”

Weaned heifers are grown to a joining weight of 300–320 kg, are mated for 60 days and calve down at 400–450 kg, equivalent to 75% of their mature weight.

“If we manage our pastures well, the heifers should be able to reach these targets on grass alone,” Justin says.

“We use tools to determine pasture capacity and our rotation.

“We make the call early in the season whether we can carry our stock over winter or put them on agistment.

“We generally wean at six to seven months and ideally, we want to see a cow weaning efficiency (i.e. calf weight expressed as a percentage of cow weight) of about 45-50%.”

Cows are provided supplementary feed in the paddock as necessary, but rarely, as we like to have plenty of diversity of grasses, legumes, browse and other tap rooted species to minimise or negate dry lick costs. Silage was introduced to the mix in 2023.

“The drought was starting to bite and we had more cattle than available carrying capacity,” Justin says.

“We were familiar with silage from my dad’s place and my experience overseas, but I guess we were reluctant to incorporate it into our program.

“Like most producers, we’d rather take our cattle to feed than take feed to them.

“But we realised that it was necessary for our operation.

“We are hoping that feeding silage in the feedlot will replace the need for supplementary feeding in the paddock all together.”

Weaner bulls are grown out on pasture, winter forage crops and then leucaena paddocks from late spring through to winter.

“Our goal is to make sure our bulls are wellgrown but not over-fed,” Justin says.

“We want to set them up for success, but they have to have resilience as well.

“Ideally, we want to present our two-year-old bulls at 750 kg liveweight and the yearlings at 500 kg.

“We are seeing increased demand for yearling bulls because they are great over yearling heifers, integrate well with older bulls, and for others gives the bulls six months to adapt to their new home before mating.”

Justin and Kate have built this thriving enterprise from scratch over the past 15 years.

“People said there was no money in agriculture but we saw a lot of people who seemed to be doing OK and we were determined to give it a go,” Justin says.

A turning point was when Justin and Kate, together with Justin’s father, Roger, attended a five-day RCS ‘Grazing for Profit’ program in 2009.

The program delivers a holistic and practical approach to pasture, livestock, ecological, financial and team management.

“It was an absolute game-changer for us, particularly learning about what’s really driving the profitability of our business and making sure we invest our money in the things that count,” Justin says.

“It empowered us to make the right choices and be confident about borrowing money.”

The couple later went on to complete the three-year RCS ExecutiveLink program. They graduated in 2016, and purchased the first of their properties in 2018. Continual learning and taking opportunities for personal and professional growth has always been a theme in their journey.

Justin and Kate both work full-time in JK CattleCompany, with the assistance of three fulltime team members.

“Kate’s not here today but she’s in this business, 100%,” Justin says.

“There’s no JK without the K.”

Published Apr 16, 2024

Silage