The Australian beef industry is comparatively small on the global level, but our low domestic consumption has transformed beef into a significant export product over the years. Since the first cattle breeds were introduced in 1788, they have adapted successfully to our frequently harsh environment, becoming hardy and resistant to diseases. Thus, Australian beef exports have earned a reputation for high quality.
If you own a sizeable amount of suitable land, especially in the northern or southern areas of the country, you may be considering a cattle enterprise. But starting in this business from scratch isn’t only about setting up cattle stockyards and filling them with your herd. Here are four practical tips to ease you in.
Do your homework
The cattle industry is constantly changing. This is a reflection of volatile global markets, variations in input costs, and unpredictable threats posed by climate change or unexpected forms of the disease. Even established herders are always looking for more information.
To position yourself for long-term success, build your network. Join local organizations and associations to access valuable support resources. Pester your neighbors for their local knowledge. Talk to feed salespersons and vets for inside knowledge on health and nutrition. And don’t forget to build good relationships with bankers and other funding sources.
Work with your location
The nature of your land will play a significant factor in all of your operations. Cost-effectiveness can be decisive when you’re starting, and due to proximity and convenience, local suppliers of feed or bred cows will greatly influence your initial success.
Location also influences pasture. Australia’s northern regions have more difficult conditions; cattle have to forage over a wider area and don’t fatten as well compared to southern-bred counterparts. If you cultivate specific grass on your land for better fodder, you can help your animals put on more weight, but this takes more effort and expense and can be more susceptible to plant diseases.
Choose your breed
Once you’ve worked out the key characteristics of your location, you can select the ideal breed for your operations. Your target market should also be a consideration here – at what age do you intend to sell off your cattle?
Angus is one of the most popular breeds, being a variety of the Bos Taurus cattle, which is renowned for producing superior marbled beef, allowing you to target premium markets. However, if the local environment is harsh, Bos Indicus variants such as the Brahman are hardier and can be exported live to markets like Indonesia or southern Australia for fattening.
Feeding and breeding
As a startup operation, you may find that the cost of producing your hay is expensive. Gradually introducing grain into the animals’ diet as a supplement is one way to lower costs. You could also rent pasture, or buy bales of hay until your profits have stabilized and you’re able to expand.
Breeding can be another costly and time-consuming input variable. You’ll need to source a bull with desirable qualities carefully, and block off time for the joining period and calving season. An alternative would be artificial insemination, which is cost-effective compared to the long-term cost of feeding a bull and shortens the time for calving.
Once you’ve established your operations, it’s only a matter of time before your calves are properly fed and ready for the market at the desired age. From there, continue to learn and explore the possibilities of the industry to adapt and succeed.