Training pays dividends in the saleyards

Quiet cattle are the aim of two south Gippsland livestock producers


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Spending time when weaning calves has paid off in weight gain.

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TRAINING METHOD: South Gippsland livestock producer Frances Toohey and Dave Pilkington (not pictured) use a low stress method of weaning cattle.

TRAINING METHOD: South Gippsland livestock producer Frances Toohey and Dave Pilkington (not pictured) use a low stress method of weaning cattle.

An 'education' program for young cattle is paying dividends for Gippsland producers Frances Toohey and Dave Pilkington, who run Doonagatha, Sandy Point, near Wilsons Promontory.

They run a split calving herd of 700 breeders on ryegrass and clover, selling steers through the Leongatha saleyards.

"What we want is an animal that is easy doing, will finish early and lay down a bit of fat," Ms Toohey said.

And that starts at an early age, when young cattle are brought into a small paddock, during the day, before being yarded at night for three to four days.

"We bring the cattle back to one of our properties, and we do a combination of yard and paddock weaning," she said.

"For the first three days, we put them into yards every night to contain them."

During that time, they are also walked through the yards, to familiarise them with the equipment.

She said working dogs were used extensively in the initial weaning phase, before the stock were trained to move without them.

"We then get them responding to moving off the dogs, and following us.

"We train them to walk when they see us, so all stock movements become very controlled and quiet," she said.

"That's easy on the stock, easy on us and easy on the dogs.

"Because we are trucking them, as well, they are trained for that, and walk onto the truck."

Part of the process was keeping the young stock in a 4-hectare paddock, where they had access to a grain free pellet, as well and hay and silage.

"We did weigh them at weaning and post weaning, and we are not getting the weight loss at weaning you traditionally get," she said.

When they first started the advanced training method, Ms Toohey said they found an average weight gain of 13 kilograms a head, over paddock-weaned animals.

They turned off about 40 spring calves at Leongatha in June, making $850 for 20, 265kg, or 320 centsa kilogram and $800 for a second pen, 283kg, or 282c/kg.

Ms Toohey said the property ran a split calving herd of about 700 breeders, mainly on Harris Farm, Dumbalk, bloodlines.

"We had a pretty tough summer and autumn and very late, autumn break," she said.

That was followed by good rain, since Anzac Day, but the late break meant the young stock went onto grass pellets early.

"We are always fine tuning things and changing things up a bit,"Ms Toohey said.

"Probably putting the youngstock on the pellets, when we did, made them saleable," Ms Toohey said.

"Pellets don't come cheap, at between $500-550 a tonne, but we would have struggled, with the late autumn break."

She said the grass pellet fed stock was popular with finishers.

"It makes the stock feedlot ready

"If they are bought by finishers who use this product, these animals will go straight onto it."

Heifers were sold over the hooks or to the live export market, as they didn't make good enough prices, in the yards.

This year, because there were plans to grow the herd, 260 heifers had been earmarked to join.

Ms Toohey said she and Mr Pilkington were also looking for more land.

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