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Anabelle Copin - Yarrie Station

With last year (2016) being so very dry, we chose the option of feeding CalfGro® pellets as a “dry season” management strategy. Feeding the pellets was expensive and hurt the financials in a year when income from sales was down. I did the sums of feeding the pellets based on whether a calf was going to survive or not, or whether a cow was going to survive and get back in calf again. Having done this early on and seeing that the rain did not come, I was certainly able to justify using the pellets. I knew how many cows and weaners I had to save to cover the cost of the pellets and this justified me spending the money.

I spent the money on the CalfGro® pellets and weaned very early, down to 50 kgs. They went onto the pellet well, but animal management still played an important role. We had to keep the animals in their weight lines so that all animals could get access to the pellets and hay. Without careful animal management, right from the start, meaning as soon as we pulled them off the cows in the bush yard they were separated from the larger weaners, put straight on clean water, hay and then pellets and we also put them through a weaner handling program. I don’t think that I would of got the response that we did, if not for the bit of extra care.

I keep a good track of my cows on a computer record system and so far through the muster I am able to tell now that most of last year’s wet cows did get pregnant during the bad dry and they are about to calve in the next few months. A lot of these cows got in calf during October and November which was the worst bit of the year. Weaning hard, putting the calves on CalfGro pellets and trying to hold cow condition looks as though it will give me more calves this season and justifies the money that I spent.

While I did my sums on wanting to keep calves and cows alive so that I would have income when the rain did come, another very important factor for me in deciding to feed the pellets was the commitment to animal welfare. I wanted to look after the cows and their condition and to get them through a horrible time. Back last year I did not know that it was going to rain this January and I knew that I had to take care of these cows and the weaners to get them through this dry time. Like most pastoralists, I care for my animals and I was not going to let them die.

We trucked all of these weaners to the farm at Badgingarra where we continued to give them access to the pellets while they grazed on pastures. Good animal management was again important in getting these small weaners adjusted and going ahead. Small weaners that may not have survived at Yarrie had we not fed pellets, are now 250-300 kgs animals that we are backgrounding to sell into a range of markets once they are heavier. We have recently been feeding them on EasyBeef® in the feedlot for anywhere from 40-70 days, which again is expensive, but I worked out that we needed to get more than 1.5 kgs/Day average daily gain. They have been doing better than this, mainly around 1.6-1.7 and it has allowed us to sell cattle with condition rather than having to dump cattle onto the store market. It gives  flexibility when selling and I can still set the price that I want to sell at. Adding  more value to my cattle is the path we are focussing on. Nothing is a golden egg, however having access to the option of pellets gives us more flexibility in our business.

I want to stress that making the decision to feed pellets and fork extra dollars when the business is under pressure   in a dry time  was not an easy decision, but I looked long term at my herd management and my desire to look after my animals. I certainly don’t regret that I paid the money, fed the pellets as part of the dry season management plan and now have cows that are calving with weaners to sell later on. Having a plan to look after my animals during the tough dry season also helped me phytologically to get through that tough period.