Quality lamb focus wins praise | My Machinery
CASE Agriculture
Quality lamb focus wins praise

A desire to make better use of their centre pivot irrigation, turn over more lambs than on pasture and produce a premium product year-round has been the drive behind the establishment of one of the few accredited grain-fed lamb feedlots in Australia. Andrew and Janie Bond with daughter Georgie and son Sam operate Eastfield – a 2200-hectare farming enterprise near Cressy, Tasmania. In November, Eastfield won the Family Farm Enterprise Award, sponsored by Fairfax Agricultural Media’s Victorian newspaper Stock & Land, at the 2012 NAB Agribusiness Excellence Awards. The Bonds won the award based on the success of their family-owned operation, which all four of them run with two staff members. Weekly farm management meetings are held plus an annual budgeting meeting with an external agricultural consultant. The Bonds have nearly finished the first year of operating a Livestock Production Accreditation Scheme feedlot for grain-fed lamb. Andrew says planning for the feedlot started in 2011 when Georgie – who had been working for JBS for five years in its feedlots – was interested in coming back to Tasmania to be involved in the family business. “Janie and I said we would welcome her with open arms but we’ll have to come up with another enterprise,” he said. “The feedlot was in the back of our minds anyway and it was a natural progression once Georgie had these skills.” The Bonds have a 6000 head Coopworth breeding flock and most are joined back to a terminal Dorset sire. About 2000 Coopworth ewe lambs are mated to Southdown rams for their low lamb birthweight and desirable carcase traits. Ewes lamb in August/September but in 2013, the enterprise will move to split-lambing to enable a supply of lambs into the feedlot in spring. The feedlot is designed to be as cost- and labour-efficient as possible. It spans 13,000 square metres and is divided into 14 pens which hold up to 4200 lambs. Feed is available 24/7 via an automated system delivering grain into the feed bunk. The Bonds are building a roof over half of the feedlot to ensure lambs are not affected by weather extremes. Lambs are backgrounded on the property’s clover, ryegrass or lucerne pastures and entry into the feedlot is based on weight. Lambs are weaned in late December and are weighed and divided into weight groups. Some go straight into the feedlot while others go back to the paddocks. The Bonds aim for lambs to put on the final 10kg in the feedlot, hopefully in 5-6 weeks. They are meticulous with knowing daily weight gains and feed budgets. “The feedlot entry weight is based on the market and therefore the exit weight we require. For a trade lamb, the entry weight may be 39kg however for a heavy export lambs this may be up to 46kg,” Georgie said. To bear the LPAS stamp of quality assurance, the lambs must have been fed for a minimum of 35 days on a ration containing more than 10 megajoules of metabolisable energy per kilogram of dry matter and crude protein of 12 per cent or more. Their feedlot ration is based on a high protein roughage and premium quality oats. “We looked for a simple, cost-effective ration, one that we could produce on-farm. The success of feedlot depends on the fact we can produce a lot of feed,” Georgie said. “All the grains and the silage are tested regularly so we know the exact protein and energy content.” The first lambs went into the feedlot on Australia Day 2012, and by June, 6000 had been turned off. “Within the next 12 months, we aim to do 10,000-12,000 through the feedlot and 8000-10,000 from the paddock. We are buying and selling all year round,” Georgie said. The feedlot is full from January to May/June and then it is anticipated only the undercover pens will be used. Then in spring, as lambs become available, numbers through the feedlot increase. July and August are busy months for paddock lambs and many will still be fattened on oat crops. Because of the shortage of store lambs in Tasmania, occasionally lambs are sourced from the mainland. But they do have a preference to locally-sourced lambs to support local farmers and the switch to autumn lambing is likely to cut back the numbers brought back to Tasmania. The Bonds are supplying supermarkets and have secured a contract supplying through a processor to Japan. But they are excited about further opportunities in that market. “The long-term goal is to brand the product down the track but in the meantime, we need secure numbers,” Georgie said. “To have 200 lambs a fortnight locked in for 12 months to Japan is not a huge number of lambs over a 12-month period however we know those lambs are going every fortnight, it’s a floor, it’s cashflow every fortnight, so we hope to secure some more contracts like that.” Andrew says the advantage of grainfed lamb is that it is consistent all year round and the eating quality is always tender and juicy. “The paddock-fattened lamb is variable because the challenge we have in Tasmania is we have very wet and cold winters. This affects feed quality and therefore meat quality. The lamb out of the feedlot is always the same.” Janie is heavily involved in the business through book-keeping and using her own dogs to muster and work in the feedlot. “When the lambs are in the feedlot they follow you around, they get very used to people and vehicles,” she said. “I believe eating quality is greatly contributed to by the low stress handling and quietness of the lambs.”

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