Charlie Arnott has a simple philosophy – happy cattle produce the best beef.
To do this, his cattle graze pastures rich in grass, forbs and legume species that are free of chemicals. The cattle are also handled with the greatest of care and respect, using animal husbandry second to none. “Quite simply our cattle are happy, and as a result, our beef is the healthiest, most nutritious, clean and sustainable beef you could feed your family,” says Mr Arnott.
The Arnott family have bred and grown Shorthorn cattle at ‘Hanaminno’, Boorowa for 45 years. Michael Arnott, the great, great grandson of William Arnott, the man who started the Famous Arnott’s Biscuit Company, decided after 8 years in the Homebush biscuit factory in Sydney to break with tradition, and given his strong family ties with the bush, moved to Boorowa after a few years in Southern Queensland. His son, Charlie Arnott, took over the reins in 1997.
“Our cattle spend all their lives on our property, without the use of chemicals, vaccinations or hormones. We use organic and Biodynamic principles to manage our soils, grasses, trees and animals, ensuring that all aspects of our environment are considered in a holistic fashion, giving due consideration to the intricate relationships and balance that exists between all living things within the boundaries of our property,” says Mr Arnott.
Five years ago the Arnott’s were introduced to the practice of weaning the cattle with EasyWean noserings, when Dick Richardson took on the management of the breeders. Mr Richardson, well known as the ‘Grazing Guru’ for his insights on grazing management and the relationship between animals, farmers and the ecology, has been using noserings to wean calves for over 20 years.
Weaning with EasyWean noserings is a stress-free weaning method that fits right in with the Arnott philosophy of ensuring happy cattle.
“We put the noserings in when the calves are eight months of age and leave them on their mothers for just 4 days. We then draft them off their mothers and walk them away with the few pregnancy-tested empty cows to another block, where we then remove the noserings,” explains Mr Richardson.
Mr Arnott says “normally when weaners are taken off their mothers for the first time, they are flighty and stressed and all they want to do is get back to Mum. But by doing a gradual weaning using EasyWean noserings, the calves are given enough time to gently break the bond with Mum so they can move on to become their own mob, graze happily and put on weight.”
“It is critical if you can retain weight gain while animals are being weaned. Traditionally one can expect a weaner to lose 15kgs during the weaning process. Our cattle put on 15kgs which in the end is a 30kg benefit,” said Mr Arnott.
Mr Richardson explains “When I first used noserings, I used to put the rings in for four weeks. I later learned by accident that, with this way of weaning, four days was long enough to wean calves and that fewer calves go back to suckling or wean with difficulty if weaned inside of a week. So now we put them in for only a week. Putting them in to a mob on the Thursday, we walk the calves away on the following Monday, removing the rings anytime later that week. The additional trekking and yarding for ring removal that the calves get during the week helps break them in to people, handling and moving off dogs. This also solves the only problem we have ever had using noserings – if the nosering is left in too long, and with the animal growing through the process, the ring gets very tight eventually piercing the septum.”
The pastures at Boorowa provide a diverse mix of lush, green feed perfect to ensure happy cattle at that time of year. It includes phalaris, cocksfoot and broad leafed plants such as chickory, plantain and Patterson’s curse, providing copper and other nutrients. Clover and a number of native species such as Red, Wallaby and Kangaroo grasses as well as wild trefoil and geranium are also present.
The meat is then sold under the brand “Charlie Arnott Natural Grass Fed Beef” which has recently achieved Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System accreditation – one of the few producers to have achieved this status in Australia.
A paddock to plate approach to beef production coupled with frustration from fluctuating cattle prices prompted beef producers George and Anna Hetherington to create their Mitchell Grass Meats brands in 2007.
The Hetheringtons say their overall focus has always been to provide quality grass fed, chemical-free and flavoursome meat direct to their customers across Queensland.
They have re-established the relationship between producer and customer, which allows for the sharing of information about meat production.
“Red meat consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about the breeding and care of animals, the chemicals used and the processing standards involved in the meat supply chain,” Mrs Hetherington said. “We have also noticed a marked increase in consumer concern about the animal welfare at all stages of meat production. We have quite number of ex-vegetarians among our customers who have returned to eating meat due to our approach.
The couple generally run up to 400 breeders on their 9600ha property Muyong, near Longreach, which is predominantly undulating Mitchell grass downs country with fairly open black soil.
The western queensland couple have found crossing Angus bulls over a Grey Brahman female base is the right mix to suit their market and climate conditions. They turn off two or three-year-old cattle and aim to produce 250 to 300kg (dressed weight) carcases, which are processed in Longreach at the Australian Agricultural College.
“There are many factors involved in the eating quality of meat,” Mrs Hetherington said.
“The breed, the feed, the seasonal conditions, temperament, the processing practices, factors affecting the pH of the meat such as temperament, animal age and much more.”
The Hetheringtons source their Angus bulls from the Dance family of Dance Angus Stud at Millmerran, and regularly purchase bulls at their annual September sale.
Each year they look for early maturing two-year-old bulls with good meat cover and temperament-traits they seek for the offspring. “We look for bulls with fairly high EBVs (estimated breeding values) with marbling and the fat. Although Angus bulls can be challenged by the heat and harsher conditions in our western Queensland climate, Dance bulls throw good calves and an even line of progeny. “The poll gene I the Angus breed is very dominant, which means we seldom have to dehorn the calves.”
The Hetheringtons use Brahman cows for their breeding base due to their ability to handle the country and heat, as well as being good mothers. “The first-cross Brangus produces a solid, strong and even calf with a quiet temperament and thrives in our conditions.”
The coupe use Easy Wean weaner rings, which are screwed on to the calf’s nose at weaning time to stop it drinking milk. Calves are then returned to the paddock for a month or so with the cows. “It’s a gentler process on both the cow and the calf,” Mr Hetherington said. “This is in line with our belief that good genetics and well treated animals produce a better meat.”
We feel we are getting the best traits from both breeds, which is ideal for the style of carcase we are looking for. “We have learnt, and are still learning, much from being involved with the whole MGM process. “From bull and cow selection, weaning, through to selection for slaughter, to seeing the carcases hanging, to bagging and packing the MGM meat products, to delivery and then to receive feedback from our loyal customers.”
In order to supply meat year-round the Hetheringtons do not have a set joining period. Mr Hetherington said it gave them a change and always had cattle coming on and had a joining rate of 2 per cent.
After processing, a team of butchers at the college prepares the meat and Hetheringtons oversee the packing of orders for dispatch.
Mr Hetherington then travels thousands of kilometres to deliver meat across Queensland – with a number of stops such as Mackay, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Toowoomba, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.
An effective solution in times of drought!
The pressures on cattle producers during times of drought are numerous. Managing scare grazing resources and maintaining production of breeding cows particularly become issues. With stock already pulled down by poor feed, graziers need to limit additional stress wherever possible.
Graziers are looking at methods, not only of managing stock now and reducing the stress on their cows, but also reducing the impact of the drought on future years, once the drought has broken.
The use of a weaning ring allows for early weaning without having to separate the calf from the cow.
“The drought is forcing many graziers to wean their calves early to reduce stock numbers and to take pressure off their cows,” says Gillian Stephens, EasyWean.
But this practice of separating small calves from cows is stressful for both the cow and calf. “As most of the stress of weaning is the separation factor, the use of a weaning ring allows graziers to wean their calves early while keeping the cow and calf together.”
“Calves can be weaned next to their mothers, taking the pressure off cows in terms of milk production, and eliminating production loss from the stress of early separation. By weaning early, cows will have a better chance of regaining condition before joining and ensure higher conception rates next season. In addition the calves will continue to grow through the weaning period provided there is sufficient paddock feed,” Gillian said.
Most producers in the drought striken areas of Queensland are likely to be looking to remove their weaners from the farm as soon as possible. Fitting EasyWean to the calf for a week or two prior to separation will significantly reduce the stress on the cow and the calf providing an effective production advantage to beef producers.
The use of EasyWean also allows producers to manage scare grazing resources by keeping cows and calves (weaners) together in one herd, allowing greater flexibility in grazing management. If cows and calves can remain together after weaning, a four to six week weaning is suggested. Management of a single herd can then be an option allowing more paddocks available for planning remaining feed selections and optimising any plant recovery.
For those grazing the Long Paddock, where separating cows and calves is not an option, and many cows are already poorly, using a weaning ring is an ideal solution.
“As cattle graziers ourselves, we understand the pressures facing many producers, not least the financial burden being felt by many. To make our EasyWean solutions more accessible we offer a Rent-a-Ring service and can even provide limited second hand noserings to those needing a more affordable option” Gillian said.
“The use of EasyWean noserings can help in many situations. We will help you manage your drought!”
Contact EasyWean; 1300 327 993; www.easywean.com.au
We take our hats off to Michael, Anne and five year old Maria Rayner of Oakland Station, St George, who have been have been on the road with their mob of 1100 head for nearly a year. When prices dropped to $250 for a cow and calf and the drought meant no grazing left on Oakland Station, they decided it was worth keeping their herd and grazing it on the Long Paddock. With the use of noserings, they have been able to hold on to their weaners until prices improve, while taking the stress off already weakened cows. A little rain and slightly
Read more on weaner sales in the article below on the Nargoon Cattle Station.
The value of the weight gain on weaners fitted with EasyWean® Noserings will more than pay for the cost of the nose ring, on first use.
Native African herders managing their communal cattle herds have long put devices on the noses of older calves to prevent them suckling.
In their quest for better pastures, Arcadia Valley graziers Matthew and Maryellen Peart have changed how they go about weaning.
The Pearts, who wean 400-500 calves in their certified EU-organic beef operation at “Bundaleer”, 90 km north of Injune, began time-controlled grazing in the late 1990s to address pasture decline. → Read more
Weaning means stress, and stress means weight loss. That didn’t suit Lancelin, WA, beef producer and tagasaste pioneer Bob Wilson, who has developed a weaning strategy that usually results in his calves—and cows—gaining weight over a period when they would normally lose it.
Weaning was once the most loathed event on Peter Cahill’s calendar. These days, thanks to some African-developed technology, he hardly notices it – and the calves seem to notice even less.
For the past five years, Mr Cahill has weaned his calves while they run in the same mob with their mothers, courtesy of a nosering that prevents the calves from suckling. → Read more