Producing cattle that consistently achieve high performing Meat Standards Australia (MSA) results is based on three key factors for Queensland beef producers, John and Mary Atkins.
Sourcing bulls with excellent temperament, using low-stress stock handling techniques and having cattle on a rising plane of nutrition have underpinned the Atkins’ success in continuously improving the MSA compliance rates of their cattle.
Based at the 4,141ha ‘Spion Kop’ at Taroom, John and Mary won the inaugural Progress Award for Queensland at the 2017 MSA Excellence in Eating Quality awards presented at Gympie in September. The award recognised the producer with the greatest improvement in their MSA results since 2014–15.
DIY breeding and feeding
Since purchasing the 4,500 square kilometre ‘Marqua Station’ in the Northern Territory in 2011, John and Mary have been breeding all of their own cattle, occasionally buying in steers to fatten.
“All of our weaners are bred at Marqua Station and trucked each year to Spion Kop,” John said.
The Atkins grow all of their own oats and silage at Spion Kop for use as supplementary feed and to help manage their predominantly buffel grass pastures.
“Silage is used to feed weaners that are trucked in from the Territory,” John said.
“With the benefits of silage and oats during the winter period, all cattle are on a rising plane of nutrition and our buffel country is destocked and spelled during the winter, giving us more grass cover and hence a quicker response when the season breaks. The longer it stays dry, the better these management tools work.”
Selecting for temperament first
The Atkins believe a focus on breeding and low-stress stock handling have contributed to their ongoing improvements in the MSA program.
“We buy Santa Gertrudis bulls each year from Dangarfield Stud here at Taroom, with the main traits we select are temperament and fertility, then confirmation,” John said.
“All our weaners are handled by a professional weaner handler both in the Northern Territory and here at Spion Kop.