Producers meet Challenge

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian

WA's newest beef feedlot competition was celebrated last week at Albany as participants gathered to share an industry day loaded with red-meat topics.

Harvey Beef Plate 2 Gate Challenge co-ordinator Allison Watson told the 170 attendees the inaugural competition had met all expectations.

"It attracted 177 head of cattle, from 48 WA producers, made up into 59 teams (two steers, one heifer) including 18 breeds and their crosses," she said.

"The cattle will be processed in April and the winner announced at an awards evening in May."

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Ms Watson said the competition would provide feedback to cattle producers on the performance of their cattle through the supply chain and aimed to reflect commercial reality so it reflected true business relevance.

"We collect only data that is measurable on traits that are important to profitability for each stage of the supply chain and the winning team will be one that is most profitable," she said.

The challenge also included participation from five agriculture schools and 48 businesses, including mining magnet Andrew Forrest's newly acquired Harvey Beef as major sponsor of the event.

The event was held at the Lyon family's Willyung feedlot in Albany, with visitors able to inspect the cattle at the feedlot and have an update on the first 56 days on feed.

Albany Agriculture Society president Rob Wright said the challenge was a privilege for the society to take on. "The society is about interacting with rural people and showcasing their agriculture products," he said.

Willyung feedlot principal Sandy Lyon said the cattle averaged 1.5kg per day for the first 56 days on feed, but this would increase nearer the end of the competition.

"The 59 heifers, which were grouped together, consumed 93 tonnes of feed, or 546kg per head averaging 10kg per day," he said.

"The 118 steers, fed separate from the heifers, consumed 516kg of feed each, or 9.5kg/day.

"The heifers took off really well, but steers have a higher weight gain average."

Producers who attended the field day were given data on their teams, including total weight gain and average daily gain.

The report had both sexes of cattle averaging 79kg total weight gained and an average of 1.49kg/day.

James Morris, who runs cattle in Donnybrook, said he expected his team of Limousin/Angus cross (steers) and Limousin/Shorthorn cross (heifer) would average 1.5kg to 2kg/day.

"After inspecting the cattle today, they look on target to finish around 450kg-460kg live-weight producing a 270kg carcase, dressing out at 62 per cent," he said.

"The all-breeds competition is good for WA, allowing a level playing field with excellent feedback.

"As we run an 80-cow stud Limousin herd (Morrisvale) participation in this event annually will create a good marketing outlet."

Cowaramup cattle producer Alan Penfold of Alsha Baylee Salers stud was also pleased with how his family's two teams of cattle were performing in the challenge.

Mr Penfold has had success in similar competitions in the past, winning the grand champion carcase at the 2012 Perth Royal Show.

He said unlike other competitions, the challenge pitted all cattle in the same environment under the same feeding regime, so it emphasised genetic potential.

"It is a very fair competition and will be a huge learning curve for participants," he said.

"Every producer in the State should have a go, which includes entering all breeds of cattle.

"The competition also allows for producers to remain anonymous if they so wish."

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