In my previous life as a project manager when we were carrying out feasibility studies for new real estate projects, it was all about Location, Location, Location. When I first traded my hard hat and steel toe cap boots for an Akubra and gum boots and became a farmer, I used to tell people that assuming your livestock had the correct genetics then animal farming was all about Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition. Fast forward a decade a later and with considerably more farming experience, I believe that whilst nutritional inputs are the building blocks; there is in-fact something else that lays the foundation for successful and profitable livestock farming.
This past week with so much interaction with fellow farmers on our Stock and Land Beef Week Open Day http://www.stockandland.com.au/story/4432024/beef-week-day-two-south-gippsland/ and then this week with a couple of journalists from two different newspapers interviewing us, the key word temperament has been popping up over and over as we have been talking about our views on farming, raising cattle and running a successful beef operation as we relate our story and our journey so far as farmers.
THEN, last night, flicking through Instagram as I waited for hubby to finish baling hay (YIP 1 Feb and just finished hay season; that’s a record for us!) and seeing a great photo of http://www.coolana.com/ Coolana Angus’ stud female cattle heading back to their paddocks coupled with the associated ‘comment-chat’ that followed got me pondering. It made me think about low stress handling………….. and low and behold, temperament once again popped into my mind as I pondered the paddock to plate phenomenon and resurgence of the slow food movement, and how that succulent tasty black angus steak served at our dinner table begins some 20 months+ earlier on a farm with the joining of a black angus dam.
Ten years on and with almost a decade of experience under my belt as a farmer, I have reached the conclusion that TEMPERAMENT underpins the whole process. Temperament for Merlewood Angus is paramount! Regardless of your individual farming operation and objectives, I believe that everything needs to firstly pass the temperament test. Then, and only then does it make sense, in my opinion, to allow the animal to be evaluated on the rest of your business criteria.
It is worth noting here, and bearing in mind, that whilst temperament is genetically heritable not all offspring from the same sire and dam mating will produce cattle with the same temperament. This is evident when we flush dams and put some 20+ eggs of the same flush into recipient cows. Whilst the sire and dam mating does give a general trend there may will always be one or two offspring that go against the trend. This is equally true for industry known “quiet genetic lines” as well as “flighty genetic lines”. So, as my wise grandmother used to say “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.” – which translated into farmer terms equates to evaluate on an individual basis.
Why is temperament so important? Why do we value quiet and calm cattle?
Ω Quiet Cattle are easy to handle.
Ω Calm dams allow us to safely ear tag their offspring and collect valuable data.
Ω Calm cattle are easy to bring into the cattle yards for standard treatments or draft out in a paddock and bring up to the yards for any ailments that may arise throughout the year.
Ω Calm cattle are easy to move with minimum stress on farmers/cattle dogs/horses.
Ω Efficient moving and management of calm cattle equates to improved time management for the farmers which equates to $$$. “Time is money”
Ω Calm cattle are happy cattle.
Ω Happy cattle eat more grass.
Ω Happy cattle laze around contently utilising minimal energy as they chew their cud. Their life revolves around chewing their cud, not running around the paddocks expending lots of energy and needing longer than their calm counterparts to reach the same target weight.
The less energy an animal expends unnecessarily the more kg’s of beef are converted from pasture eaten; which as we know converts to $$$ for the farmer.
Ω Calm cattle who chew their cud are finished in a shorter time-period than their flighty counterparts which allows more cattle to be grazed over a comparable time-period.
Ω Calm cattle are a pleasure to work with and make us smile.
Ω Calm cattle (stress-free) result in tender meat which as we know the market place is willing to pay a premium for. Think MSA graded to name but one.
I wholeheartedly believe that cattle behaviour is influenced by their temperament; in the same way that a house is influenced by the strength of its foundation. This one sentence pretty much summarises why TEMPERAMENT, TEMPERAMENT, TEMPERAMENT should be the first selection criteria for any livestock farming business.
We would love to hear your farming business selection criteria?
Where does temperament sit on your selection spectrum?
Do you measure temperament? If yes – what method do you employ?
Do you believe temperament is measurable? Or does farmer subjectivity cloud the measurement of temperament?
What’s your number once selection criteria for your farming operation?
Do you move the goal posts when it comes to your selection criteria?
Do you have a business plan with marketing objectives or do you just wing it?
Everyone farms differently. Everyone has their own experiences. Everyone has their own agendas. Everyone has their own goals and aspirations. Everyone has different criteria that make them smile. Join the cattle conversation today and share your story of your business selection criteria. By sharing our stories, we grow.
We look forward to Chewing the Cud with you this coming week on all things temperament.