A producers Kim and Darren Cousens keep a close eye on phosphorus levels and grazing pressure on their beef cattle enterprise, ‘Hillview Station’, to ensure their herd can continue to perform despite adverse conditions.
Located near Meekatharra in the Murchison region of WA, the Cousens’ 149,000ha property currently supports 600 Droughtmaster breeders serviced by Santa Gertrudis bulls.
Erratic seasonal conditions in the region as well as the impacts of erosion and nearby mining operations have led the Cousens to shift their focus to animal nutrition as one of the key management strategies used to maximise productivity on-farm.
With the help of lessons learnt at MLA’s Nutrition EDGE workshops, the Cousens have implemented an effective nutrition program that they expect will keep their breeders in top condition through the coming summer and boost calving rates in the next season.
The two main strategies the Cousens are focusing on are:
1. Addressing phosphorus deficiency
Low levels of phosphorus (P) in the soil at Hillview have also impacted the quality of pasture available, making P supplementation necessary to ensure cattle can continue to perform on Hillview.
To address the P deficiency on the property, the Cousens have implemented a year-round loose lick program that provides P to their continuously joined breeders.
“We put out a loose lick mix at 20 of our water points,” Darren said.
“We run the loose lick mix program 365 days a year - I don’t actually back it off.”
Following their participation in one of MLA’s Nutrition EDGE workshops, the couple have also decided to tailor their loose lick mix to accommodate for the specific P levels of their grazing land.
“With our loose lick, we’ve modified certain components of it with our manufacturer to better suit the country here, rather than just having a generic lick that you put out.”
This tailored approach to P supplementation is one of the key lessons the Cousens took away from the Nutrition EDGE workshop which has had significant benefit on-farm.
“It’s definitely helping with our phosphorus deficiency,” Darren said.
“Nutrition EDGE gave us more background on what we were doing with our program and helped us make sure we were actually heading in the right direction.”
2. Managing grazing pressure
Another strategy used on Hillview to ensure herd nutritional requirements are being met is the careful management of grazing pressure.
By rotating stock between paddocks and adjusting herd numbers to match Hillview’s current carrying capacity, the Cousens ensure stock have sufficient pasture for their nutritional needs.
“If cattle seem to be overgrazing a certain area, we shut the water down and move those cattle out of there and rotate them around the station,” Darren said.
“We’re also going to reduce our stock back to 400 breeders, to lighten off for summer.”
“The whole idea of going back down to a smaller number of cattle is that we can control the grazing pressure.”
Nutrition management for the future
Moving forward, the Cousens are looking to investigate additional nutritional strategies, including the use of liquid mineral supplements, to further bolster their herd’s nutrition and achieve their production goals.
“We’re aiming to get our calving rate up to 80% and we want to produce calves that when they hit the market, everybody wants to buy them,” Darren said.
“Definitely nutrition, as well as genetics, will help us achieve that.”