An on-property private feedlot may have been the saving grace for Usher Pastoral Company with the relentless need to offload cattle from western properties during years of drought.
The company trucked 12 decks of EU bullocks to JBS Dinmore on Tuesday, to be the first cattle through the abattoir for 2016.
Usher Pastoral manager Alun Hebbes and his wife Maree, Tarana, Taroom, operate the 2000-head licensed feedlot that accommodates cattle from four breeder blocks at Tambo and Thargomindah.
Mrs Hebbes said the feedlot was a crucial part of the management of drought cattle.
“The dry conditions on the western properties have meant we’ve been unable to keep many heifers for breeders,” she said.
“The plus side is the feedlot allows us to finish those heifers to go into the Coles market when they’re much younger and smaller, giving us a quicker turnover and relieving pressure on the western country.”
Mrs Hebbes said it was preferable to avoid feedlotting cattle in January and February but the need arose from circumstance.
“We had all cattle out by Christmas two years ago before the heat and wet set in but this year the timing wasn’t right with the meatworks break and our position,” she said.
All Usher Pastoral western cattle are trucked to Wandoan and Taroom properties to finish, where irrigated corn and wheat silage and hay is grown to supply the feedlot.
Mrs Hebbes said meeting the requirements of EU accreditation was a high priority for the company, made challenging with the existence of drought.
“Keeping our EU status becomes the first thing on your mind so agisting country in dry times becomes quite tricky,” she said.
“In the past we’ve sold dry cattle as vealers but that has difficulties because you have to take them a long way south.
“Having the feedlot means we can account for each beast and that makes our lives easier as well as theirs.”