Calm cattle win out

27 January 2017

Shane HarrisSNAPSHOT: Shane and Claire Harris

Location: Dumbalk North, 25km south-east of Leongatha, South Gippsland, Victoria

Area: 810ha (owned and leased)

Enterprise: Angus and prime lamb breeding and cattle trading

Livestock: 2,000 cattle (600 breeders, 1,400 trade stock), 1,600 ewes, 2,000 lambs

Pasture: Ryegrass and clover

Soil: Red, grey clay and sand peat

Rainfall: 1,075mm

Weaning cattle using advanced training techniques may take time and commitment, but South Gippsland producer Shane Harris is convinced it produces the best results.

Shane and his wife Claire, of ‘Harris Farms’, took part in an MLA-supported on-farm weaning trial that compared techniques to see which were best at quietening cattle and reducing weight loss.

Claire, who is also an Agriculture Victoria beef industry extension officer, was involved in the experiment design and data collection.

Shane and Claire put 100 Angus weaners in the trial (divided into two groups of 50) and compared their traditional paddock weaning method with advanced training, a technique that relies on the use of well-trained dogs and a sound understanding of the concepts of pressure and relief.

They had previously favoured paddock weaning, as they felt it avoided some of the respiratory and pink eye issues sometimes encountered when confining cattle, but the trial proved otherwise.

Shane said at the end of the trial the two groups were "chalk and cheese".

“The paddock-weaned mob were left on good pasture and were basically untouched, while the advanced training mob were worked with dogs for half-an-hour to an hour each day,” he said.

“By the end, the paddock-weaned mob weighed about the same or slightly better, but they weren’t quiet at all.

“The advanced training mob, which was also moved through the yards and crush as part of their routine, were really quiet – you could almost touch them in the paddock.”

Shane said that ‘quietness’ was also reflected in flight speed data, with the advanced training mob recording slower times than the paddock-weaned mob after the first week.

Making changes

In the two years since the trial, Shane and Claire have embraced advanced training and now use their dogs for all their stock movements.

They have also moved away from injectable drenches to pour-ons, as they believe too many needles upset young stock.

“It’s really important that those first experiences with us are good experiences,” he said.

The heifer weaners from the trial have now had their first calves, and Shane is convinced that sound training at weaning sets the animal up for life.

“If we have to pull a heifer, we walk her down the road to the yards,” he said.

“The steers put on weight fast because they’re calm and, now word is getting out how quiet our cattle are, we’re getting more inquiry from buyers.”

Shane and Claire breed about 60 commercial bulls each year, based on Queensland and New Zealand bloodlines, with their focus on a more compact type.

“When people come to look at our bulls they’re really impressed with how easy they are to work with and their calmness,” Shane said.

“We’ve also applied the same principles to our sheep and we are seeing the same pleasing results.”

More information:

Shane and Claire Harris E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Back to News


Longest cattle rally since 1960s burger boom ends as herd grows
by Megan Durisin and Lydia Mulvany

A mountain of meat has ended the longest rally in US cattle prices since at
least the 1960s, when baby boomers and McDonald's ushered in the American
burger boom.

Not only have ranchers added to their herds, but consumers are being
inundated with increased supplies of cheaper pork and poultry. Ground-beef
prices are down from a record high 11 months ago, and buyers like Darden
Restaurants, owner of the LongHorn Steakhouse chain, expect to see costs for
the meat decline for at least a couple years.

Cattle futures doubled during a six-year rally as a prolonged drought in
Texas and high feed costs left the smallest U.S. herd in six decades. Since
then, a grain glut reduced the cost of raising steers as well as hogs and
chickens, and the government says meat production will grow this year.
Rising supplies probably mean the cattle slump will continue, according to
Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

"As long as you don't get a shock in the grain markets, you're more likely
to continue to produce at high levels," said Tim Rudderow, chief investment
officer at Mount Lucas Management in Newtown, Pennsylvania, which oversees
$US1.7 billion ($2.4 billion). "That will maintain pressure on cattle prices
over time."

After touching a record $US1.7275 a pound in November 2014, futures plunged
16 per cent last year, the biggest drop since 1981. That halted a rally that
was the longest since cattle trading began on the Chicago Mercantile
Exchange in 1964. Goldman, in a report last month, forecast a further
decline to $1US.20 in 12 months. Prices closed Wednesday at $US1.33025.

Ranchers who had been reducing herds every year since 2007 have seen pasture
conditions improve, and feed costs dropped after years of record US corn
harvests. On feedlots, where young cattle spend around four to six months
eating mostly corn, the average weight of animals sold to slaughterhouses in
November was the highest ever, US Department of Agriculture data show. Beef
production will rise 3.8 per cent this year, the first gain since 2010, the
USDA said on January 12.



"For many years, one thing that was sure was cattle prices would go higher,"
said Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting Group in Manchester, New
Hampshire. "Now we're switching, and the cattle herd is increasing."

But so are pork and chicken supplies. The USDA forecasts output of both
meats this year will top records in 2015, and producers show no signs of
letting up, said Rich Nelson, the chief strategist at McHenry,
Illinois-based Allendale. Combined output of red meat and poultry will jump
2.8 per cent in 2016 to an all-time high, government data show.

At the same time, a strengthening dollar is hurting sales of U.S. beef
overseas. Exports last year were down 12 per cent through November while
imports soared 20 per cent, according to the latest USDA data. Domestic
inventories of red meat at the end of November were the highest ever for
that date.

"We experienced basically a supply-side shock" across all meat types, said
Trevor Amen, an animal-protein economist at CoBank in Greenwood Village,


Not everyone is convinced prices will drop. In November, the number of
cattle sent to feedlots fell 11 per cent from a year earlier, and wholesale
beef has jumped 23 per cent from a two-year low on Dec. 21, partly because
unusually cold weather limited weight gain for some animals, USDA data show.

Rabobank International, in a November 27 report, forecast cattle futures
will average $US1.52 in the fourth quarter of 2016.

For now, the government still expects beef supplies to expand. The USDA on
Tuesday reiterated its forecast for a drop in cattle prices this year to an
average of $US1.37 a pound, compared with $US1.4812 in 2015. Retail ground
beef, which has more than doubled since 2009, averaged $US4.113 a pound in
November, compared with a record $US4.238 in February, government data show.

Orlando, Florida-based Darden expects "to purchase beef in a deflationary
environment for the next couple years," chief executive officer Eugene Lee
said on a December 18 earnings call.

"The cattle market is just catching up with the rest of the agricultural
commodities," said Don Roose, president of US Commodities in West Des
Moines, Iowa. "We're in what we think is a multi-year bear market."

Pat Cleary

We are constantly having to get our clients to redo or amend their vendor dec's!!!!!! It's frustrating and can cost the vendor big money if they're vendor dec is incorrect or fails to answer every question .

Description of cattle; put in the breed , the sex breakup , the description ie cow bull steer hfr stag etc, the total head number including the break up of different descriptions . Do not put their NLIS tag number!!!  It's not applicable . 

NLIS  devices is the number of devices on the cattle!!

question 4 "has the owner stated above owned these cattle since their birth" - it's pretty simple either yes or no-not both, if it's no put the lowest time in ie A- under two months, B 2-6 months etc

Question 9 put Russian and Saudi  eligible. Russian eligible means that the cattle haven't had penicillin /antibiotics in the last 110 days and Saudi eligible means that the cattle have never in their life been fed animal fats . If applicable add that the cattle have never been treated antibiotics .

Our Mission

To Provide a professional and up to date service for our clients and ensure  we achieve the highest returns for our customers!