April 28

Preparation Is The Key To The Cattle Industry


Industry advice and insights with RaynerAg

Pursehouse Rural spoke to Alastair Rayner, from RaynerAg, to get his advice on cattle production success in 2022.

Alastair Rayner has 25 years of experience in the beef industry, first starting out with the DPI as the Beef Cattle Officer for Glen Innes and Tamworth before establishing RaynerAg in 2013. RaynerAg is a consultancy business focused on cattle program development. Alastair works primarily with individual producers to find solutions to their production processes and making greater efficiencies across their operations as well as identifying strategies for greater returns. Alastair also works as a stock and station agent assisting clients with the entire process from herd management, to feeding and then marketing.

PHR: ‘Let us talk about cattle market trends. What did we see in 2021 that is carrying into 2022?’

Alastair: ‘We have a unique circumstance in that the demand for livestock is being driven by producers that have come out of a drought period of four to six years, and they are trying to rebuild their herd. The challenge is really that
there is demand for people to restock, but there is also a decrease in supply.’

‘The other part of it is that there is a tremendous amount of optimism. The fact that cattle have been worth so much for 12 months has made them feel optimistic and they are prepared to invest in the market. This trend will naturally
begin to ease. We will start to see the influence of cattle coming out of breeding herds address demand. So, I think while good strong cattle prices are exciting, we need to be realistic about market trends.’

‘For my clients I make it clear, cattle production is a fairly long term game and breeding certainly is. You need to establish a clear focus and a reasonable time frame to your operation.’

‘You have to understand your environment well and what you can achieve from what you have.’

PHR: ‘How are you seeing technology influence the way we market cattle?’

Alastair: ‘There are several different online platforms to choose from such as Auctions Plus and Herd Online. Herd Online is more of a ‘Gumtree’ concept whereas Auctions Plus is different to a lot of other platforms, in that it is
an online auction so you are still being exposed to whatever the markets are doing that day.’

‘People are looking at online platforms to try and squeeze out their agent and cut costs. I’m concerned about it because I think that one of the problems with selling livestock direct is that you do take the risk that you don’t get paid. There is also a bit of a hidden economy in that those animals are not going to appear on the national database.’

‘If you want to trade online you have to have a very clear idea about your purpose otherwise it is just like late night shopping.’

‘You need to set objectives around what you need and boundaries on what you will pay.’

PHR: ‘Let’s talk about animal selection. What are the common mistakes people make?’

Alastair: ‘Ultimately, people need different things from different animals. The easiest way is to think about your end goal. What is your main objective? What are you trying to achieve with your livestock? What sort of cattle perform
best in your environment and for your market? Be clear about that and be specific, how big are they? What breed will you need? What maturity pattern are you going to need for your market?’

‘Once you have done that, you need to be even more critical about your program. Assess her for her temperament, assess her for structure and her suitability to go into calf, her structure, and her suitability to walk and eat so that she
sustains condition when she is in calf. Will she be able to calve without assistance? You want to end up with a group of animals that look the same so that, as a manager, you can do the same thing with them at the same time.’

PHR: ‘Do you have any business advice for a startup farmer or a generational farmer?’

Alastair: ‘I believe in having an end goal that is clear in your mind. How you get to that end goal doesn’t matter, as long as you do it safely and efficiently and in terms of livestock, in terms of  management welfare and bio-security. But the question really must be, what do you want to do? You want to breed cows and then what? It’s like a decision tree and a process that you have to work through.’

PHR: ‘Any tips on easy ways to improve the herd?’ Alastair: ‘Let’s start with preg testing. If you are not doing it then why not?’

‘Profitability in a beef program is a result of kg of beef per ha.’

‘The easiest way is to have cows that are more fertile and ideally cows that are going to calve earlier. Because if they are calving earlier they get longer to recover before the bull goes back in, increasing the chances of a successful conception the following season. Calves are also going to be 60-70kgs heavier at weaning.’

‘So pregnancy testing is vital in two respects; you get rid of those that failed to go into calf, and people who are savvy will look at their pregnancies and say these are the earlies, these are the mids and these are the lates. We can get
rid of the lates and push the herd fertility forward.’

‘Pregnancy testing is an opportunity to physically manage the herd without spending money on genetics or nutrition.’


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