Plan for profitable phosphorus supplementation

The phosphorus dream team delivers best practice tools to Central Queensland graziers

During November, Kylie Hopkins, Mick Sullivan and Cindy McNaught from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) beef extension team (Rockhampton) delivered a series of workshops on the central Queensland coast to assist graziers on phosphorus deficient country improve their productivity and profitability.

The wet season is where producers on phosphorus deficient country get the most bang for their buck from phosphorus supplements. The workshops were delivered in November to help attendees plan for the upcoming wet season.

The ‘Phosphorus management in CQ’ workshops were attended by 64 producers held at Gin Gin, Mt Larcom, Barmoya and St Lawrence. Workshops were short, half-day events packed with practical tools for producers to easily implement change on ground.

Large areas of northern Australia have soil that is so low in phosphorus (P) that beef cattle production is severely limited. Recent scientific and economic research has reaffirmed that suitable P supplementation can significantly improve beef herd performance and profitability.

Workshop attendees heard updates on this research from Kylie, who emphasised the long-term impact on growth, performance and mortality of cattle with a P deficiency. Attendees were also walked through a summary of the economic analyses demonstrating the importance of these factors on the profitability of a beef business.

Cindy discussed the importance of understanding the land types on a property and identifying which are likely to be P deficient. Attendees received land type reports for their property and began developing P management plans for the paddocks on their properties, based on land types and observed symptoms in cattle.

Botulism is a risk for cattle on P deficient country and a vaccination program is critical to prevent significant losses in the herd. Cindy provided information on the diagnosis of botulism and the best vaccination program to prevent a disease outbreak.

Attendees were provided with a herd management calendar to plan their yearly vaccination program and other cattle operations. Mick demonstrated how blood test planning can be incorporated into the calendar and explained how cattle could be prepared for P blood testing in the coming wet season.

Effective supplementation is key to gaining productivity and profitability increases on P deficient country, so Mick used DAF’s ‘FeedCalc’ tool to analyse supplements for every attendee. Producers were provided with advice on whether their supplementation program was delivering the correct amount of P for the lowest price. Mick emphasised the importance of being able to read feed labels correctly and provided some examples of lick mixes that producers could make themselves.

Keeping track of lick intake is critical in the supplementation game and attendees were provided with a lick intake calculator to record their herds supplement intake and costs. Kylie talked through real examples from local producers who started feeding P and used the calculator to keep on top of their costs.

Producers who attended the workshop provided very positive feedback, including;

“Thanks for a great workshop. Mick, Kylie and Cindy are very knowledgeable and friendly.”

“Great workshop team! Short, sharp and simple language made it a really useful workshop.”

“Really informative, provided realistic options for different situations.”

To catch up on the information delivered at the phosphorus workshops, visit our one-stop phosphorus supplementation information shop here: Phosphorus supplementation of cattle in northern Australia.