Dalby Farmers Focus on Farming the Future, Through Innovation and Education | North Queensland Register

Warren and Meg have refocused their operation towards more holistic practices to deliver a product that benefits the consumer, their business and the environment. Photo provided

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Australia’s ability to provide healthy, ethical food is a source of great pride for Warren and Megan Salter, to the point that this couple from Dalby has completely overhauled their operation.

With over 20 years of intensive, conventional farming and grazing experience behind them, in recent years Warren and Meg have refocused their operation towards more holistic practices to deliver a product that benefits the consumer, their business and to the environment.

“Commodities will always face seasonal and commercial challenges, but I am confident in Australia’s strengthening prospects based on our superiority in providing food consumers feel good about eating.” , Warren said.

Certainly, the Angus beef raised on the Salter property is 100% naturally produced, with animal welfare and positive environmental outcomes being at the heart of their business.

Meg, veterinarian, develops and supervises herd health programs, ensuring their integrity and the well-being of livestock. Programs are also developed to ensure that environmental results align with Salter family values.

The agriculture of the future

Formerly in the feed lot business, Warren and Meg sold what had been their long-term business partnership to focus on their own farming and grazing interests, based on their Mt Pleasant property near Dalby.

“We have decided to leave our land and environment in a more reliable productive state, focusing on the well-being of all environmental factors such as soil, water and stock well-being.”

With three children Charlie, 18, Matilda, 16 and Jessie, eight, Warren said the operation is a family affair, with young people all invested in the principles and practices implemented across the farm.

“They are our next generation of farmers, and our true vision is to pass that on to them, regardless of succession structure, in a better and more productive capacity than it is today,” Warren said. .

Change strategy

Covering over 1,000 hectares, the property is divided between a grazing and cultivation business, which includes seasonal cereals, mainly grown as cash crops.

“We are always looking for ways to improve what we do, read, listen and learn. For now, we are making our decisions as we go along based on our understanding of the best path to achieve our goals. We have been including a mix of four or five grass species as well as summer and winter legumes depending on soil types,” Warren said.

“We’ve been farming these pastures for three years with the goal of increasing our soil biology and carbon and providing a natural, nutritionally dense grazing option for our livestock, and we’re really pleased with the response.”

“As they say, all education has a cost – we learn as we go and so far the benefits outweigh the costs.”

All cattle on the Dalby farm are grass-fed and cared for with the utmost care – answering Australian consumers’ call for ethically produced beef. Picture provided.

Focus on animal welfare

The Salter cattle operation includes a herd of 250 Angus stallions and a commercial backgrounding herd.

All of the cattle on their farm are grass-fed and cared for with the utmost care – answering Australian consumers’ call for ethically produced beef, while also opening up wider marketing opportunities for their business.

“We have a welfare story, a carbon story and a traceability story that underpins our beef production, and we seek to build on that,” Warren said.

“We are currently looking to supply our product to a branded beef operation in an additional contribution to industry transparency, while receiving premium awards for our efforts, this is the ultimate win/win,” Warren said. .

Innovation at the service of efficiency

An operational “game changer” was the inclusion of a Walk-In Weighbridge (WOW), a portable weighbridge with data collection capabilities that Warren says improved their grazing management “tenfold” .

“We discovered the concept more than five years ago, when it was just an engineering thought bubble, and partnered with manufacturers, providing a test site for the works. trial,” Warren explained.

A weighing platform and drafting unit in one, the portable innovation is placed in high traffic areas, allowing livestock to be automatically weighed regularly with the least amount of physical input required.

“I would describe Meg and I as ‘data positive people’, we follow the principle that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” Warren said. “As such, we are always looking for systems and processes to streamline the way we live day to day, and this livestock handling software and facility has proven invaluable.”

The WOW unit scans each animal via its individual NLIS tag, with cloud-based software calculating average herd weight and average daily weight gain, accessible from a mobile phone.

“I have a trading group of 219 head, and every day I can reconcile that number, which in itself is an extremely valuable tool in helping to identify if a beast is not drinking and potentially sick or visiting neighbours.”

Monitoring her livestock’s daily performance also provided Warren and Meg with insight into their grazing operation and how to optimize grazing days per hectare through data-driven decision making.

“We follow a time-controlled rotational grazing schedule, basing our grazing decisions on plant growth rates and cattle performance. Previously cattle were moved about every eight weeks based on my visual estimate approximate.”

“I used my shin as a landmark, and when the pastures were low enough, I would move the cattle around and pat myself on the back,” Warren laughed.

“Now our pasture management has improved dramatically with the precise data I can now access, I can identify the exact point where the cattle are gaining less weight and I know it’s time to move them.”

Animal welfare and labor saving win

Salter’s permanent weigh station is up to ten kilometers from their paddocks, with the physical labor required to move and weigh each cow – plus the welfare concerns that move cattle that distance every day – the daily collection weight would not be viable without this system.

“There’s just no way to collect this data manually and its success has been a real ‘shatter-off’ for us,” Warren said.

The innovation has increased business profitability through savings in physical labor, improved animal performance, and better management decisions based on current data.

Warren said that from a management perspective it has been extremely reassuring when he and Meg are not on hand to access and monitor livestock movements and water points remotely.

“All cattle learn at weaning how to use the WOW, and they learn quickly, so it’s a really streamlined process without the need for extra handling.”

While their holistic farming and grazing journey is still in its infancy, Warren said sharing knowledge and learning from others in the industry is a priority.

“It’s an exciting time for us – as a family, as farmers and as stewards of the land – and it’s just the start of a truly rewarding journey.”

For the latest commodity market and sector insights, practical case studies, industry success stories and grassroots rural initiatives, visit: https://www.rabobank.com.au/insights/

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About Keneth T. Graves

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