Quitting the herd seminar held in Yeoval

Published 15 May 2015. After a sold out seminar at Beef Week, Kit Pharo, a cattle rancher from Colorado, presented his 'Herd Quitter' seminar in Yeoval on Wednedsay 13 May...

After a sold out seminar at Beef Week, Kit Pharo, a cattle rancher from Colorado, presented his 'Herd Quitter' seminar in Yeoval on Wednedsay 13 May.

The seminar, hosted by Resource Consulting Services and Little River Landcare, attracted 110 graziers from around the Central West.

Kit, who runs a cow and calf operation and breeds bulls, challenged the audience to think differently about their businesses and to embrace change and innovation.

“We've been focused on the wrong things for so long it's hard to make a profit.” said Kit.

Despite high cattle prices, expenses have exceeded income on Australian cattle operations in 12 out of the last 13 years.

“High prices don't guarantee profit.” said Kit.

Kit blamed this trend on the focus of US, and similarly Australian, cattle operations on attaining higher and higher weaning weights.

Kit postulated that the most profitable ranchers are those who make the most efficient use of their available forage resources whilst minimising input costs, rather than focusing on weaning weights.

He explained that the implementation of planned rotational grazing and increasing rest periods is the key to maximising pasture resources and increasing production and profitability.

For the past 50 years, costs have risen 4 times faster than cattle prices so the reduction of input costs is the key driver to profitability. Calving in sync with nature removes the need for supplementary feeding and the associated input costs. Accordingly, matching the production cycle to the available forage resources is also an important consideration.

Kit has been practising this on his Colorado ranch for the last two decades. By changing calving from winter to spring he has eliminated calving problems and abnormal presentations and experienced less sickness and death in the calves. Although the calves have lower weaning weights, Kit has actually increased his profit margin as he is producing more kilograms of calves per hectare than under the previous breeding regime.

He has also concentrated his breeding operation on producing smaller cows which require less energy for maintenance. Matching cow size and type to available forage resources produces animals which are able to not only maintain condition, but gain weight and put on fat in less than optimal conditions.

“Most producers are artificially changing their environment to fit their cows.” said Kit.

“Properly done the cow will do all the work for us.” he continued.

By quitting the herd and focusing on converting solar energy into a high quality food product, rather than following industry trends, Kit encouraged beef producers to realise truly sustainable operations, ones that are both profitable and enjoyable.