Rod Mannings Farm visit at Mansfield 2008

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This farm walk took place on the 18th August 2008 and these notes were compiled as a result of the visit.

Summary of Farm Visit to Rod Manning’s  property at  Mansfield   -   Part One

The farm walk took place on Monday 18th August, 2008 and these summary notes were complied during Tallangatta Valley Landcare Group’s visit to the Manning establishment.  They are provided in good faith and neither the Manning’s or the Landcare Group is responsible for how the reader may choose to use them. 


Background   Own 2,2600ac and leasing 1300ac, so approximately farming 4,4000ac in a 15 km radius.  Use this pasture to run a self replacing Angus herd.

Previously average rain fall had been 780-800 mm, last year 610mm and no run off

Currently (August) growing feed but not getting water into dams

During the drought sold the 250 spring-calving herd, but getting back into them again

Employ a full time manager and currently have daughter (+ friend helping out)  The property had previously been run by only Rod and his wife.

Believe should double in size every 7-8 years and intend to keep doing that.

Left veterinary practice 6-7 years ago as wanted to grow more grass for cattle during winter and autumn


Business  Use the CSIRO program ‘Grass Gro’ to calculate grass growth rates and GrazFeed to calculate grazing needs of various cattle classes.  Prograze data also used. Climatic data,  daylight hours, soil temperature data are needed.  Feed budgeting (knowing how much feed is required and how much there is/will grow) is done six weeks in advance so that the feed base can be managed to its most efficient potential.  If can see that there will be a shortage, will use strategic inputs, eg Nitrogen

Match feed requirements to class of animal.

As a strategy for increasing flexibility and risk management during drought the enterprise mix ideal is considered trade cattle 30% and breeding cattle 70%

Strategies for maximizing returns and reducing cost of production: - running 28 DSE/ha as an average for the whole year. 16 DSE/ha in winter and 55 DSE/ha in  Spring, putting cattle out on agistment, leasing land, forward buying and forward selling

Manning’s market their own cattle privately.  They have formed an alliance with meat traders and this has reduced costs.  They supply a Kosher market with 200-280 kg carcasses annually.  Calves are also sold into Queensland. 

Current strategy to  keep trade cattle for lease properties, this spreads risk and changes cash flow. We may  buy stock at 250-300kg weight and sell at 400-450kg weight or before if looking dry.

Uses HACCAP QUALITY CONTROL to set all critical control points.  Know what corrective action is required for all measurements. 

Able to cost all decisions so that their is no production risk, know what outcome is needed.  So able to identify economic viability of decisions.  There is a rational approach to every decision.

Growing 30kg DM/day has enabled stocking rates to be maintained at or above 27 DSE/ha.  In the old days grew 13-14 DSE/ha

Good infrastructure is imperative to maximize labor efficiency

Cost of production  (prior to drought)  51c/kg + 16c/kg finance.  Target is less than 70-75c/kg

Worked for the McKinnon project for a number of years and observed that the farmers making money had increased stocking rates. 

The challenge with increased stocking rates is to identify (and then rectify) the weakest links in the production sequence.

Cost of production is related to growing feed for animals and the more that is grown and used decreases the cost of production per head

The issue with climate change is to adapt as you go along.

Farming is about collecting, harvesting and selling energy as efficiently as possible.

Any cows with any problems are sold.    Gross 40% income from cull cows.  Keep cow for maximum of 7 years only. A high generational turnover flushes out old stock and allows for genetic gain.  If you are spending money on genetics need a turn over of cattle to benefit from purchased genetics


Cattle/Herd Management

Joined 1100 Cows, will calve 1,000 in the autumn.  430kg/ha production on breeding operation.  Run a closed breeding herd

Fed through drought, carted water, 80,000l a day on hot days at the end. (Now have bores and reticulated water supply– and have observed a productivity gain from not using dams), didn’t sell many livestock.



Yard wean in early November, 2 lots of 400-500. Autumn calves, 8-81/2 months. Feed 6-10 DM/day with silage and some grainn yards for 5 days at 1 beast per 4m2 to help with socialization. Walk between them regularly to calm them down. 

Sent to Qld at 330kg.

Put weaners onto one foot ryegrass and clover of around 1800-2000 kg DM that is fully vegetative.

Genetics is a vital but misunderstood driver of profit, expensive bulls are only of real value when all other factors that can effect production are being maximized eg quality feed.

No bulls are kept for more than 4-5 years, with most only two (average life of any bull is 2.2 years so turn them over) Buy 40 bulls per annum, generally from same suppliers each year under contract

EBV + structural soundness is important


From January to May, controlled weight loss occurs with the breeding herd.  Cows do not need to be fat, they just need enough condition to cycle.  Milk and fertility do not suffer. Loss is monitored.  Body weight is mapped use computer modelling.  


Animal Nutrition

Over winter allow cattle to reduce in body score.  It is OK to let cattle lose up to 2 body scores, by end of spring want cattle at body score 4

Every kg lost releases 30MJ, it take 35MJ to put on 1 kg of bodyweight

MJ of body weight lost can be stored as unused or saved hay and silage.  Weight loss is a cheap way to shift feed surplus, but it can be a dangerous game, need to know the limits.

4000MJ is equivalent to500Kg silage or 300kg  grain


Autumn vs. Spring Calving

The theory basis is that spring calving matches pasture growth.    If there is a reasonable autumn break autumn calving gives more profit.  But if there is no autumn break, spring calving is better.  Twenty years ago, with wetter conditions, feed was limited in winter, but with climate change...there can be adequate feed in winter. ...



Heifers Join 350-400 per year at 15 months old at beginning of July with weight 290-335kg.  Cull 20%-30% of heifers based on a weighing of calves at 7-8 months old. Calving problems 4-5%.  Nutrition of heifers  from joining to claving is critical, keep them on the optimum growth curve, new paddock every 3 days.  Weighed every 6-7 weeks need to know weights, if start to slip will feed more.  Weight at point of calving 420-430kg.  Back off feeding in last trimester, body score of 3 ideal


Animal Health

Never used 5 in 1 previously, but its usage is now more relevant.  Easy mistake clostridial problems for bloat.  On high production pastures vaccinate cattle about every four months and ewes every 3-4 months.

The first 5 in 1 shot does not give any protection, but pre-programs or primes the T4 cells.  It is the second shot 3-5 weeks later that gives protection.  If animals dying, increase frequency of vaccination

Clostridial organisms are a natural part of a cow's guts.  But when they are on a high carbohydrate diet (Metabloisable Energy at 12.8) they will gorge on carbohydrate, this increases the amount of bacteria in the gut. It is the large amounts of bacterial endotoxins that are produced and subsequently absorbed by the gut that leads to animal death.  When protein is 25-26% problems occur.


Calculating feed demand

Young heifers in calf and post calving  require 92MJ/day to function and grow  If pasture is supplying50MJ they need 40 MJ supplementary feed.  It costs 3.2c MJ to feed suppl feed.  So prior to drought the Manning’s calculated the cost of feeding the cattle at $273/head.  They were within $20 of their estimate.

It cost around $21/DSE to feed cattle and $20/DSE to feed sheep during the drought.

Calculating the costs, using spreadsheets and modeling programs means that a rational decision can be made.  Prior to drought had no feed on hand



Pasture and Grazing

Increasing the amount of perennials and increasing fertilizer rates has resulted in increasing the growing rate/day in winter

Phalaris is the main contributor to increased perennial based production


Short term annual rye grasses are also used as fodder crops, in paddocks requiring renovating.  They ryegrasses are planted for several years (this helps ‘sterilize’ paddocks and then paddocks are sown to long term phalaris pastures)  Generally dry sow, ryegrasses, prior to autumn break, at cost of about $200/ha.  These paddocks would have been spraytopped in previous spring.

Phalaris is sown in spring with some clovers.  Some phalaris pastures are 30 years old

Phalaris has more fiber than ryegrass and is more winter active than rye, it also responds well to rotational grazing.  After three days, paddocks look like mown lawn if stocking density is correct.

Grazing pressure can change the leaf : stem ratio.   Grazing in the spring, effects next season's tillering, as need to get enough light into pasture to get tillering potential. 

20kg/P/ha ?

Maintaining ground cover is very important, so had sacrifice paddocks during drought

Drought fed every day in sacrifice paddock, crushed barley 2.5 kg/day + 3 kg hay

Bloat is now an issue, with increased pasture production

Generally farmers only utilyse 30-35% of their feed production.  Rod aims to use 45-50%

Rotational grazing is a key element in reaching this aim.

Big mobs of cattle are grazed in 10ha paddocks at stocking rates of 300-500 DSE/ha

Grass is grazed from the 3 leaf stage to 1 ½ leaf stage.

Paddocks are grazed for three days.

In winter there is a 40 day rotation Need to decide with lease country whether to plough and plant phalaris when pastures are not flash and whether to set up paddocks for rotational grazing.

Grazing pastures strategically, changes their composition.  Management decisions determine gazing pressure.  Perennials can be given a competitive advantage with appropriate grazing management. Phalaris increases with rotational grazing.



Originally:- Olsen P 10-12, pH 4.6-4.7, producing 6,000-8,000 kg DM/year/ha

Limed twice in last ten years, which has increased pH to 5.3 – but doesn’t believe going above this this has had a significant impact on grass production  (???)

Aim:- Olsen P 16-20,  grass production 10,000-13,000 kg DM/year/ha

Gross Margin $33/DSE   Fertilizer increases DSE carrying capacity by 3 and pays for its cost  Reluctant to stop putting on fertilizer but need to be strategic about putting on P





Locking paddocks up for greater than four weeks compromises future production too much.  Locking up paddocks later in the season and putting nitrogen (40kg/ha)  can result in better outcome for the pasture the following autumn.  Uses contractors  for hay/silage making

Fertilizer 450kg/P/ha, 0.8P/DSE for maintenance

Rod recognized his need to improve fodder conservation and storage.  Currently only the heifers are supplementary fed.

Would like to store 2,000 tonne of silage underground, ie reserve of about 1-11/2 tonne DM/cow to reduce risk

In NZ some farms feeding cut silage, on a feed pad,  from the pit face using a hot wire (low one day and high the next)  at a rate of 10 kg per day per animal were able to provide the nutritional needs of stock.  Pits were 12 ft deep and 16 ft wide.  Cattle were being weaned at 6-7 months with this regime. An impressive system.

A Cow with a one month calf at foot needs 92-120 MJ of energy per day.  Pasture feed costs 0.3c/MJ/day  and hay costs 3c/MJ/day to feed.  Grass in the paddock is cheaper.  Annual ryegrass paddocks giving 4-5 grazings during winter allow for 3,000 kg/ha to be harvested giving 11MJME.  Need to calculate out the costs of feeding cattle.  .  Need to have a good understanding of what it costs to grow grass and feed it to stock and how much return you get.  Computer modeling and spreadsheets enable this to be done.  Rod quoted a trial of silage quality and its effect on weight gain.

28kg beef from silage with 9ME, 87kg beef from10 ME, 120kg beef produced with 11MJ ME/kg silage. Gave 125 kg beef   and 11 ME  gave 180 kg  beef , this illustrates  how important is feed quality

So often late cut silage is not very nutritious and has a detrimental effect on future pasture production.  Lower ME means reduced digestibility of forage.  Really silage is of minimal value unless it is ‘just right’