Angus Foundation SmartBeef Scholarship Recipients Hamish Smith and Emily Scrivener recently took part in their scholarship opportunity, heading to Tamworth, NSW, to attend the two-day industry conference event.
SmartBeef, which took place on the 11th – 12th of October, serves as the grain fed beef industry’s technical conference and draws together feedlot operators and their staff, nutritionists, veterinarians, regulators, service providers and others involved in the grain fed beef supply chain.
Hamish and Emily have both put together their thoughts about their conference experience and what they took home.
Read their reports below:
The Wednesday evening began with pre dinner drinks and the chance to meet some of the many people attending SmartBeef , hosted by the Australian Lot Feeders Association (ALFA). After mingling with the masses, we found our seats for dinner and the formalities of the evening started. After the dinner I was pleased to meet Timothy Brennan, the Livestock Team Coordinator at NH Foods Whyalla Beef and winner of the ALFA Young Lot Feeder of the Year Award.
The Thursday morning began with a seminar about compost processing for crop productivity and soil carbon. This consisted of a tour of the compost program at the Killara Feedlot. It was interesting to see the compost machine in action as it turned the windrows of manure, allowing for aeration of the compost which allows the microbes in the compost to grow and decompose the manure. In particular, I found it informative that there were certain heat and moisture specifications that must be met in order to sell the compost to landscapers.
The second seminar was a thoracic ultrasound demonstration and a demonstration of remote diagnostics with wearable technology. It was demonstrated that by conducting a thoracic ultrasound, bovine respiratory disease can be diagnosed. In addition, it was clear that remote diagnostics by a pen rider using a wearable camera with a built-in microphone could be very helpful for feedlot managers to see the health of the cattle without needing to physically enter the pens themselves.
The livestock handling demonstration was also very insightful particularly when considering that I was personally more accustomed to using motorbikes than horses.
The next seminar after lunch was a bunk scanning demonstration. The benefits of using bunk scanning technology on large scale feedlots soon became obvious due to its consistent, accurate and fast nature in comparison to a person manually checking the bunks to see how much feed is left.
The final seminar was about shade in feedlots. Now more so than ever, both the animal welfare and production benefits of providing either full or partial shade in feedlots is apparent.
Nevertheless, for some of the feedlots in cooler and wetter climates there is an obvious balancing act between providing enough shade without providing too much shade that prevents the pens from drying out.
To conclude the day there was a campdraft which was both entertaining over dinner and a great way to consolidate some of the connections that I made throughout SmartBeef. Overall, SmartBeef was an excellent experience, and I could not recommend it highly enough to others. Thank you to Angus Australia for providing me with this scholarship.
SmartBeef 2023, hosted by The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA), provided an excellent platform for gaining knowledge on the advancements in the ideas and technologies utilised within the feedlot industry. It was also an invaluable opportunity to network with individuals who are passionate about the future of Australian feed lotting and who strive to produce quality, consistent beef. Angus Australia, in conjunction with ALFA, made it possible for me to engage with the feedlot community and enrich my industry knowledge, for which I am extremely grateful.
The ALFA Industry Awards Dinner was an inspirational event which recognised the ideas and visions of both individuals and communities within the feedlot industry. The ALFA Young Lot Feeder of the Year Award, sponsored by Performance Feeds, was awarded to Timothy Brennan, who emphasised the importance of ground level leadership programs as a mitigation strategy for the issue of staff retention and labour shortages.
Jacob Leak and Maddison Fryer, award grand finalists, brought their ideas of shortages in the supply chain and the importance of shade structures during winter, to the table. Their video presentations demonstrated a passion for the future of lot feeding and the potential avenues of improvement within the industry. The ALFA Community Heroes Award acknowledged the active involvement of feedlots in local communities and their dedication to environmental stewardship. Stockyard Beef facilitates the development of young Australians through pathways to both improved agricultural education and employment opportunities within the sector, and it was great to see their efforts recognised. The night not only showcased the dedication of all individuals to the industry, but also the sense of community and comradeship.
Day two of the SmartBeef experience comprised of travelling to Killara Feedlot where we navigated a rotation of five topics, Identifying the Issue, Navigating the Pens, Monitoring the Bunk, Reaching for the Roof and Compost Processing for Crop Productivity and Soil Carbon. A highlight for me was Identifying the Issue, a thoracic ultrasound demonstration, delivered by Dr Tony Batterham, which stepped through the process of diagnosing Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD). The demonstration also highlighted how the incorporation of hands-free assisted reality headsets can contribute to improved health and welfare management practices, with an increase in overall efficiency within the feedlot. The technology is applicable in a range of practices, with this session focussed on its beneficial use as a form of telehealth in Pen Riding surveillance, a step to improved accuracy when diagnosing BRD.
Navigating the pens involved a livestock handling demonstration, run by Ryan Brown from Smithfield Cattle Company, who played an integral role in the development of ALFA’s Pen Riding Fundamentals online course. The demonstration provided a snapshot into the course, focussing on the basic principles of pen riding that lead to effective and efficient monitoring and movement of animals. Monitoring the Bunk, presented by Dr Stuart McCarthy from Manabotix, featured the latest commercialised Bunk Scanner that boasts advanced precision and accuracy when determining the amount of feed remaining in cattle feed bunks and showed automated bunk management is possible.
David Barnes showcased Killara Feedlot’s new manure processing equipment in the compost processing rotation. Discussed was the ability for the machinery to increase efficiencies, for example reducing turning time from 60 minutes to just eight, and the ways in which Killara on-sells the by-products. Dr Matt van der Saag, teamed with Andrew Talbot from Killara Feedlot and Alex Smith from Rangers Valley, delivered an informative session on partial and covered housing research. Reaching for the Roof illustrated the industries efforts to mitigate Australia’s variable climate with an initiative to provide shade or shelter to all feedlot cattle by 2026. It was extremely interesting to listen to the differing perspectives on partial and covered housing systems and to learn that 70% of Australian feedlot capacity currently has access to either shade or shelter.
The event was drawn to a close with the ‘SmartBeef Cup’ Campdraft Competition, held at Killara Feedlots own Wilga Campdraft arena. The arena was designed with the purpose of connecting the feedlot to the wider community, allowing individuals to come together with their shared passion. Watching the competitive feedlot teams battle it out this year for the inaugural SmartBeef Cup, the effectiveness of the space was obvious.
I would like to thank the many sponsors that made SmartBeef 2023 possible, it was an exceptional event and I highly recommend future youth members apply for the opportunity, as it is one not to be missed.
Feature Image: Emily Scrivener and Hamish Smith at SmartBeef. Image: Kate Stark, The Land