ALFA's 'Going Under Cover' feedlot tour looking at shade and covered housing systems fit for Australian feedlots took place in May 2023. The all-inclusive four-day tour featured visits to multiple feedlots to review a variety of shade and covered housing systems available on the market, and provided opportunity for lot feeders to hear first-hand the benefits of these structures from their peers.
The first day was spent at Jalna Feedlot where the team heard from David Gillet on Jalna’s journey in creating their Action Steel shed, and Stephen Rennie from Coles on consumer perspectives on shade and covered housing. Action Steel sponsored our first dinner where Lennie and Vince Grace gave the group a great overview on what to consider when designing a shed.
Day two took us to Teys Australia’s Charlton Feedlot to see the impressive Entegra Signature Structures shed, which is designed to enhance ventilation, keeping cattle comfort front of mind. We also saw the induction facility and heard about the trial Teys are running with Meat & Livestock Australia to evaluate the Te Pari Australia automated handling system which automates backlining, weighing and vaccinating.
We were treated to delicious Teys beef for lunch, before heading on to West Wimmera Beef located in Nihl, Victoria. Here Darryn and Jackie Rethus showed us around their shed built by Central Steel Build. They spoke to the benefits of their shelter system during hot summers that can be experienced at Nihl, while also keeping pens drier during their wet winters. On night two we had a dinner with a presentation from Graham and Melissa from Biolink 4 Plants, who spoke about some of their latest products.
Day three kicked off with a visit to Mayura Station in Millicent. Scott de Bruin walked us through the feed alley underneath their three arched Rarcoola Structural & Spanlift Australia built shed, which not only provides protection from the cold and wet Millicent winters, but was also specifically designed to protect animals from wind chill. These factors have contributed to consistent weight gain in the cattle, and positive improvements in meat quality and marbling year-round.
On our second stop for day three we had a very warm welcome from the team at Thomas Foods Feedlot Southern Cross Operations. Tom Green spoke to the group as we walked through the Netpro built shade covered pens, where he outlined the importance of shade for animal health and welfare in the high heat summers.
We heard from Gary Grace at our final dinner of the tour. He discussed Spanlift Australia’s passion for intensive farming and outlined learnings from other farming industries, such as the poultry industry, and spoke to how these other industries utilise shade and covered housing and the parallel benefits available to the feedlot industry.
The night wrapped up with a Q&A session with our subject matter experts Matt Van Der Saag, Rob Lawrence, Angela Lees, Robyn Tucker and Tom Green as panellists. The group had the opportunity to ask any final and pressing questions that their learnings on the tour had sparked.
For the final day of our ‘Going Under Cover’ Shade and Covered Housing Tour we headed to Campbell House Dairy in Meningie. Owned and operated by Brad and Karin Fischer, Campbell House is a dairy farm milking 600 cows year-round, selling their milk to Adelaide based brands.
Campbell House’s open layout compost barn has resulted in the cows spending more time lying and ruminating which has a direct correlation to increased milk yield.
We saw some cool technology in operation for both cattle comfort and feed production, including a feed sweeper robot, electric back scratchers and rubber flooring.
Finally, we heard from Mike Ryan from Eagle Direct who spoke about how the design and management of any shed structure needs to be site specific. We also heard from Angela Lees from The University of Queensland who spoke about the waterproof alternatives to shade cloth or steel sheds.
The group learnt so much over the four days, and it was such a great showcase of the alternative methods of shade and housing for lot feeders.
A big thank you to our delegates, speakers and sponsors for making the tour the success it was.