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MLA R&D Snapshot | Q1


Commercialisation of the Heat Load Forecast Service


As communicated to all feedlot managers, via hardcopy letter in June and August, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has transitioned the Feedlot Heat Load Forecast service to a user pays system effective 1 July 2023, via a variety of commercial providers.


MLA has supported the development of the heat load forecast service for 20 years. MLA considers the development of the heat load forecasting service as a successful R&D investment and a good example of how an industry issue translates from research to development then implementation that provides commercial benefit to industry.


Whilst the 1 July 2023 represented the commercialisation milestone for the forecast service, MLA remains committed to R&D on early warning systems for extreme weather events in feedlots. The change in approach will support more funds being made available to research and development into the next generation of heat load forecasting tools for the industry.


Given the commercialisation of the service, it will be up to feedlots to decide from a commercial and risk perspective what is fit for purpose for their enterprise to adhere to requirements of industry quality assurance programs.


Some examples in the commercial market, that MLA is aware of that monitor Accumulated heat load units (AHLU) and Heat Load index (HLI), include weather forecasting tools from:


Short lairage drives productivity

New findings from MLA funded research indicate short duration lairage can maximise productivity for the grain fed supply chain. The duration of time and location where cattle are housed between arrival at an abattoir and slaughter is termed ‘lairage'. For Australian feedlot cattle, lairage duration is variable and can range between 2–36 hours, but more commonly ranges between 12–24 hours, and can involve an overnight stay. The research found that short duration lairage (SDL) of between three to four hours resulted in positive impacts on hot standard carcase weight (HSCW), hydration status and liver glycogen with no negative outcomes to meat quality and food safety parameters.


SDL of four hours or less was found to:

  • yield a 7.4kg advantage in HSCW as compared to mid-duration lairage (16.5 h)

  • yield a 6.2kg advantage in HSCW as compared to long-duration lairage (26.5 h)

  • increase revenue by $40 to $48 per head assuming a $6.50/kg HSCW price

  • results in similar food safety parameters to mid and long duration lairage

  • increase hydration levels of cattle as evidenced by lower packed cell volumes.

  • increase liver glycogen compared to mid and long lairage duration treatments, an indication of improved energy stores, given their shorter duration off feed.


Importantly, operationalising SDL in a supply chain requires considerable coordination from all participants including feedlot operators, transporters and at also the processing plant where procurement, delivery, lairage management and antemortem inspection all play a role.


Key considerations to enable short duration lairage include, but may not be limited to:

  • working with supply chains who have interest and capability of managing short duration lairage,

  • Supply chains scheduling ante-mortem inspection with relevant authorities

  • working with those supply chains on appropriate transport and slaughter scheduling

  • correct electronic submission of National Vendor Declarations (NVD)forward communication to the processor on fitness to load and veterinary certificates

  • improving coat cleanliness prior to abattoir arrival to reduce washing


Read the Final Report Here


Launch – Feedlot covered housing systems: Best practice design and management manual


With the unprecedented variability in climatic conditions Australia has experienced in recent years, combined with the industry pledge for all cattle to be provided with either shade or shelter by 2026, there has been incredible interest in covered and partially covered housing systems and their application to Australian feedlots.


The interest in covered or partial covered housing systems is being driven by the potential for these innovative engineering solutions to better complement location specific weather conditions, such as areas with winter dominant rainfall, to enhance livestock performance and management, mitigate environmental impacts, and improve animal welfare.


There is very little data on the management of beef cattle under fully covered housing systems in Australia. To address this gap, a best practice design and management manual for covered and partially covered housing systems has been developed for the Australian lot feeding industry.


The manual is built upon the best available knowledge from around the world for these systems, along with knowledge gained from visits to a variety of covered housing systems operational in Australia. The manual details design, construction, regulations, bedding, manure management, welfare standards, animal health considerations, and costs of these systems compared to best practice open feedlot pens.


The manual can be found here, and is available on the Resources page on the ALFA website.



World first automated bunk management technology showcased at Smartbeef 2023


A collaboration between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), Bovine Dynamics, the University of Queensland and bespoke engineering and automation solutions provider Manabotix, has demonstrated for the first time in the world that automation of bunk management can be achieved to the level of a highly trained bunk caller. This ground breaking work was enabled by the the development and commercialisation of a lidar-based bunk scanner by MLA and Manabotix in recent years, which can accurately determine the amount of feed remaining in a bunk.


The work was recently showcased at Smartbeef23 in Tamworth, where Manabotix were able to share that the bunk scanning technology is now in use in five large feedlots in Australia, responsible for measuring the feed intake of over 150,000 head of cattle each day.


Further investment is planned by MLA and Manabotix in 2023–24 to roll out a commercial software program to allow custom algorithm specification for feedlot clients and fully automate bunk management.

Read the final report:

For more information:

Stuart McCarthy, Manabotix: stuart@manabotix.com

Samuel V. Platts, Bovine Dynamics: sam@bovinedynamics.com.au

Dr Joe McMeniman, MLA feedlot program manager:jmcmeniman@mla.com.au




Call for Lot Feeder & Independent R&D Expert Nominations – MLA Program R&D Panel


Have you ever watched the TV Show Shark Tank, and thought you have what it takes? Are you interested in the latest animal health preventatives, sustainability solutions, automation and productivity solutions?


MLA is seeking expressions of interest from Commercial beef lot feeders (from NFAS accredited feedlots) and independent R&D experts to join the MLA Program R&D Panel.


The Panel plays a crucial role in the success of the R&D program, by reviewing tender applications, ensuring they adhere to the Tender Specification endorsed by the ALFA R&D Committee and MLA, and making a recommendations to the MLA approval and contracting process.

Nominations are due by November 30, 2023.


To learn more about the opportunity please visit Producer Funding Opportunities | Meat & Livestock Australia (mla.com.au)


MLA to invest in understanding space allocation and bedding rate in Covered Housing systems in 2024


MLA is seeking Stage 1 applications from organisations to undertake a comprehensive research program to determine optimal space allocation and bedding rate of feedlot cattle that will facilitate the development of a covered feedlot odour model. The project is to be funded from Grain fed levies.

As part of this project we are seeking a host feedlot site, willing to allow construction of a small covered feedlot facility as part of the project and manage animals under specified conditions for a duration of at least two years. MLA will then arrange for a separate project to measure odour under those management conditions.


Applications are due December 15, 2023.


To learn more about this opportunity please visit Current tenders | Meat & Livestock Australia (mla.com.au)




Evaluation of the benefits of shade for feedlot cattle in a temperate climate in Western Australia


MLA recently partnered with a lot feeder in Western Australia, 180km east of Perth to evaluate the effects of shade on feedlot cattle. This project compared the performance and welfare of black Angus cattle in two treatments (shaded vs. unshaded) over summer under commercial conditions.

Key findings included:

  • Provision of shade to cattle resulted in a 0.13 kg higher average daily gain (ADG) across the 70-day feedlot period.

  • Using a quantitative behavioural assessment, shaded cattle were shown to be more settled and sociable than unshaded cattle.

  • Shaded animals has a lower average panting score across the entire study period, which was accentuated as the temperature humidity index increased.

  • The shade capital cost payback period was shown to be 2-10 years using a matrix of different capital/installation costs and carcase weight values.

Overall this project has helped provide better knowledge of the benefits of shade to animal performance, health and welfare. This complements previous studies in different geographic regions. Future work will build upon this and seek to evaluate shelter and partial shelter solutions for the Australian Lot Feeding industry.


Stay tuned - MLA will release a link to the final report soon!





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