Last week we began exploring the journey our cattle take, from paddock to plate. This week, we are continuing with the next step in the life of a feeder steer.
The weaning process, which we normally start in September, involves educating our young cattle. During the weaning muster, we will also move cows to a fresh paddock. Our cows rotate paddocks regularly, whether it is in the branding muster or the weaning muster, and the paddocks are spelled to sustain growth into the next season. The weaners are brought home to the yards.
We put them into an intensive training course on how to be civilised. They are taught how to respond to pressure and move as a mob; how to move through the yards in a calm and orderly fashion; how to react to humans, horses and working dogs; and generally how to behave themselves and live as adults.
Each day they are moved around with the horses and dogs until they can calmly follow a horse through the yards. They will also practice being drafted, learning that the whole process isn’t that scary and how to act appropriately.
They are then taken outside, into small paddocks, where they are ‘tailed’. Tailing involves allowing them to graze an area for a few hours, while the horses act as the fence around them. They learn how to recognise what we are asking of them, and behave calmly because they understand. They then return to the yards.
Weaner training is nearly a full time job because of the amount of time and care we take in their education. It is a good behaviour reward system that we use, and it works well for them. A calm animal that exhibits the traits we are looking for, is also going to be a better quality eating experience. Stress makes the animal develop tighter cross linkages in the meat fibres, resulting in tougher meat. By teaching our weaners the way we do, we are ensuring they are less likely to be stressed as they meet these situations in their future.
After they pass their training, they all end up at Kimberley. Most of them are bred at Carpentaria, in North QLD, so they take a trip on a road train to their new home in Central QLD.
Join us again next week as we continue the journey!