Rayner Reckons

Apr 02

Pasturefed Cattle, does it suit your operation?

Posted on Wednesday, April 02, 2014

This week Teys and Woolies have announced a greater push to have more cattle accredited as Pasturefed. The PCAS system, or Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System is a great opportunity for producers to gain some recognition for their feeding programs, as well as for their focus on handling and eating quality. 

I reckon its good news to hear of a processor and a retailer offering some financial recognition for producers prepared to seek accreditation.

Having said that, I think its important to carefully consider what PCAS may mean for your individual enterprise.

There are 4 Core Modules for Certified Pasturefed.  The first is identification and lifetime traceability on the NLIS database.

The second is the animals cannot be confined for the purposes of intensive feeding for production.  

The third is cattle can be be pasture fed only.  That is they can never consume separated grain or grain by-products and have access to graze eligible diets.

The forth core component is animals must be produced on farm in away which allows them to be eligible to meet MSA requirements.

There are two optional modules which include HGP free and Antibiotic free.

Producers who seek accreditation will be required to undertake an annual third party audit to ensure compliance with the system.  The audit fee as well as an annual administration fee have to be paid by the producer.

Its important to consider carefully what these requirements may mean to the operation of your enterprise.  Most producers are currently capable of meeting most of the core competencies.  Pastures do underpin the majority of our production systems.  

However, under PCAS producers no longer have the option of using grain or grain by products to assist in finishing cattle off for a market specification system.  This also means during droughts, using grain to full feed cattle would no longer be an option.  There are also some restrictions on grazing crops as well.  Cattle can graze cereal crops but only in the pre-grain stage.  This could be an issue with grazing failed crops for some producers.

If you are considering PCAS as an option in your enterprise, I strongly encourage you to read the PCAS Standards, and particularly note the requirements for feeding, as well as the list of approved feeds and the banned feeds.

As with any system or accreditation process, you really need to consider the actual advantages and disadvantages for your individual enterprise.  Don't just focus on the potential rewards from one particular market.  Consider if the system restricts your flexibility to meet demanding seasons or alternative markets and if the returns justify those restrictions.

Most importantly, take the time to read what accreditation means to you and make an informed decision.  

I'd also encourage you to consider the other options which may be available to you to increase your returns without having to make huge changes to your program.  

In previous blogs I've talked about selection for muscle as well as targeting market specifications. These are practical and easily implemented options which can result in increased profits without having to change too much on farm.

If you are keen to seek accreditation or pursue other industry programs such as EU accreditation, or just obtain a licence to produce cattle for MSA, and you'd like some objective advice as to the advantages and disadvantages for your program, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

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