Ranger’s Valley Feedlot www.rangersvalley.com.au is an iconic beef business in the Australian Beef industry. The Rangers Valley brand has a strong global presence and is attributable to an ongoing commitment to excellence by the whole team.
The location near Glenn Innes in northern NSW on the New England tablelands features stunning scenery with cool crisp winters and warm summers. The feeding programmes are predominantly 300 days and more with higher silage inclusion rates than feedlots on shorter feeding programmes. Silage quality and the efficiency of the silage system is critical to the feedlot’s performance.
The 6,600 ha property includes a 33,000 head capacity feedlot and associated infrastructure and has 3,500 ha of cropping land including 400ha under centre pivot irrigation. At the time of my visit, there were 5,000 cattle being backgrounded on site predominantly grazing winter forage on the cropping land.
The farming operations manager, Mark Whyte, has been at Rangers for 22 years. His management of the farming operation and environment keeps him really busy, especially during silage harvest season when 50k tonnes of corn silage is produced under his intense supervision. Mark has been running the farming and grazing operation for nearly 10 years and he returned to UNE Armidale to hone his skills around agronomy, farming systems and environmental management when he accepted this new role. He was previously Operations Manager for the feedlot taking care maintenance of the infrastructure of the feedlot.
Mark’s silage management system pays attention to the key criteria:
⦁ Farming operations
⦁ The elevation favours the growing of corn with cool evenings helping minimise energy losses from evapotranspiration
⦁ Varietal selection for high starch yields and coordinated sowing times to schedule planting of varieties to stay within crop parameters of 32 to 37% Dry Matter range
⦁ New 16 row planter to ensure sowing schedule can be balanced to meet the silage harvest schedule
⦁ Summer crop rotation with soybeans to improve soil conditions and provide for a winter fallow
⦁ Management of fertiliser quantity and type to maximise crop response
⦁ Silage Harvest is an intense part of Mark’s annual work programme attention to detail. This incredibly intense time creates a feed that will underpin incredible feedlot performance.
⦁ Mark coordinates the harvest with the team from Judd Bros Contracting, who have more than 25 years’ experience in silage harvesting in Australia, being engaged by some of Australia’s biggest silage users. The relationship between Mark and Alan Judd ensures that the continuous decision making by the harvesting crew meets the standards created by Mark to meet the nutritionist’s expectations.
⦁ Quality control staff take DM samples throughout the day to ensure DM is above 32% and in a normal season, DM is below 37%. Continuous feed-back to Mark ensures the team are on track.
⦁ Mark checks the chop length and chop quality regularly and ensures chop length is managed to facilitate excellent compaction.
⦁ Kernel processing is important in the Rangers Valley feeding system as the long fed Angus, Wagyu and Wagyu cross bred cattle receive a higher forage diet than cattle on shorter feeding programmes.
⦁ Using a researched reputable silage inoculant to match the fermentation challenges.
⦁ Rapid filling of the bunker at high compaction density.
⦁ Rapid sealing of the bunker.
⦁ Careful feed-out to ensure no loose material is left on the floor of the bunker.
Initially, Mark was reluctant to replace a single sheet of black/white silage film with the more complex 2-layer system. He now reckons it is the best thing he ever did for the silage system
Spoilage - no visible spoilage
Labour - covering and uncovering labour has reduced by 80%
Tyres and tyre walls have been eliminated which has dramatically improved the environment around the silage bunkers as these tyres provided shelter for snakes, rays, spiders as well as holding water where all sorts of unpleasant organisms survived quite happily.