The Grassdale feedlot, 42 kilometres south of Dalby, has allowed Mort and Co. to extend its cattle operations with a well thought-out, ergonomic design.
The first cattle went into the feedlot only 12 months after building commenced on the complex. The construction is new as there were no previous yards of any significance on the 560-hectare property. The yards now hold more than 30,000 head, just 2000 short of the stage-one capacity. With the future stage-two development, Grassdale will hold about 55,000 head.
With 30 staff members now on site, the consistent operating level equates to 2000 - 2500 head a week going in and out. The yards and feedlot are the first large-scale commercial feedlot to be built from the ground up in Southern Queensland in the past decade.
"The beauty of building something from the ground up is the ability to encompass a number of practical things into the site learned from the company's previous experiences," Grazier Services Manager Martin McDonald said.
"The top soil was removed, the pen areas were leveled and shaped to the required gradient, then the area was covered with gravel so the pens will be sound from the start and maintain good drainage. The yards are designed for staff to spend minimal time with the cattle. The National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) was an integral part of the feedlot design being that we have an individual animal management database which all the animal information is recorded on. "
The NLIS function supports that well. "Cattle on arrival go through a unique NLIS reader lane, enabling us to verify the NLIS integrity of the cattle that is cross checked with the physical count of the cattle. Off that reader lane, if there are missing or non-reading tags, we can run the cattle through a single file race, which automatically drafts out the cattle with the missing or non-reading tags. Those cattle can subsequently be tagged and sent to their pens with their NLIS integrity complete."
The combination of the reader lane and the automatic drafting is unique to Grassdale and the development of the NLIS reading capability, in feedlot terms, is special. "The accountability of the inventory for our grazier and investor clients is very important to us," Mr McDonald said. "We have shade in all the pens, with access to two water points and the water points have sewered troughs, thus when cleaned they don't create mud within the pen." All the internal roadways are bitumen, to reduce dust and reduces the need for water trucks."
"We have a lot of automation, in terms of remote-controlled gates, to enhance the efficiency of the work processes. Where possible in the high-flow areas, we've implemented remote-controlled gates and external walkways, to ensure the safety of our staff so they don't have to be in with the cattle. " The processes supporting the feed management system, the individual animal management system, and the total system ensure that the integrity of the data is sound," he said.
The location of the yards was chosen for its proximity to feed-growing regions. The scale of the farm allows sustainable on-site use of manure and effluent sound separation distance between the feedlot and neighbours. Other factors that governed the decision to build the feedlot included the grain supply on Darling Downs, the proximity to meat processors, the service centres of Dalby and Toowoomba, and access to coal seam gas and water from the extraction from these gases.
Grassdale will be run in conjunction with Mort and Co's other feedlot. Pinegrove, near Millmerran. Cattle are bought directly from graziers or from sales, the feedlot sourced a large proportion of stock from central and southern New South Wales late in 2007 with many now coming from North, Central, and Western Queensland.
The yards were built by contractors, including Chris Grayson Rural' Contracting, Stark Eagineering, Gatton, Thompson, Longhorn, Allots, Aleis International - Jandowae, and Netpro - Stanthorpe.