As Queensland beef producers targeting Meat Standards Australia (MSA) requirements face what is historically the most challenging time of the year for meeting compliance, some timely tips to help improve compliance have been compiled for producers.
Average MSA non-compliance for Queensland producers throughout 2018 peaked in July at 8.65%, and remained high throughout August and September, as a result of high meat pH, which is a pH greater than 5.70. A smaller proportion of cattle, less than 2%, also did not meet MSA’s fat coverage requirements of a minimum of 3mm.
Queensland producers consigned more than 1.42 million head for MSA grading in 2018, and total non-compliance averaged just over 7% throughout the year.
With 65% of Queensland drought declared and many other livestock production areas managing ongoing dry conditions, MSA Producer Engagement Officer, Laura Garland, said there were some key areas that producers can target to address pH and improve MSA compliance.
“Ultimate pH is heavily influenced by on-farm practices and there are two major components to this – nutrition and stress,” Ms Garland said.
“Carcase pH levels are driven by muscle glycogen, which is built up through good nutrition and then depleted by stress.
“To address issues of non-compliance to pH, producers need to maximise the amount of glycogen at the point of slaughter by optimising nutrition and minimising stress.”
Ms Garland encouraged producers to look carefully at their production systems to identify what might be contributing to issues of high pH.
“Monitor feed on offer and pasture quality to achieve the desired rate of growth and a rising plane of nutrition,” Ms Garland said.
“If you notice higher rates of dark cutting in your cattle despite abundant feed, do a feed test to clarify pasture quality.
“If pasture is in short supply, supplementing cattle with other nutritious feed sources will help to optimise their performance.
“Ensuring that cattle are achieving growth rates of at least 0.9kg/day will help to reduce the risk of dark cutting. When cattle are gaining weight at these growth rates and above, their muscle glycogen will be ‘full’, allowing them to cope with stressors like handling, exercise and transport and still have enough stored glycogen at the point of slaughter.
“A high-energy ration for at least 30 days before slaughter can increase muscle glycogen and reduce the risk of dark cutting.”
Ms Garland said producers should also assess their cattle management in the lead up to slaughter to identify potential stressors and consider the following tips:
- muster and handle stock as quietly and efficiently as possible
- familiarise animals to handling and train stock persons in handling skills
- maintain animals in their social groups – don’t mix mobs within 14 days of dispatch
- ensure livestock have access to water at all times prior to consignment.