Home > Grass-fed beef operation near Rockhampton quickly gaining ground

Grass-fed beef operation near Rockhampton quickly gaining ground

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article image Joe Comiskey and his daughter, Sharon

A family-owned cattle operation near Rockhampton is getting noticed in the grass-fed beef market with the owners attributing their success to hard work and feed experimentation.

A relative newcomer to the cattle industry, Comiskey Beef is run by Joe Comiskey and his daughter, Sharon. Mr Comiskey left the earthmoving industry in 2011 to buy two MLA-certified properties at Mamor. The cattle operation has 350 Brangus breeders, with steers and heifers brought in as well.

Comiskey Beef turns off 20 animals a week at the moment and is looking to double that number, says Mr Comiskey. Their product is stocked by a few major butchers in the area and is also getting shipped as far down as the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Comiskey said the upswing could be attributed to fodder experimentation and hard work. Now people want to know where their meat comes from and what the animals are fed.

He said the latest successful feed change came in 2017 when they reintroduced Sugargraze forage sorghum. The forage is grown under part of a pivot where it is cut at 1.5m tall and put into round bale silage to feed out later. Since the crop grows extremely fast, he is able to cut it at Christmas, in March and in May.

The forage was planted on 12 hectares in October as the oats program finished, with plenty of nutrients added.

“We put on Incitec s120 sulphur before planting and after each cut, we put about three tonnes of Easy N liquid nitrogen through the pivot.

“We make a 50:50 water dilution then irrigate one way with half an inch and back the other way with half an inch to ensure it all gets N.

“Then we go back again with an inch of just water.”

Yearly crops include Callide grass, Lucerne, oats and barley with forage sorghum specifically grown in the summer months.

1174ha Aintree is used for growing crops and fattening cattle, while 310ha Seven Hills is a breeding block home to full blood Wagyu Bulls over Brangus breeders, as well as some of the Aintree cattle.

The other significant change to the ration was made earlier in 2016, when the Comiskeys began growing barley sprouts. The barley seeds are soaked in water, drained and scooped into 190 trays, and then put into racks with an automated irrigation and infrared lighting system.

The seeds sprout, produce a root system, and after four days, the sprouts form a large ‘biscuit’, 3.2 tonnes of which are fed out daily.

Contrary to a grain feedlot where cattle are stationary and fed corn and barley, Comiskey runs a laborious feed process.

Weaners are sourced at about 200kg and enter the backgrounding yards until they reach 380kg on a ration of crushed barley grain, green chop and dry hay or silage.

The weaners then go to the barley grass feed lot for 70-100 days.

Each morning, 150 heads of weaners are each fed 17kg of barley sprouted grass, and 5kg of green chop (grass and lucerne) at midday; during the day, the cattle freely eat about 10kg of silage hay per head from feeding racks in the yards.

Cattle are fattened to 420-450kg live weight before going to Biggenden meat works where the meat is MSA graded.

Joe and Sharon like to run a transparent business, opening their farm to visitors from around the world.

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