Feedlot shade structures providing benefits to cattle and people alike

The Australian grain fed beef industry is known worldwide not only for its quality product, but also its commitment to the highest animal welfare standards and desire to be continually improving.

One of the keys to maintaining this commitment and meeting this desire is the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) initiative that encourages all Australian feedlots to make a pledge to provide cattle under their care with access to shade.

It’s a goal the industry has set out to achieve by 2026, and many grain fed beef producers have already made the considerable investment in erecting shade over their existing feedlot facilities or incorporating it into the design of new facilities.

For Angela and Jeremy Cummins of Angora Feedlot, the provision of shade was an integral part of their operation from the outset.

They built their 999-head feedlot from a greenfield site on their property Annabrae, with the vision that shade had to be included.

“To me, building a feedlot without shade wasn’t acceptable because I like seeing cattle are comfortable and want to give consumers that confidence in what we are producing,” Angela said.

Grain fed beef producers Angela and Jeremy Cummins with their children Millie, 4, Alice, 6, and Jim, 2, at their Angora Feedlot in north-west New South Wales.

Located between Tamworth and Gunnedah in north-west New South Wales, Angela and Jeremy feed cattle for the 120-day export market, as well as the domestic market to two main suppliers.

“Typically, our summer season temperatures range between 30 to 40 degrees, and we do get quite humid days because we get quite a few summer storms. On those days, the cattle love sitting under the shade,” Angela said.

“Our winters are quite mild and in the middle of the day it can get quite warm, so even in the winter cattle are looking for that cover.”

Despite having shade from day one, Jeremy said the benefits of having shade are clear.

“In the lead-up to building the feedlot, we went through the drought in 2018/19 and we could just see the benefit of shade,” he said.

“And we can see the difference with performance because we have some backgrounding pens that aren’t shaded.

“Performance and being profitable is important, but we want to make sure that the cattle are comfortable so while they spend time in our feedlot, they’re happy and then that returns to us in performance.”

The Cummins family built their 999-head feedlot with the vision that shade had to be included.

Beyond the commitment to animal welfare, a key consideration for Angela and Jeremy is maintaining consumer confidence.

“The shade provides cattle with comfort when they’re in the feedlot, which also provides people with comfort that the cattle are being looked after,” Jeremy said.

“When you drive into our property, you have to drive past the feedlot; whether it’s friends, family, customers or suppliers, it’s important that they see the cattle content in their pens and accessing shade.”

Jeremy says the perception of their business, and the industry as a whole, is an important part of future prosperity and the social license to operate.

“It’s important because as we get bigger, we’re going to have more people looking in on what we’re doing,” he said.

The young family farming operation is already looking at future expansion of their feedlot, and a key part of that will be shade.

“We are planning to increase the size of our feedlot and within that expansion we will definitely be factoring in some sort of shade structure, whether that be a shed or the shade sails that we already have,” Angela said.

Jeremy and Angela Cummins say they are proud to be part of a sustainable beef production system.

“In addition to shade being a really important part of what we’re doing here, it will also increase our access to capital if our investors are comfortable with the system and the design that we’ve got in place and that the animals are being looked after in an animal welfare sense.

“We’re really proud about what we’re doing here and really excited to be part of a sustainable beef production system.”

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