Report Synopsis

Lean Beef. Large scale calf rearing for dairy beef and the application of Lean Management in agriculture

Thomas Snare

Dairy bull calves are currently an underutilised by product of the Australian dairy industry. The current practice of killing these calves at birth or processing at four days of age is gaining increasing negative publicity. With dairy origin beef contributing significantly to the total beef production of many countries including the USA and UK there is an opportunity to value add to this coproduct of dairy production.

Lean Management, developed Toyota in Japan, has been extensively utilised by manufacturing businesses worldwide to drive improvements in productivity, with improvements typically in the realms of 20 to 30 percent. To date, little has been done to implementing Lean principles within agriculture in Australia.

  • The key objectives of this research included:
  • To evaluate calf rearing systems utilised around the world for dairy beef production, in particular those operating at large scale.
  • To understand the major factors driving success in these businesses.
  • To determine which production models fit best with Australian seasonal calving patterns.
  • To evaluate the use of Lean management in agriculture.
  • To understand which aspects of Lean management work well on farm.
  • To determine the best process for implementing Lean on farm.

The research was undertaken in New Zealand, Japan, Western and Northern Europe and the Mid-west USA, seeking the utilisation of dairy bred bull calves and in particular the practical aspects of rearing at large scale. The author also completed a Lean management tour of Toyota in Japan and spoke to various consultants world-wide working with the implementation of Lean management in agriculture.

Findings from the research include large scale calf rearing is achieved most successfully collectively rather than individually, utilising a contract rearing model.

There is a quality issue with the Jersey and Jersey cross bull calves produced by the Australian dairy industry which can in part be corrected by the use of beef genetics post AI.

The seasonal nature of dairy production in Australia means lower asset utilisation in comparison to year-round calving systems in other countries.

Implementation of Lean on farm requires basic theory training of all people on the team followed by on the ground action.

Visual management boards, 5s and Standard work are tools that work well in agriculture.

The successful development of dairy beef in Australia will be best achieved through a cooperative or integrated rearing model.

The dairy industry must take responsibility for the quality of the bull calves that it is producing, utilising beef genetics where possible to increase the carcase quality of these animals.

The dairy industry must follow the beef market more closely a look for opportunities to value add.

Calf rearing should utilise existing facilities where possible to minimise capital outlay while paying attention to the environmental conditions required for optimal animal health.

Successful implementation on farm will be best achieved through on going coaching from an external advisor.

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