For almost a decade, Anthony and Chantal Winter have been farm managers at Macquarie Wagyu, a specialist Wagyu breeding, growing, feedlot, and farming business at Macquarie Downs near Leyburn, Queensland.
Currently, they join around 700 fullblood females every year, using artificial insemination, embryo transfer, and natural joining. Macquarie Wagyu is just starting the process of selling their genetics, which hasn’t been a core part of their business previously.
In the feedlot, Macquarie Wagyu feeds their own cattle as well as custom feed and is currently licensed to feed 2900 SCU. Anthony said they hoped their application to increase to 4900 would be approved by the end of the financial year.
Every aspect of their business creates data and the Winters are meticulous in their records, a system they base on Practical Systems platform Stockbook.
“Data collection does drive everything we do,” Anthony said.
The data collected in Stockbook allows Macquarie Wagyu to make informed breeding and purchase decisions, as well as making it easier to report to various internal and external stakeholders.
“Each year we’ve found a better way of using Stockbook to make our data collection and analysis quicker, easier and more streamlined,” Chantal said.
According to Anthony and Chantal, the traceability and transparency of storing data in Stockbook allows them to avoid risks in their business.
“As Wagyu as a breed has grown, the information we need to collect has also increased,” Chantal said. “We need to be able to trace everything back through the pedigree, so all our carcass data, weights, progeny: everything is in Stockbook and all you need to do is click a button to see how an animal has performed.”
Stockbook allows Macquarie Wagyu to avoid the risk of selling or slaughtering cattle during their withholding period or attempting to use AI on cattle that are already pregnant. If there is an issue with a particular carcass, they can trace it back and discover the source of the problem.
“Every year we have another 400 or 500 carcasses that we get data back on,” Anthony said. “Having robust data makes our breeding decisions easier every year because we have so much history to use. It has been interesting watching our results starting to match Breedplan’s recommendations more and more over the past four years.”
“On the genetics side, if a client wants to look at a particular bull we can show them how it and its progeny have performed,” Anthony said. “It is pretty simple to delve down into that information, and it gives you credibility. We’re very transparent; we show the good with the bad. If we’ve got a cow that’s had six good calves and one crappy calf, we will still show people that. This is nature, not everything is going to be perfect.”
For Anthony and Chantal, collecting data is important, but having a system that can analyse and report on that data will give you control of your business.
“If you’re not collecting data and tracking your animals, I just can’t see how you can get ahead or keep up with what your cattle are doing,” Chantal said. “Because of the fine margins, you’ve got to be choosing those animals that perform otherwise the risk is just too high.”
For Chantal and Anthony, Stockbook is a way to join the dots between seemingly disparate information and aid their ability to make informed decisions.
“With the amount of information we have to keep, you would never be able to link all of that together without Stockbook,” Chantal said. “It would take you days in the office to match everything up, and even then you wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Stockbook just files all the information away beautifully for us. All you need to do to make a joining decision is to go into the platform and create the right report.”
Anthony agreed: “I look up progeny data and weight history all the time because it’s a big part of our focus: choosing the right animals for our breeding program. Without Stockbook it would be a hell of a lot harder to be making breeding decisions.”
Chantal and Anthony explained that with Stockbook, no special efforts were needed to comply with quality assurance, communicate with the breed society, or provide reports to Macquarie Wagyu’s owners. Instead, collecting information in Stockbook is part of their day-to-day processes.
“Every day we are collecting information for our quality assurance,” Chantal said. “If we didn’t use Stockbook we would probably have a heap of paper notes that we would never do anything with. By using Stockbook, we are prepared for an audit or client inquiries.
“Because we are keeping records of treatments and a chemical inventory as we go, we are not entering information trying to remember what we did six months ago. When it is time to send files to the Wagyu Association or the owners of Macquarie Wagyu, it’s just a push of a button.
“From a quality assurance point of view, when the auditor visits the feedlot every year I can just quickly print out a report that has everything they require, I don’t have to pull out hundreds of folders. If they need more information, I can quickly find what they need,” Chantal said.
Before working at Macquarie Wagyu, Chantal was a Cattle Care Auditor and encouraged many producers to start using Stockbook.
“It is just so logical and simple to use. Stockbook uses our lingo; it is easy to understand and intuitive. It was very helpful for people who needed to record for Quality Assurance,” Chantal said.
“I audited for older people who still used old notebooks with all their data written down. A lot of them ended up changing to Stockbook and they were impressed; it was exciting to see them pick it up easily.”
After recognising problems in the system due to incorrect data entry in the past, Chantal is very particular about Macquarie Wagyu’s record keeping. The next step in their data collection is to start using Stockbook’s Live Entry.
In the yards, the Winters use a panel reader with the hydraulic crush, as well as a Trutest indicator and a Stockbook TSi. They are currently trialling the use of Practical Systems online data warehouse, and the couple see Live Entry’s potential for improving their entire data collection systems.
“Once we start it will reduce the time it takes to collect data even more,” Chantal said. “It’s going to be a lot easier than doing things in the yard and then entering it in at the office. Also, when an animal comes through the yards, we will be able to look everything up there and then.”
For the past five years, Chantal has been a Senior Vice President and Board Director of the Australian Wagyu Association. She said having the many AWA members using Stockbook meant the association has been able to streamline the collection of members’ data.
“It just makes it a lot easier and removes the risk of human error,” Chantal said. “You’re not ‘cutting and pasting’ data from one document to the other, or having to re-enter anything. The closer Wagyu works with Practical Systems, the easier life will get for our office staff.”