Lot feeding is the intensive grain based ration feeding of cattle to guarantee the production of premium and consistent quality beef. Lot feeding of cattle is undertaken in a feedlot, which is a confined yard area with watering and feeding facilities, where cattle are fed for the purpose of production.
Cattle raised on pastures are 'finished' in feedlots on a highly nutritious diet of grain, prior to slaughter or live export. Depending on the level of marbling and weight required by the customer, cattle stay in the feedlot for periods varying from approximately 60 days up to 400 days. The Australian commercial lot feeding industry began in the late 1960's in southern Queensland, and has continued to capitalise on both the large export demand and significant domestic demand for consistent lot fed beef.
The Australian lot feeding industry is destined for continued growth, as consumers demand consistent beef quality, and as world-wide beef consumption increases. This increase has come about as income levels in developing countries rise and beef consumption reflects this change.
The Australian Beef Industry
The beef industry is one of Australia's largest and oldest rural industries. Domestically, supermarkets are the major retail outlet for Australian beef sales. Internationally, Australia is one of the largest exporters of beef, due in part to its status of being free of major diseases, and the availability of surplus beef for export due to its small population. The largest producers of prime beef in Australia are feedlots, which account for 40% of all beef produced. In the United States 85% of all prime beef is lot fed which indicates that continued Australian feedlot growth can be expected.
Recent industry trends have shown a world-wide increase in beef demand. This increase is being led by developing countries where per capita consumption of all meats has increased dramatically compared to developed countries. Australia is well positioned to capitalise on this anticipated growth as it is an efficient producer of clean beef and has the opportunity to position itself in these new markets.
With the recent establishment of beef brands, food safety and consistency of product have become paramount. This has led to the development of structured supply chains, with retailers and processors developing alliances to ensure that the product presented to their customers is consistent, and has been produced in a safe environment. Lot fed beef forms an important part of these supply alliances.
Australian beef processors are increasingly looking to lot fed beef cattle to supply consumers in the Australian market. Lot feeding also has the ability to increase the Australian production base and improve the reputation of Australian beef in both domestic and international markets.
Lot feeding ensures a continuous supply of consistent, high quality beef, which positions suppliers of lot fed beef cattle well to increase their share of both domestic and international markets.