Grass-fed beef operation near Rockhampton quickly gaining ground

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

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

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

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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