Mr. G. H. Hooper, of Talbingo Station, Near Tumut
By Peter Snodgrass
23 September 1949 The Land
Mr. G. H. Hooper, of Talbingo Station, has been working in conjunction with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - if that is the new name of the old C.S.I.R. - and the Australian Meat Board in carrying out trials for the stall feeding of beef cattle.
Talbingo Station is situated some twenty miles from Tumut, at the foot of the Talbingo Mountain, and it is the normal practice to carry about one thousand head of Hereford cattle.
The steers could be fattened at grass in the spring and summer, but the long, cold and wet winters forced Mr. Hooper to sell many of his steers as stores.
It was that disability, I have no doubt, that gave rise to the idea that stall feeding on what are described as American lines - strangely enough - might prove to be a practical solution.
The cows and calves are run on natural pasture and, after weaning, the calves are grazed rotationally on improved pasture until their second year.
From May onwards, weekly drafts of some fourteen or fifteen steers move first on to a special crop of oats and sub-clover for two weeks, and then on to a crop of turnips and clover for a further two weeks.
"The final four weeks," says the Australian Meat Board journal, "in the topping-off stalls is the critical period of the whole routine,"
The steers are brought in to these stalls and hand-fed twice daily on a ration that includes cereals, hay, and chaff, grown on the property, and purchased concentrates.
Two typical examples of the daily ration are given: 9 lb. yellow corn, 5 lb. oats, 1½ lb. linseed meal, 4 lb. chaff, and 5 lb. meadow or clover hay; or 9 lb. milo, 5 lb. oats, 1 lb. peanut meal, 4 lb. chaff, and 5lb. meadow or clover hay.
Since the trials began three years ago, between one hundred and fifty and one hundred and seventy two-year-old steers have been brought into the feeding stalls each year during the winter months and, following the first draft, they move off at regular weekly intervals to the Homebush market until the winter is over and grass fattening is again possible.
Mr. Hooper is satisfied that topping-off in stalls is a practical proposition in this country, but topping off is not to be confused with the entire process of fattening in stalls.
He has this to say, "Although full fattening may be uneconomic, I am certain that, in most of the 'inside' country of New South Wales, topping-off with grain rations in some form of stall feeding is well worth a trial, whilst in some districts it could be very profitable as an annual routine."
The trials are to be continued and, by the installation of a weighbridge on Talbingo, much more detailed information will be available as the steers pass through the various stages of the experiment and their weight is recorded.
Mr. Hooper is to be congratulated on this very important work.
It is being carried out at a time when informed opinion is searching for a solution to the problem of the very obvious depletion of the fertility of our soil in the arable localities where cereal agriculture has been practised for a number of years.
The idea, of course, is not new, nor is it American, as the Australian Meat Board appears to think.
There are no good farms in the United Kingdom where cattle have not been stall-fed for the last five hundred years or so, and it comes as a complete surprise to find repeated references to "the American feeding practice" in the report of the Talbingo trials.
It is because we followed, not only "the American feeding practice," but the American farming practice, that we are confronted with so many and so perplexing agricultural problems to-day.
The one-man "prairie" farm, whether it was for sheep, cattle or cereal production, was the state of perfection that we tried so very hard to reach and, but for the depletion of soil fertility, we might have succeeded.
The Americans learnt their lessons, and it is now our turn to learn ours.
Every farm should be a stock farm, even if it is only growing daffodils.
That is the pattern of British agriculture, and it should have been the pattern of Australian agriculture but for our folly in following the American conception of bonanza farming of a century ago.
To make every Australian farm a stock farm now will require a complete re-orientation.
Instead of thinking in terms of sheep to the acre, cattle to the acre, bushels to the acre, or tons to the acre, as we now do, we will have to think in terms of stock to the stall.
That is the test of good farming practice, course, there is a catch in it.
You can't have stock in a-stall without people to grow the feed for them and then, not only to feed them intelligently, but to look after them intelligently.
And we have no people!
It might be a good suggestion to ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - that is the correct new name for the old C.S.I.R. - to extend the Talbingo experiment to include the devising of ways and means of getting men to build stalls and to feed stock - and of persuading girls to marry 'em.