Bruce Jorgensen, Mummulgum via Casino, credits his late father-in-law Sam Barber, Mallanganee, for first teaching him the qualities of a good cattleman and, second, for instilling an appreciation of the Simmental.
Bruce and his wife Sandra run 300 breeders plus their own replacements on 450 hectares, including some leasehold and rate the Simmental ideal for their requirements, noting in particular the tendency towards milky mothers.
“What we have here is good scrub country with the right rainfall,” Mr Jorgensen said of his micro-climate, occupying the east and west slopes of the Richmond Range.
With quarter-Brahman Simmental cross cows put to a pure Simmental bloodlines like Blue Dog at Wondoan, or Waterfront and Woonallee from South Australia, the result usually creates a bidding war at the saleyards.
Reward for effort was earned last March at Casino when his top EU accredited weaner steers, 11 months, 389kg, brought 392 cents per kilo to return $1525, with no grain supplements required. The beefy calves sold to Jackson Agriculture because they were suited to grass finishing.
Mr Jorgensen says steers are actually a by-product of getting the right cattle. “We breed to create a good cow herd. Everything else should follow.”
Maiden heifers are joined at two years old from early June while the bulls run with cows a month later for 12 weeks. The heifers’ head start gives them an extra month to go back in calf.
Most sires are poll, but Mr Jorgensen says he ‘won’t walk past a good horned bull to buy a mediocre poll’, and his technique with de-horning calves is the same as with castration; swift and to the point, as Mr Barber taught him.
All these bulls need acclimatising to the North Coast’s soft grass which is low in nutrition, but they only need a season. “Simmentals are a hardy breed,” says Mr Jorgensen, however he says the Kiwi blood, like Waiti used by Woonallee and Waterfront, best suits the slopes of the Richmond Range because ‘they’re not over sized’.
Pasture includes kikuyu, Rhodes grass, Paspalum and clovers along with the highly desirable Shaws Creeping Vigna, which Mr Jorgensen said took time to establish and was well worth the wait.
“I try to keep calving tight,” he says. “That way I need only one round of branding and can bring my labour costs to a minimum.”
Breed for gain on grass, grain
Bruce Jorgensen’s cow line began as Shorthorn crossed with Brahman and then Droughmaster before Simmental.
The quarter indicus infusion is good for North Coast cattle but Mr Jorgensen will reduce that percentage in future generations, as the market for replacement heifers demands a stronger Simmental line.
Calves prove themselves in a variety of markets. At the Casino weaner sales in March Mr Jorgensen sold calves to an average 330kg, straight off mum with no supplementary grain. They were bought by feedlotters and also by grass finishers like Wickhams at Acacia Plateau and Jackson Agriculture, on the New England.
“It’s all in their genetics,” says Mr Jorgensen. “We select in the top 10 per cent for milk, growth and low birth weight from the catalogue. We appraise them visually as well.”
Colour is not an issue – the blond calves go to Queensland while the red calves go to the New England.