ANGUS cattle are part of a broader mix of breeds on Guyra, NSW, properties “Springfield”, “Bandrum”, and “Obanview”, and using the breed in both pure Angus and crossbreeding operations has increased market opportunities.
Sam and Erica Ulrick, who have two young daughters, Emily, 7 and Harriet, 4, have always had Herefords, with Mrs Ulrick a third-generation whiteface breeder.
They started using Angus bulls to produce black baldies, then bought Angus stud cattle which are now used in their commercial operation, and eventually purchasing Angus/Shorthorn-cross cows with one of the other properties.
The Ulricks now have 180 pure Angus breeders, 120 Angus/Shorthorn-cross cows, 80 black baldy cows and 150 Herefords.
The family has been buying Angus bulls from Glenavon and Dulverton studs, with the focus on structure, type, growth and marbling.
“It’s mostly based on structure and type because we’re trying to breed bigger cattle,” Mr Ulrick said.
“We’ve got big Hereford cows that weigh 700 to 850 kilograms, but if the bull’s a little shorter with plenty of depth, that’s fine.
“With the Angus herd we try to go as big as we can to get as much frame in them as possible.
“We look at all three growth EBVs (200-, 400- and 600-day weight) because we’re not sure if we’re selling them as weaners or right through to bullocks, so we stay in the top 10 per cent for those.
“We’ve been spending a lot of money on genetics in the past two or three years to get better marbling and high growth as quick as possible.
“With the marbling, that’s based on the good Wagyu market. I think Wagyu first-cross breeders are going to be chasing Angus heifers for their marbling.”
Being able to sell to a range of markets is one of the benefits of having four different breeding operations.
“The Angus bulls are great because you can cross them with any cow. I think there’s a 10 cents/kg premium for black a lot of the time, but you can make up the difference pretty quickly by putting more weight in them with the cross.”
All calves are yard-weaned at seven to nine months of age on lucerne hay, six to eight weeks prior to sale if sold as weaners.
Yard weaning has paid off with increased weight gain and more buyer activity, Mr Ulrick said.
“In the two months after weaning we find that on improved pasture they will average 1.2kg to 2kg daily weight gain, so we get that growth spurt and they’re quiet for buyers."
“We aim to turn off weaners at 320kg to 400kg, and our heaviest calves – the Angus/Shorthorn-cross – weighed 475kg. Last year we sold a lot as weaners because the money was fantastic.”
A new market for the family last year was the live export of their best pure Angus steers to Japan.
“We sold our top 40 seven and eight-month-old steers.
“That’s a market we got into through Nathan Purvis at Colin Say and Co in Glen Innes.
“They weighed 336kg at the end of January to go to Japan, and we got 420 cents a kilogram.”
Most of the weaners were sold in the first Glen Innes weaner sale in April, with the top pen averaging 389kg and making $1589 a head.
The 92-head draft averaged 356kg and $1450.
If the market is worthwhile, steers and heifers can be kept and grown out, and sold at 550kg to 600kg to lotfeeders or the supermarket trade.
The family will also have Angus heifers available through paddock sales from July, Mr Ulrick said.
“We’ve got a few friends with Wagyus who are looking for the black heifers, but if we don’t sell the heifers while they're young – if price isn’t good enough – we’ll use the Angus bulls over them and sell them as pregnancy-tested-in-calf females, which we haven’t done before,” Mr Ulrick said.
Understocking the 1780 hectares has paid off with market versatility, allowing the Ulricks to hold on to cattle if the market doesn’t suit them.
While it’s mostly granite country, much of it has been improved with a hummer tall fescue, brome grass, chicory, plantain grass and red and white clover mix.
“We put in 150 to 250 acres (60ha to 101ha) each year of new pastures, but the place we bought a few years ago had all improved pastures within the past five years,” Mr Ulrick said. “We stock very conservatively.
“We think we’re better off having heavier calves than a lot of cows – which means we’re never forced to sell cattle.
“Even in drought a few years ago we only fed out one truckload of hay for our cows.”
Only a small portion of heifers are retained, with the Ulricks preferring to keep older cows that are still producing.
“We mouth every year, and we keep cows until they’re 12 years of age, because they’re still milking,” Mr Ulrick said.
“We find that a lot of the eight to 11-year-old cows have the better, heavier calves and you don’t have any of the problems with calving that you can have with heifers.”