Swinging back to black has proven to be a successful endeavour for a Central Tablelands cattle operation, after the switch from a predominately Murray Grey herd to Angus 10 years ago has earned them a ‘movers and shakers’ label in the industry.
Running a breeding program across 7000 hectares, including the well known property, “Kangaroobie”, near Orange, manger Derek Hubert, works with 2500 Angus breeders and has chased a consistent goal; maintaining a fertile herd and optimum heifer performance.
“Fertility in the female herd is pretty much paramount, we are very focussed on the heifer performance because if you get set up properly at the heifer end then you have a better chance of your cows doing the right job for you in the long term,” Mr Hubert said.
“They have to have good structure and be well grown – we also have a short joining for heifers because if they do not get in calf they do not get another chance; they’re out the door,” he said.
“Basically every female has to have a calf every year or she doesn’t stay with us – the key is to keep them moving forward without getting over conditioned, which is important right up until they have their first calf.”
With the feedlot job as the target market, 400 and 600 day-growth traits are important in the bull selection criteria, as steers are required to hit a target weight of about 460 to 470 kilograms live weight, with the first draft of cattle off at about 11 months-old and the tail end at 15 months. Gilmandyke Angus bulls are utilised in the commercial operation, to ensure the high growth genetics are flowed through.
“For quite a while in the stud we have chased growth – that’s been our main focus and we have almost achieved that - now we are probably looking at putting more emphasis on factors like intramuscular fat and eye muscle area which are required for carcase qualities,” Mr Hubert said.
“The improvements have to begin at the stud end for us because it translates directly into our commercial side – we saw this at this year’s Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial,” he said.
As first time entrants, the purpose was to receive performance results which were relevant to both the commercial and stud operations. Mr Hubert said given that Gilmandyke genetics are used to produce their commercial cattle, it was an opportunity to see how the focus on specific traits translates into performance.
The team reached the maximum amount of points, 350, to finish first for feedlot performance, with two steers in the pen gaining more than 3 kilograms per day. “The most important piece of feedback I got out of it was we ranked seventh overall and for straight bred cattle that’s a huge win,” he said.
Nutrition; the key component
Operating a large scale cattle operation across three properties in the Central Tablelands requires more than just the usual on-farm practices to make it a success, as Gilmandyke Angus, Orange, manager of more than 20 years has discovered.
Derek Hubert and the Gilmandyke brand have become know as a progressive operation and Mr Hubert believes this is because the team has put emphasis and focus into vital areas such as nutrition.
He said it’s one thing to feed cattle and another to feed cattle well. “We have become known as progressive at making the whole set up work well but a main point we focus on is the nutrition - it’s just so important to have consistently quality pastures and keeping a focus on that,” Mr Hubert said.
“We did a lot of that work about 15 years ago and it all helps in achieving our main goal of getting those cattle out as quickly as we can – it’s no good just having weight gain, you have to have good quality food down their throats to be able to achieve that successfully,” he said. Once weaned, steers which are headed for the feedlot job are moved to “Nanggwyllan”, Harden, where they receive optimum nutrition from grazing crops.
“They graze there in the winter because the quality of the crops and pastures are a lot higher there,” Mr Hubert said. “The pastures are a lucerne base with clovers and perennial grasses – as soon as the cattle come off the crops at the end of August, they go onto pastures and within a few weeks we start to turn them off,” he said.