It is well recognised that the Brahman breed is an important part of the northern beef industry, but there is also tremendous benefits of using Brahmans in a crossbreeding program with their ability to lift the productivity and profits of beef herds.
Profitability at Grant and Jo Bulmer’s 150 hectare “Mountana”, Kyogle, has always come back to the extra kilograms crossbreeding can introduce into the herd.
Together they run two different crossbred herds over four properties within an 80 kilometres radius of the main homestead at “Mountana”.
Brahman bulls have been used for over 30 years, with Grant’s parents introducing the breed about 50 years ago.
Three hundred Brahman cows are joined back to a Hereford bull and 200 Angus/Hereford cows are joined to a Brahman bull.
The humid, sub-tropical type weather is suited to the Brahman breed, yet the variable arid land conditions at Kyogle can also drive the demand for hybrid vigour and adaptability found in Brahman cattle.
Some of the country at “Mountana” is particularly steep terrain, which will see the cattle having to work harder.
“The Brahman cows are hardier so we tend to run them on our ‘harder’ country,” Mr Bulmer said.
“Some of the other breeds don’t tend to work that sort of country as well into those higher areas, rougher terrain.”
The Hereford was introduced over the Brahman cows purely to lift the hybrid vigour in the herd.
But the cross has presented itself as an excellent market option, the first cross females have proved themselves and comfortably sell through their chosen market.
A number of heifers, from both herds, are offered through the inaugural NSW branch of Australian Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) sale in April this year.
Because of the obvious demand and pleasing results obtained at the sale, the Bulmers will continue to support and promote the sale in the future.
“This is all first cross cattle with a stud component in it with a few stud cows or heifers,” Mr Bulmer said.
“Most of the “Mountana” heifers will end up at that sale down the track.”
Mrs Bulmer said their end product is just what people are looking for.
“People are looking to jump the step that we are doing. They want to buy those first cross heifers ready to go to the bulls, so for us that is the market – to be producing what they want to buy to be ready to put with bull of choice,” she said.
According to Mr Bulmer, chairman of the NSW branch of Brahman Breeders Association, the Brahman breed used in a crossbreeding program, through the hybrid vigour generated, can influence the weight gain by about 25 per cent, depending on levels of nutrition and stress.
It can also increase the milking capacity by about the same amount.
“The Brahman Hereford/Angus cross is a perfect example of this, as opposed to just running purebreds,” Mr Bulmer said.
“If those first cross heifers are kept as cows they have a lot better milking ability, calving ease and general doing ability.”
All heifers are bought in to be crossed with the two different bulls, no replacements are kept.
“We have kept F1s in the past, but we found by doing this then we have another herd again,” Mr Bulmer said.
“Most of the purebred Brahman heifers are bought in, however the Brahman bulls used over the Hereford/Angus cross herd are from the 100 cow stud herd.
“The cattle are defined into two main herds that produce the same type of article.”
Calving takes place at the end of August, continuing through to just before Christmas.
Both herds are joined at the same time, with the Bulmers saying they try to aim a little later in the year than usual.
“Our hardest time here is August, so we try to get through that month and start calving at the end of August, hoping the season breaks September/October,” Mr Bulmer said.
Heifers are joined for three months, they are then preg tested and any that aren’t in calf are sent to another property to fatten before they are sold.
The heifers are fed a molasses urea mix to all heifers prior to joining.
At the F1 sale this year they sold PTIC (back to a Brahman bull) heifers, around 2.5 year-old, weighing an average of 520 kilograms, to average $2000.
The sale saw 440 head sold in total, from PTIC to unjoined weaner heifers, all first cross for an average of $1330.
The Bulmers sold 112 heifers ranging from weaners to PTIC heifers to average $1340 with the top being heifers in calf back to a Brahman bull at $2000.
The country is predominately basalt soil, and along with the steeper portion, there is country by the river that lends itself to growing oats and ryegrass crops for finishing the cattle on.
From weaners the two different crosses then end up in the one herd until they are sold.
Steers are grown out and sold as grower steers at about 400kg at about 18 months.
Some heifers are also weaned and sold direct off farm with heifers marketed privately.
“It is probably becoming more popular to sell direct, especially to return clients,” Mrs Bulmer said.
“People are happy with the product we are producing and return for that each year.”
All steers are marketed through the Casino saleyards.
The Bulmers said the driving force behind developing their crossbred program using the Brahman breed is the outstanding weight gain attributes and the ability to get the benefits of the hybrid vigour through to their targeted markets.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Mr Bulmer said.
“And the best sort of vigour we can get is by using a Brahman bull or a Brahman female.
“By using the first cross we improve our article by 25pc as far as weight gain goes.
“Not that we keep them on as breeders, but if we did, they have improved attributes such as milking and fertility.”