LOWER Hunter beef producer Margo Duncan is continuing the dream she had with her late husband Bruce, running a top quality Angus herd at East Seaham.
Mrs Duncan has run cattle for more than 40 years, and now has 420 breeders over 1010 hectares at “Sinclairs Point”, “Boambi East” and “Balickera”.
The Duncans attended Tocal Agricultural College together, with Mrs Duncan in the second year of girls at Tocal.
They had a dream to build a good quality self-replacing herd, and Angus cattle have been the focus for more than 20 years.
“We’ve had a few different breeds, but we found the Angus to be a bit more suitable for here because they manage all environments and they've got the market profile.”
Mrs Duncan is in the process of increasing her numbers, and hopes to reach 500 breeders over the next few years.
“We were running more than 500 about six years ago and got rid of a lot of older cows to the bring the new ones through.”
The main focus is weaner production, selling calves through the Maitland saleyards, but there's flexibility to grow out steers, and Mrs Duncan also sells lines of weaners from the paddock.
“We also raise bulls for commercial use and put a few back into our own herd,” she said.
“I have people who come to me every year for a certain product, whether it be steers, heifers or bulls.”
Mrs Duncan has been using Hazeldean blood for about 15 years, and bought seven bulls at the sale earlier this year.
“They’re coming out of Cooma, but they acclimatise here really well.
“We don’t have any problems at all – they’re probably pleased to get out of the cold.”
The herd is Meat Standards Australia (MSA) accredited, and in the past cattle have gone direct to Wingham abattoir.
“I’m looking at that path again, because it’s just another opportunity, and I’ve got the country to finish cattle.
Grasses include kikuyu, paspalum, phalaris and ryegrasses, as well as lucerne and clovers. Mrs Duncan also plants ryecorn, millet and forage sorghum.
Breeders start calving in first week of June.
“By the time I’ve for the calves between two and four months of age, I’ve got really good pasture.
“I like to target 250 kilograms to 260kg for weaning weight, and I was very lucky this year – I got a lot of them well and truly over that. It was a hot summer but we had a great season and we can irrigate pastures when needed.”
Yard weaning is a big bonus for Mrs Duncan’s buyers.
“It really only takes about two or three days to wean them in the yards, and they deal with it very well,” she said.
“Occasionally I will sell some straight off the cows, but I try to yard wean as much as possible.”
Mrs Duncan sells all steers as weaners, but she hopes to keep 20 this year to grow out to feeder weights.
About 60 of the best heifers are retained each year, depending on the season and quality. The heifers aren't joined until the age of two.
“I’ve found, by joining at two and calving at three, they’re fully grown, able to withstand the pressure of calving. I might miss out on a calf at one end, but they end up being cows that will carry through and keep calving later in life.”
Bulls are put out on September 1 for three months.
“I do give them a bit more time, but I think, particularly with heifers, you need to be a little bit fairer on them.”
Mrs Duncan’s goal is to keep improving the herd while building numbers, with the help of her family.
“Our children and grandchildren are involved and they get great pleasure from being on the farm,” she said.