FEEDLOTTERS have been purchasing Ballantyne bred Angus yearling steers for some years and it is the goal of breeder, Richard Thompson, to have them weighing 420 kilograms at 15 months of age - seasons permitting.
“That’s the target,” he said. “At present they are selling from 12 to 18 months but every year for the past five years they’ve been five to 10 kilograms heavier at the same time of year, so they’re improving.”
Mr Thompson and wife, Samantha, have been running the 2470-hectare Cassilis district “Ballantyne” since taking over from his parents, Nick and Sarah, six years ago.
Currently the herd boasts 500 breeders including heifers and the couple plan to increase that number up to 600 to 700 head within the next six years.
The family has owned the property since 1949 when purchased by Richard’s grandparents, John and Rosemary.
“Dad had Herefords but deliberately upgraded the herd slowly to Angus over a long period,” Mr Thompson said.
“He transitioned breeding through black baldies to the pure Angus through the 1980s and 90s, mainly because of eye cancer problems with the Herefords, but also he wanted to utilise the hybrid vigour.”
For the past 10 years or so the Thompson have used Te Mania sires and in addition in the past five years have introduced Trio Angus bulls with the assistance of Trio owners, Matt Cherry and Shelley Piper, Cassilis.
“Matt has been helping me classing our heifers and we now have the cow herd to a more homogeneous level,” Mr Thompson said.
“Bull selection from Te Mania and Trio have been based on two requirements, birthweight and gestation length combined, plus 200- and 400-day weights.
“Matt knows the type of animal we now produce and suggests sale bulls that fit the criteria.”
Bulls are put in the herd for 12 weeks with cows and six weeks with heifers.
“We are tightening cows to 10 weeks and consistently get 95 per cent pregnancy tested in calf,” he said.
“We’re even getting 85 to 88pc PTIC in our heifers.”
The plan is to increase breeder numbers up to between 600 and 700 head in a six-year time frame.
This will be done by utilising grazing in the back area of the property which had been worked many years previously.
“There will be pressure on us to keep the quality when selecting heifer replacements in that time but I’m not going to sacrifice that when classing,” he said.
“We are very happy with where we are heading at the moment.
“We’ll push the boundaries a bit, but we have a plan and will stick with it,” Mr Thompson said.
Getting more from Ballantyne’s native land
FOR Richard Thompson to increase his Angus herd at “Ballantyne”, Cassilis, by close to 30 per cent within the next six years he aims to get better production out of its native country.
This began in the past 18 months with the formation of a “grass group” of eight farmers between Merriwa and Coolah who have been sharing and networking ideas.
A neighbour, James Armstrong, of “Cassilis Park”, had the idea and Dick Richardson runs the group from South Australia.
“We all have native country but some are just cattle breeders, others sheep only and there are people like me with a mixed-farming property,” Mr Thompson said.
“In our discussions when visiting each-others’ properties there is a really strong focus on getting better performance out of our native country which then flows through to better performance with livestock.”
Mr Thompson said he was fencing portions of his “back of property country” and introducing water prior to introducing bigger mobs within the next six to 12 months.
“Instead of going down a sub-division path I’m going to run large mobs which will give me a better graze and a more even graze thus allowing longer rest periods on my grazing country,” he said.
He will run three mobs, two of 200 cows and another of 120 to 140 joined heifers prioritising grazing to certain paddocks and then resting them in a circular fashion.
Mr Thompson said his original focus was on cropping and oats but this had come at a good time.
”It was either a cell grazing path or pasture cropping but a lot of this country had been worked previously, so I’m just changing management of the country,” he said.
“Cattle are already responding better and growing better. It’s just important to move them at the right time.”