Longevity, quality is key

Barraba Angus breeder has a practical approach to raising his herd


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Rohan Clark, "Appledore", Barraba, NSW, has a practical approach to raising his Angus herd, focusing on temperament and conformation in his breeders. Photo by Ruth Schwager.

Rohan Clark, "Appledore", Barraba, NSW, has a practical approach to raising his Angus herd, focusing on temperament and conformation in his breeders. Photo by Ruth Schwager.

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Rohan Clark says he doesn't do anything special when raising his Angus herd. But this no-nonsense approach seems to be paying off.

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There’s no point pampering cattle.

This is the philosophy of Rohan Clark, who uses his extensive background in feedlots to help produce the best possible offspring.

Mr Clark and his wife Geraldine, “Appledore”, Barraba, NSW, don’t like to chase trends, and instead are focused on growing quality, hardy Angus cattle that can handle conditions.

The Clarks run 200 Angus breeders on the 1214 hectares they own and lease. Their home property has been in Mrs Clark’s family for five generations. The Clark family also breeds commercial Angus bulls.

But right from the beginning, Mr Clark has a practical, ‘no-nonsense’ approach to raising cattle.

His breeders are joined at the beginning of October for 10 weeks. Mr Clark said he usually puts one bull to between 50 and 60 cows.

He said he didn’t believe in pampering his cattle during calving.

“I’m a big believer in natural selection,” he said.

He plants some improved pastures, last year planting summer sorghum as a forage crop. He also harvests oats for feed or seed, and makes hay when the season allows, but doesn’t believe in feeding to excess.

“I believe if you start feeding, you probably need to destock,” he said.

Mr Clarks says a simple method of running cattle works for him.

“We’re bare bones. We don’t do anything special,” he said. “I put out lick blocks, but the cattle have to survive.”

Mr Clark is particular about the cattle he keeps. At calf marking, when the calves are about four to five months old, he castrates any bull calves that aren’t up to scratch. At weaning, they are scrutinised again.

The same goes for his heifers, which have to get the final tick of approval before being joined at about 12 months of age.

Any heifers that don’t make the top tier for breeding are sold at the Landmark Classic Sale at Tamworth.

“I am really tough on females as far as natural selection,” he said. “A lot of people forget cows are the driver of your herd. If your cows aren’t quality, they won’t breed quality.”

And of course, he is looking for a fertile cow.

A lot of people forget cows are the driver of your herd. If your cows aren’t quality, they won’t breed quality. - Rohan Clark, Barraba

“Temperament is a major thing – temperament and fertility go together,” he said.

He also doesn’t cull for age with his breeders.

“If the cow is getting in calf, and if she’s sound, there is no need to cull her,” he said. “I want to breed longevity in my herd.”

Mr Clark isn’t keen on breeding large cows, and feels some Angus breeders are chasing excessive carcase size.

“The trouble is, you need more feed just to maintain them,” he said. “I don’t want a massive cow. If they are smaller, it is easier to get them back in condition.”

Mr Clark is also very careful when selecting his commercial bulls to be sold, selling 18 last year.

Temperament and conformation are a must for his sale bulls.

“If I would keep them and use them as a bull, I’ll keep them,” he said. “I can’t afford to have anything with a bad temperament.”

He also doesn’t believe in buying a heifer bull.

“If they are smooth in the shoulder and good in the hips, they should be fine,” he said. “Everyone blames the bull for calving problems, but the cow is 70 per cent of the problem.

“I look at things completely the opposite to most people.”

Mr Clark also isn’t keen on feeding up bulls for sale.

“If they can’t survive on a commercial property, they are no good to me,” he said.

“You can’t take a bull out of a grain-fed situation and then put him in a paddock and expect him to perform the same.

“I’m only selling bulls to blokes every five to six years, because they aren’t having the breakdowns.

“You need to be able to buy a bull today and know that he will last. Longevity is really important in bulls and in cows.”

The Clark family have recently bought their bulls from Glengowan Angus, Newbridge, NSW.

Mr Clark said he had a traditional line of cows, much like those at Glengowan.

He said Glengowan also uses New Zealand sires, which he is interested in, making trips over the ditch to visit studs and using their genetics in his Artificial Insemination program.

“We just don’t want to go down the same track as everyone else,” he said.

“I like the fact that Glengowan isn’t chasing trends. They are doing their own thing.

“They aren’t driven by Estimated Breeding Values.”

Mr Clark has a philosophy for buying bulls, the same philosophy he uses when buying rams for his Appledore fine wool Merino stud, which joins between 1500 and 1800 ewes.

“With rams and bulls, we don’t look at how much it will cost to buy them, we look at how much it will cost us if we don’t,” he said.

“There is no point buying the same as what you have got – you’ve got to buy better than what you have got.”

Mr Clark has a good reason for being particular in the kind of cattle he produces.

As well as managing properties, he used to work in feedlots, so as he says, he had “the luxury of seeing both sides of the fence”.

And this is where his philosophy on breeding quality animals from the beginning comes from - an animal’s temperament and conformation are crucial.

“Good cattle are good cattle, regardless of breed,” he said.

“The biggest driver for feedlots is the conversion of feed into beef. If you can put in less kilos of feed, and get more kilos of beef, that’s more money for the feedlot.”

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