CROSSING Red Angus with Simmental cattle has created a fast growing calf for weaner producers Alan and Bronwyn James at “Lemah Park”, Newham, Victoria.
The couple runs about 130 breeders across 220 hectares in the Macedon Ranges, producing weaners for the Kyneton sale.
The former Simmental stud breeders have been using Red Angus genetics in crossbreeding for the past 20 years. ”We had a carcase day field day here and Sandy Yates, who was working for the Department of Agriculture, suggested to us that with a Simmental base, using Red Angus bulls could improve the fat cover on the young calves, because the Simmentals are quite lean,” Mr James said.
“We were involved in carcase competitions at the time and we were trying to produce a body that would do well in carcase comps, but also be able to sell the calves as weaners. Sandy put us onto Roger Bilton at Molong, where we bought our first Red Angus bulls, and we've not seen any need to change since then.”
From the carcase competitions came the next opportunity – marketing beef direct to the consumer.
“We had a bunch of calves we were getting ready for the Bendigo beef show that grew faster than we anticipated, so we put feelers out and sold four bodies very quickly,” Mr James said.
The online beef business was successful and lasted a decade, finishing last year, and the couple is now focused on weaner production.
Mr James said the two breeds complemented each other, with strong maternal qualities.
“Maternally, they’re brilliant; there’s a better temperament with the Red Angus; and they’re good doers,” he said.
“Coming out of the winter here is quite hard on the cattle but by the end of October they’ve really hit their straps.”
Genetics from Bandeeka and Waterfront Red Angus studs, including some first-cross bulls – have been used. The family has focused on strong growth rates, with good figures for 200 and 400-day weight, as well as milking ability, when selecting bulls.
“We work with Breedplan figures to look for the traits that suit our operation,” Mr James said.
“With the Simmental cows, they’re good framed cattle so birthweight isn’t a big deal, particularly using the Red Angus bulls, but we look for high growth and milk as that makes a big difference when you’re selling weaners.
“We know that our calves will grow on for the new owners. With our retail beef job, we were getting carcase weights of 230 kilograms to 250kg under yearling age. We were aiming for a hot standard carcase weight of 230kg, which gave us the optimal body for the best yield with minimal wastage.”
Crossbred weaners are in high demand
HAVING a unique cross can be an advantage at the saleyards, with cattle from Alan and Bronwyn James standing out as one of the first pens of red cattle.
The couple has enjoyed exceptional markets with their weaners – sold from seven to nine months of age – in the past few years.
Last year’s weaner steers reached $1260 a head for calves weighing an average of 316 kilograms.
“That's exceptional – we can remember when we were getting under $300 for weaners,” Mr James said.
At the most recent Kyneton, Victoria, weaner sale on January 17, he sold sold steers averaging 323kg for $1070. Mr James hoped the market could stabilise about $1000 a head.
“You’ve got to think about the people buying the weaners who have to make a profit at the other end,” he said. “Weaners and bullocks have to go hand-in-hand, and if we can get $1000 it means everybody gets a cut of a strong market and we all feel as though we're getting somewhere.”