It is moderation across the board that Stuart Tait and his parents, John and Joanna, are striving for in their Angus cattle operation.
After backgrounding cattle on “Sunny Downs”, Mandurama, for Australian Meat Holdings, now JBS, for nine years, the family learned a lot about what was required to successfully market cattle to the feedlots.
“We were putting 200 kilograms on the cattle and did this with about 11,000 steers. You come to have a fair idea of what traits the feedlots are looking for, and we could get a lot of advice and information direct from the feedlots,” John Tait said.
“We saw a lot of good cattle and a lot of bad cattle. We were able to learn the ideal frame and growth, we based our breeding aims on that.”
Today, the family runs 550 Angus cows on their 2000 hectare Mandurama property.
They also buy in between 200 and 800 weaners each year.
They bought their first bulls from Landfall Angus, Launceston, Tasmania, before moving on to Lawsons Angus, Victoria.
The sires of the steers which competed in the Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial were from Dunoon Angus, Holbrook.
The family is now using feedback to refine the original breeding aims.
“We wanted to breed very traditional Angus cattle. We wanted growth from the small, dumpy types that we had,” Stuart Tait said.
“The three main things I look at today are low birth weights, very high 600-day weight and low to moderate mature cow weights.
“We want them to be born small, grow quickly and then stop growing,” he said.
This year the family launched an AI program with their heifers to refine their genetic targets.
John Tait believes targeting traits and EBVs should be done in moderation.
“You can’t just chase marbling and neglect everything else.”
A moderate temperament is also key for John, who culls for this in weaners over any other trait.
The Taits sell 70pc of steers direct to feedlot at 500kg liveweight.
The 30pc who go heavier are slaughtered.
All steers are 100pc grassfed and graze on wheat, annual ryegrass and a mix of perennial pastures.
Fertility the focus at ‘Sunny Downs’
Despite strong results in their first year of Beef Spectacular competition in 2017, the Taits were over the moon to receive the award for Reserve Champion Carcase at this year’s event.
“It is very pleasing to receive feedback. What is working and what isn’t. We have been looking to improve our carcase traits so it is very exciting to see how they performed on grain,” Stuart Tait said.
The steers entered were sired by Dunoon bulls, as is about 80pc of the herd.
The Taits put a high emphasis on fertility, carefully selecting the females with the best fertility traits to build the herd around.
Heifers are given one round of AI in early October, with semen brought in from Deer Valley Patriot from the US.
“For the traits we are looking for, this was the best match I could find anywhere in the world.”