Breeding Angus cattle and maximising pasture production has allowed a Goondiwindi family to meet a range of markets.
John Cranney, with his wife Georgie, brother Todd and fiancé Alana, and parents Ray and Viv, run Angus cattle on 2430 hectares at Bonyi, Goondiwindi, and another 1215 hectares of lease country.
The family has been breeding Angus cattle for more than 20 years, producing both weaners and feeder cattle.
“We began breeding Angus mainly due to the marketing opportunities and the potential for increased gross margins from our pasture based grazing operation,” John Cranney said.
The Cranneys started with weaner production, selling their cattle over AuctionsPlus, but they’ve moved to the feedlot market following the purchase of another 445 hectares of finishing country south of Goondiwindi. The business is primarily a breeder operation with some trading included in years when the season permits.
After originally joining all cows to Angus bulls, the business diversified about15 years ago with Wagyu bulls now used over the heifers and some of the cows.
“Diversifying our breeding operation spreads our market risk and having the finishing block will allow us to meet a wider range of markets through both our Angus and Wagyu progeny,” Mr Cranney said.
“We’ve invested a fair bit of money on our Angus bulls, for their fertility, marbling and growth statistics, so we want to make the most of that investment and take them through to feeder weights.
“We’ve sourced our bulls from the Te Mania Angus stud in Victoria for a number of years now and they’ve exceeded our expectations through the effect they have had on both our breeder herd and the progeny.
“We are very focused on fertility within the herd with all bulls morphology tested through QSML (Queensland Sperm Morphology Laboratory) each year and are also part of an annual vaccination and animal health program to ensure a high level of pregnancy-tested-in-calf females.
“At sale time we use EBV data and a visual assessment to target sires with moderate birthweight, high fertility and growth, structural soundness and in the top 10 per cent intramuscular fat and eye muscle area.
“These attributes are targeted so we can run efficient yet profitable breeders which produce sought after Angus and Wagyu progeny.”
Depending on the season all steers are taken through to feeder weights, with about 70 per cent of heifers kept as replacements and joined to a Wagyu bull for their maiden calf.
The remaining heifers are finished on oats before being sold to feedlots.
All calves are weaned early through January and February, then are grown out on both improved pastures and forage crops.
“We started early weaning two years ago straight onto a mix of high quality feed and pellets while using low stress stock handling techniques throughout the yards and paddocks,” Mr Cranney said.
“Each year they seem to be calmer and with the assistance of dogs it has been a task primarily run by one member of the team.
“Weaning early not only gives the cows more time to recover before the next calf but also reduces our stocking rate in the last couple of months of our pasture growing season.”
The Cranney family focuses on grass production, using time controlled grazing to make the most of pasture.
“We only have a few good months of growth from February onwards, so we want to take the calves off and make sure we’ve got enough feed going into winter.
“We’ve been improving the carrying capacity of the breeding property by adding improved pastures over the past 20 years, so the feed curve is summer-orientated with sub tropical pastures, including bambatsi, buffel, Gatton panic, Rhodes grass and creeping bluegrass.”
The switch to time controlled grazing and pasture management came after a Resource Consulting Services course in the mid 1990s.
“It's made the operation more efficient and is a more effective use of our land type to produce pastures rather than a farming enterprise,” Mr Cranney said.
“We went from about eight big paddocks to more than 100, so we can rest our country over certain periods of the year depending on pasture growth rates and rainfall.
“By recording our livestock inventory and paddock moves we can get an accurate measure of how to best utilise our grass through matching our stocking rate with our rolling annual rainfall. This has been made considerably easier recently with the implementation of MaiaGrazing technology as it is a very practical system that all family members can use day-to-day.”
Having a better handle on the property's stocking rate and pasture reserves also assists the management with their decision making.
“It certainly opens up more opportunities marketing wise because at times you may have the ability to purchase cattle at low prices, when other producers might not have the feed, and conversely we have the potential to avoid being in the position to have to sell our own stock on hand when prices are low by managing our grass reserves correctly.”