A FAMILY AFFAIR: Brad Cavanagh with his two children Olive and Henry at his renowned cattle stud Hardhat Angus on Lynwood.

A FAMILY AFFAIR: Brad Cavanagh with his two children Olive and Henry at his renowned cattle stud Hardhat Angus on Lynwood.

From whiz-kid to renowned Angus breeder

Hardhat Angus prepares for its biggest bull sale ever


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There’s no such thing as “the typical farmer”, but even if there was, Brad Cavanagh certainly wouldn’t fit the bill. No, he’s different. His story is a-typical. An example of how far ambition, tenacity and natural curiosity can take a person.

Today, he owns a renowned cattle stud – Hardhat Angus – and is preparing for the biggest sale of his career, offering up 50 of his finest bulls in a Helmsman’s sale in Harden on July 31. However, growing up as a sports crazed kid in Dubbo, his current life seemed about as unlikely as you could possibly get.

Unlike a lot of breeders, Mr Cavanagh didn’t inherit his stud. He didn’t spend his formative years learning the trade from his father. In fact, he didn’t even grow up on the land. His passion for cattle was ignited in the classroom.

His Pa owned a property where he ran a small herd of Herefords but he sold it when Mr Cavanagh was just a boy. Those memories never his grandson however, he’d always remember the barbecues down by the creek and watching the cattle from afar. And, when he was able to choose his own electives in the eighth grade, he decided to try his hand at agriculture. 

He was always an inquisitive lad with disposition for science but when he started working with cattle he knew he’d found his calling. At first it was a hobby. When he was 14 he started showing for the school on weekends. By the time he was 16, he’d bought his first head of cattle and started running them on land he got on agistment. Two years later his parents, whose continued support he now credits for his success, invested in some land and he began building his herd. 

NO BULL: Brad Cavanagh from Hardhat Angus is preparing for the biggest bull sale of his career.

NO BULL: Brad Cavanagh from Hardhat Angus is preparing for the biggest bull sale of his career.

When he finished high school, Mr Cavanagh took up a cadetship with Twynam Agricultural Group, where he worked as a jackaroo before studying rural science at the University of New England. It was here that he was exposed to one of the most influential topics of his life: genetics.

When he went back to work, he was keen to put the theory into practice. He ended up overseeing a large stud in Forbes with a well regulated, deeply scientific breeding program. But as time went by his curiosity persisted and he took his pursuit for knowledge and professional perfection to the next level.

“I was at a bit of a crossroads in my career,” Mr Cavanagh explained.

“I had a strong scientific base and Twynam were very scientific with their breeding protocols but I found myself wanting to look back into the history of the Angus breed and examine how we got to where we are today and that (search) led me to the US.  

“The American cow herd is a prominent genetic base for the Angus Breed and after talking to a couple of Australian guys who’d often go over there searching for genetics I thought well I’m... looking for a new challenge.”

He moved to the US and got a job with Sinclair Cattle Co in Pennsylvania in 2010. It would turn out to be the biggest learning curb of his life.

It was here that he was exposed for the first time to line breeding, a much debated process that can produce excellent results. At the time, Sinclair oversaw the largest program on the planet.

HIGH QUALITY: Lot 3 from Hardhat Angus' massive bull sale, which will be held at Myrella Cattle Yards in Harden on July 31.

HIGH QUALITY: Lot 3 from Hardhat Angus' massive bull sale, which will be held at Myrella Cattle Yards in Harden on July 31.

For those who don’t know, line breeding is a form of artificial selection which involves breeding bulls with close relatives. While this obviously has the potential to lead to defects, which it sometimes does, it can also result in a reduction in variance within the gene pool by isolating, preserving and reproducing the best possible genetics.

When this is achieved with a stud bull you can then breed it with the broader population to create a better herd of cattle. In fact, some line bred bulls have had (and continue to have) a big impact upon the global Angus population.

It’s a complicated process but when used rigorously and in conjunction with what we would term a more conventional approach, it can produce high quality offspring and that’s exactly what Hardhat Angus does.

“We use the odd line bred sire in our program which gives us the predictability in his pedigree and then we incorporate him with more modern higher grade genetics with more carcass merit,” Mr Cavanagh explained.

“We’re trying to maintain maternal function while infusing greater carcass genetics. We’re all about producing the highest possible quality beef without causing detriment to our female herd.” 

Hardhat Angus is now renowned for the quality of it’s bulls and is inundated with requests year round. They normally sell their livestock through private sale but this year they’ve decided to offer up all 50 bulls in one massive Helmsman’s sale.

It will be held on July 31 at Myrella Cattle Yards in Harden and will be interfaced with Auctions Plus, so people can bid online too. The sales bulls have been developed at “Marweena Park” in Dubbo, with the assistance of his parents Malcolm and Alana. For more information, contact Mr Cavanagh on 0428638384 or either John Crawford at Elders Cootamundra or Aaron Seaman at Elders Young.

Mr Cavanagh lives with his wife Jess and two children Olive and Henry on Jess’ family property “Oxton Park” at Harden. He assists in the management of the Oxton Park whilst operating Hardhat Angus on agistment at “Lynwood”.

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