WHITEFACE cattle are the maternal base for the Donnelly family's crossbreeding operation at Bald Knob, Glen Innes.
Peter and Julie Donnelly run about 300 breeders, using a mix of Hereford, Santa Gertrudis and Charolais cattle.
The Donnellys also have a small stud, Moss Oak Herefords, which they set up for their children Siddella, Lachlan and Sam.
They bought the top-priced heifer at last year's Glen Innes sale, Kylandee Marianne M003, for the stud..
Mr Donnelly targets growth and performance when selecting sires for his European Union-accredited commercial herd.
He's been using Hereford bulls for many years, and looks for strong growth rates.
“I'm mainly looking at 600-day weight to get the optimum frame that we're looking for, but they've got to have the overall package, with maternal attributes as well,” he said.
Herefords seem to need minimal feeding in tough times and still go in calf.
Mr Donnelly has been crossbreeding since the 1980s.
About 80 breeders are joined to a Hereford bull for replacements and Santa Gertrudis bulls are used over Herefords to produce first-cross breeders that are then joined to Charolais terminal sires.
“Herefords seem to need minimal feeding in tough times and still go in calf, and we’re getting the advantage of hybrid vigour with our Hereford-cross mums,” Mr Donnelly said.
Both steers and heifers are sold into grass-fed programs, with the heifers aimed at the supermarket trade.
Steers are on improved pastures, while the breeders are on native grasses.
“We try to get them to 520 kilograms liveweight at 16 to 17 months of age,” Mr Donnelly said.
“With the steers, we aim for 640kg at 20 months, and they either go to Wingham or up to Teys Beenleigh with the grass-fed program.
“If they go to Wingham they’ve got to grade MSA (Meat Standards Australia), and I think it's been a good thing to have the British component in our cattle – they seem to grade really well.
“The steers are usually fine on grass, but having the EU option means we can supplement lightly with grain if needed.”