A large-scale Angus business at Injune in south west Queensland is using genetics from a leading NSW stud to develop a high-quality breeding herd.
Jeremy and Julie Shaw, JS Grazing, are running about 1300 Angus cows whose weaner progeny are now almost exclusively offered at Roma saleyards in one big draft each year.
Mr Shaw admitted to being nervous before this year’s sale on July 10 because of tough seasonal conditions but his fears proved groundless as local breeders snapped up most of the heifers and feedlotters from the south pounced on the steers.
The 440 steer weaners, with an average weight of 329kg, sold for a top of 342c a kg to average 333c a kg. The 272 heifers, with an average weight of 296kg, topped at 390c a kg to average 375c.
“When people are coming and buying them they’re not going to the feedlot industry, they’re going...for people’s breeders, that’s a big tick for us really,” Julie Shaw said.
“The last couple of years the steers have sold extremely well and you get excited and whatever, but it’s the heifers that I get a bit teary (about).”
Mr Shaw paid tribute to the influence of bulls from the Thompson family’s Millah Murrah Angus stud at Bathurst.
The Shaws have been using Millah Murrah genetics for about 10 years and took home six bulls at last year’s sale in September.
Reflecting his commitment to quality, Mr Shaw at times outbid stud breeders to acquire the bulls he wanted, paying to a top of $22,000.
“Our cattle have gone forward with Millah Murrah (blood), we’ve paid a fair bit for bulls but we are seeing a benefit from our investment,” he said.
Mr Shaw’s parents, Jeff and Jennifer, are still involved in the business, retaining about 200 cows. The family were originally Hereford breeders but switched to Angus after they bought some black steers which performed well in an on-farm feedlot.
“They ate well, they didn’t get sick, they forage well in the paddock,” Mr Shaw said.
While the feedlot was decommissioned due to high grain and freight costs, the infrastructure is not left to waste.
They began yard weaning in 2015 after the premium prices rewarded to those using the technique in southern states.
While they previously sold weaners straight off the cow, they now yard wean and bunk train them before turning them off into paddocks for six weeks before sale.
Mr Shaw said while yard weaning was yet to take over in their local area, he wanted to be ahead of the game.
“I’m sure it’ll pay dividends for us in the future, and I think it already has,” he said.
He said they initially chased figures for high growth but ended up with Angus cattle that were too big and rangy and wouldn’t finish.
While he still looks for bulls with “above average figures (EBVs) and positive for fat”, Mr Shaw said he now selects bulls that appeal to him visually.
The Shaws are planning to step up an artificial insemination (AI) program. They have been doing about 100 cows and 150 heifers but hope to increase that to 400 cows and 170 heifers in late October-early November.
The AI program is focused on top Millah Murrah genetics including the $150,000 Millah Murrah Kingdom K35 and Millah Murrah Klooney K42.
The Shaws want to keep expanding their Angus breeding herd – ideally an extra 200 head at a time – but that will depend on the availability of land to add to their current aggregation of 9307 hectares.
Millah Murrah principal, Ross Thompson, described Mr Shaw as one of the most thoughtful cattle breeders he had met.
“I’ve never met a bloke more full of passion (for the breed). He is meticulous in everything he does,” he said.
Weaners are the family’s bread and butter, getting top money for both steers and heifers.
“Your steer has got an end-game so you can’t get a massive premium on a steer because the bloke at the other end has got to make some money,” Mr Shaw said.
“But if we can get as much money as we can for heifers, that’s where we can fine-tune, I guess.”