SOME of the toughest decisions are made during unfavourable seasons but for Inverell's Scott and Laura Simpson their efforts during the good times are making their management easier.
The couple are into their fifth year of ownership of the 1700 hectare property Glennon, which was previously run by Mr Simpson's parents.
At the time they had a herd of Brangus content types so the pair moved to incorporate more Angus genetics and breed more moderate females.
But the most rewarding change has come in their focus on data collection.
Their calves are weighed from marking to pregnancy testing, pre and post weaning right up to their sale either direct to feedlots or through AuctionsPlus. The data is then matched to mothers and used to track their cow herd performance.
Ms Simpson said heavier calf data indicated the mother had fed it well, it was born earlier and she had cycled quicker.
"In a good year you are wondering why you are putting all the time and effort into it but it certainly helps when you are choosing your cattle to retain," she said.
While it might seem like a simple exercise, their records from previous years are now helping them to retain a core breeder herd based on individual production rather than seasonal influences.
Mr Simpson said they don't cast for age, basing their culling strategy on progeny performance and fertility.
"We just sort of realised sometimes that even an average looking cow can be producing some of your best calves and likewise there are probably cows there that are structurally perfect but their progeny is not as good as you hope," he said.
"We are very strict on fertility. If they are not pregnant or don't rear a calf, they go. We really saw the benefits of that last year, there were no cows that really didn't perform for us and when you are in the upper 90s you know it's worth it."
Their data analysis also made them recognise the need to separate their second calvers to improve their future performance.
"We do notice the mature cows hold their condition and they are still producing," Mr Simpson said.
"Once they put a few calves on the ground that is where they start to kick some big goals in terms of the calves they produce.
"This is our third year (we have run second calvers separately) and we can put more feed into them if we feel like they need it."
The couple currently run 370 breeders to calve along with 410 weaners that are yet to be sold. Summer crops of sorghum and soybean along with forages for cattle are also grown.
Like much of the district, the couple were forced to feed their stock due to the lack of available pastures.
Not only did they learn how to survive the seasonal battles of 2018, they are planning to change the structure of their business to prevent the influence of drought.
Ms Simpson said they needed to be more flexible to deal with extreme weather conditions, either wet or dry, and be able to switch to a feeding mode more easily.
"Whether it is lowering our breeder numbers and pushing more to feedlot or having that room if it is a good year to bring in some trading," she said.
"We are EU accredited as well so working within that.
"We decided that whatever we invest in now is not just a bandaid fix. If we are going to invest in feeders and mixers now, it has to work in a good year as well so be it supplementing cows through creep feeding and get that rumen development.
"Whatever we invest in now has to work within the business, not just pull out of the shed for a dry time."
Mr Simpson said they wanted to be better prepared.
"We really need to be set up in having sacrifice paddocks and being able to feed when these situations occur," he said.
"We talk about trigger points so we can say okay instead of pushing our country too hard we pull things into a sacrifice paddock and we know we can feed them what they need for that period forward."