INVERELL local Ashley Coleman is one of 11 beef industry enthusiasts that has recently returned from the inaugural GenAngus Future Leaders Program with a drive to grow and develop her business further to see where she can take it.
Along with her husband Chris, Ms Coleman operates a beef business on their 182 hectare Yarrabundy property where they feed steers to go into the feeder cattle market or the prime market.
"We run them here in a backgrounding set up for a number of days, then intensify their feeding a bit in a paddock setting to develop a weight gain," she said.
All cattle are bought in, usually through AuctionsPlus. "We are looking all the time. We don't just buy for numbers because we aren't on a contract," she said.
"We look for an article of animal before we buy, and try to spec them into where we will send them.
Angus or Angus cross cattle the Coleman's usually target into the feeder market, while at the moment they are working with some Charolais South Devon cross steers that will go into the supplement fed kill market.
Generally they target 300 to 320 kilogram cattle when they are buying in Ms Coleman said, and they aim to get them to the 370 to 380kg weight range in the paddock.
"From there they then do a draft then feed more intently on a higher energy ration.
Ms Coleman said she is massive on temperament in selection, which is then followed by selection on weight for age, weaning set up and genetics.
"We are on a small property and a lot of what we do is close to the house, and we have two young children," she said.
"If we have animals that settle on feed straight away it makes life and the whole process a lot easier."
Due to the drier conditions, the Colemans are lighter on numbers and are just trying hard to stay in the market.
"Because we are running out of area for backgrounding and because the cattle over 300kg into 320kg weight range are becoming fewer and far between it is getting more difficult," she said.
"We are just trying to turn over minimum number, if you jump off the train it can be hard to get back on."
Cattle are fed grain and hay, along with a pre-mix molasses based mineral supplement that is mixed with everything to assist with grain take-up, processing and animal health.
"All feed is bought in and what we have tried to do is keep the finger on the pulse and stay with the market to know when there might be more coming into the market that might cause a fall in prices, such as at harvest, and purchase more then," Ms Coleman said.
"It has been a massive learning curve, but a big key has been talking to people."
She said they buy a lot of cattle off AuctionsPlus purely because we have jobs outside of the farm and therefore getting to the saleyards can be challenging.
"I also work as the environmental officer for Bindaree Beef, my husband works at Nullamanna Feedlot (north of Inverell) and we also own a spreading business," she said.
"We also do a budget before we get into cattle so we know what they are worth, and what it would cost to get them to feeder or kill weights."
The Colemans make sure they work out where they are or will be travelling before they get there, which Ms Coleman believes is important.
"The cattle market to me is a buyers market at the moment," she said.
"Anything with weight and quality behind it - feeder market and restockers are chasing it.
"If you want to buy lighter cattle, it is going to take longer to finish them so yes you are paying less but have them for longer so your returns might be minimal to nothing."
Where and who they turn their cattle off is price dependent at the time.
"By doing specs at purchase and having a great agent who gives feedback on market options helps us decide what the buy and whether we take them to feeder weights or purchase them for the supplement market," she said.
As the Colemans have only been doing this for the past 15 months, they said they are developing their conditions and learning what performs under what conditions.
"We always wanted to do this and do it right essentially," she said.
"We have had to reference and put lanes in, because ultimately there is no point feeding an animal if you have to chase it around and then it cuts dark due to stress. We are big on stress management.
"We will look at using kill data feedback to know what made steers perform or what may need to be changed, what genetics, breeds or breeders' cattle worked and what to go with again or steer clear of."
Previously the Colemans were dabbling in cows and calves, but they found where they were located and the types of pastures they had weren't suitable in sustaining that livestock system's demand.
"Pastures were at their weakest when the cows and calves had their highest demand," she said.
"We aggisted part of place out and the young dry animals the people had on there always looked fantastic – we thought what are we doing."
Recently returning from the inaugural GenAngus Future Leaders Program, designed by Angus Australia and Achmea Australia held in Sydney from February 20 to 22, Ms Coleman looks forward to the opportunties offered through next 12 months of the program.
Find out more about the program: