Spring Angus: A trouble-free herd at Oberon

Spring Angus: A trouble-free herd at Oberon

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FEEDER PRODUCTION: Margie and John Lowe, Lowther Park, Oberon, with some Angus and black baldy steers.

FEEDER PRODUCTION: Margie and John Lowe, Lowther Park, Oberon, with some Angus and black baldy steers.

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John and Marg Lowe have a simple, but effective philosophy for their beef cattle operation - keep it simple and straightforward.

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John and Marg Lowe have a simple, but effective philosophy for their beef cattle operation - keep it simple and straightforward.

"We want a trouble-free herd," Mr Lowe said.

"We look for the estimated breeding values which will produce an efficient trouble-free cow ... like calving ease and a shorter gestation length. If a cow needs help with calving then we sell it.

"We also concentrate on temperament and have no tolerance for stirry cattle. We adhere by low-stress stock handling principles, so any animal that can't fit in with that is no good to us."

The Lowes' headquarters is 800-hectare Lowther Park, between Lithgow and Oberon, NSW, which has been part of Mr Lowe's family since the 1920s. In 2017 the family expanded the operation with the purchase of Dungarvan, between Forbes and Condobolin.

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Lowther Park is home to their breeding operation and carries about 400 breeders, primarily Angus and Angus-cross with a small number of Herefords producing trading stock and replacement heifers for future breeding.

The majority of bulls have come from Karoo Angus Stud at Meadow Flat near Bathurst, but the Lowes have also used a bull from Bannaby Angus Stud near Taralga.

"We look for a good self-replacing herd bull as a rule, good above average EBVs, good cartability is also important and good temperament is vitally important to us," Mr Lowe said.

"We do look at intramuscular fat statistics when we buy bulls but that's far from the most important thing. What is is reproductive traits. Anything else is a bonus."

To give their herd the best chance the Lowes follow a program in the lead-up to joining trying to make sure the bulls are fit and the cows are in a good condition to cycle.

"We'll try and have the bulls in a paddock with surplus feed to give good condition and have a spring drench program to clean out parasites. For cows we have an autumn drenching program as we aim to start calving in August, to try and capture the spring growth flush if we do it right."

We look carefully at ground cover where we can give pasture a rest to allow seed drop. And part of the reason for buying Dungarvan was to lighten stocking on Lowther Park. This year (on Dungarvan) we have focused on growing grazing wheat and oats, but haven't put a major focus on grazing management as re-fencing is still under way. - John Lowe, Lowther Park, Oberon

That philosophy of keeping it simple and straightforward extends to managing those cows and calves before and during weaning. Anything not coping gets culled.

Surplus cows and other culls are sold at local markets, and the trading stock are shipped to Dungarvan for finishing on pasture and fodder, with the 1093-hectare block currently carrying about 200 head.

If they aren't able to produce enough numbers through their own breeding the Lowes will buy in stock.

Like all producers in NSW the recent seasonal conditions have made it difficult for the Lowes.

He uses just one word to describe conditions at Dungarvan since they took over in 2017.

"Terrible. We got down to three head during summer.

"There have been a couple of storms and showers at the right time. It's not great, but better than 2018."

The poor season last year meant they held stock at Lowther Park, which should have gone to Dungarvan, resulting in having too many stock on hand.

QUALITY PROGENY: Steers are sold through feedlots, ideally in November or December.

QUALITY PROGENY: Steers are sold through feedlots, ideally in November or December.

The marketing is also kept pretty simple.

"We'll go wherever markets are," Mr Lowe said.

"The steers are sold to feedlots and while the aim is to present an animal that is above average for 600-day weight, which is a sought-after product, that relies completely on seasonal and market conditions.

"Ideally though, we sell in November or December.

"If we have to sell early because pasture and crops are standing up we'll do so. Our model means we can destock at Dungarvan if we need to."

With managing through continuing poor seasons, getting professional agronomy advice hasn't been a priority, although they do follow general advice.

"We do but probably not as much as they should," he said.

"When they get a good season we'll make better use of an agronomist but we do have a single super program for Lowther Park. We look carefully at ground cover where we can give pasture a rest to allow seed drop. And part of the reason for buying Dungarvan was to lighten stocking on Lowther Park. This year (on Dungarvan) we have focused on growing grazing wheat and oats, but haven't put a major focus on grazing management as re-fencing is still under way."

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