Hicks composite bulls boost weight gain

Hicks composite bulls boost weight gain in Gundagai herd

Beef
CROSSBREEDING: Andy and Poppy Keatinge, pictured with their children Hughie and Felicity. The family has been using Hicks Beef composite bulls for the past three joinings.

CROSSBREEDING: Andy and Poppy Keatinge, pictured with their children Hughie and Felicity. The family has been using Hicks Beef composite bulls for the past three joinings.

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Hicks Beef composite bulls complement the high quality females at Nanangroe, Gundagai, with the Keatinge family using composites over older cows.

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Hicks Beef composite bulls complement the high quality females at Nanangroe, Gundagai, with the Keatinge family using composites over older cows.

Andy and Poppy Keatinge run a European Union-accredited herd of 650 breeders on about 4050 hectares of lease and freehold country, alongside a prime lamb operation of about 7000 head.

Mr Keatinge has been using black composite bulls over his six-, seven- and eight-year-old cows for the past three joinings.

"I wanted to try and see whether we could get more growth in the calves out of the older cows," he said.

"Last year's steers and heifers performed really well. I had a small trial with 80 calves, 40 steers and 40 heifers, and 75 per cent of the composite calves were on the first truckload to the feedlot.

"We have always utilised hybrid vigour with our sheep operation. Crossbred ewes enable us to have a profitable wool enterprise and prime lamb enterprise. So why not do the same with our cattle?"

Keeping a top quality herd, focusing on maternal traits, is key to Mr Keatinge's operation.

"We've invested quite heavily with our genetics over the past 20 years, putting the effort into maintaining the strong maternal side," Mr Keatinge said.

"I don't need many surplus heifers, so with the older cows, I'd rather maximise growth in calves by putting them to composites."

High growth is the main priority when selecting bulls, along with average birthweight and carcase quality.

"The composite cattle are much the same as they enable us to produce more beef per hectare while maintaining carcase quality," Mr Keatinge said.

"Across the board the composites averaged an extra 20 per cent at 14 months of age.

"We are selling the majority of stock before Christmas so strong early growth is key."

Progeny is always finished to feeder weights, usually on oats and grazing crops, with the aim to reach an average of 450 kilograms. In dry times they're supplemented with grain.

"Through the feedlot they can be 350kg to 500kg so we try to average around 450kg," Mr Keatinge said.

"The composite cattle have held their condition well in the tough times."

The hybrid advantage

Hybrid vigour is the aim for Hicks Beef Australian Beef Composites, which combine the carcase quality of British bred cattle with the growth rates and carcase yield of European breeds to create an animal that puts more weight on, with improved carcase quality and maternal production.

Composites provide commercial cattle producers with the advantages of a crossbred system, with the simplicity of a purebred operation.

Hicks Beef clients have reported better carcase feedback, with more muscle and marbling, improved pregnancy rates in tough years, higher weight gain in weaners, and better feedlot performance.

  • Hicks Beef Australian Beef Composites is holding its spring bull sale on Wednesday, September 4, from 1pm at Annandayle South, Holbrook.
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