USING Simmental genetics in a three-breed mix is adding weight gain to crossbred calves at Hillview, Clermont.
Central Queensland producers Frank and Catherine Finger and Scott and Natalie Finger operate three properties at Capella and Clermont, running a pure high-grade Brahman herd, pure Droughtmasters and crossing Simmentals over the Brahman breeders.
They've been using Simmental genetics for the past 11 years.
"Natalie's father, stock agent Malcolm Flohr, told me he'd seen a mob of Simmental/Brahman-cross weaners and they were some of the best calves he'd seen," Frank Finger said.
"We had tried everything else over the Brahmans, but nothing compares to Simmental bulls."
- The Simmental Advantage: Yaralla's success continues
- The Simmental Advantage: Meeting vealer trade
- The Simmental Advantage: Maternal traits lift herd quality
Mr Finger bought his first Simmental bulls from Esk-based stud Clay Gully, at Ag-Grow in 2008 and has added genetics from Meldon Park, Moura; Blue Dog, Wandoan; Billa Park, Jackson; and Lucrana, Texas, over the past decade.
His daughter Eliza and her husband Carl also breed Simmental cattle at Capella.
He has focused on temperament, structure and colour, with a preference for the traditional red and white.
"The Simmentals are brilliant for their weight gain and ease of handling - they're nice cattle to have," Mr Finger said.
Most of the first-cross females are sold from weaning to 18 months of age, depending on the season.
"We put some steers through the Paringa feedlot and the heifers go through the saleyards, but Paringa usually buys them to put them through the feedlot for Coles or JBS. Remaining steers are finished on grass, forage sorghum or oats."
The Fingers grow forage sorghum, oats and barley, with the rest of the country being buffel and native grasses. The family supplements with a salt and sulphur loose lick to help control internal and external parasites.
High grade Hazelton and Lancefield-blood Brahman females are joined to a Simmental bull, and all first-cross females are sold.
We had tried everything else over the Brahmans, but nothing compares to Simmental bulls.
The Simmental infusion is well-known in the area, with the Finger family taking out grand champion exhibit in the Clermont Beef Expo for three of the past four years, and they had the best pen of grass-fed cattle in their first year.
The grass-fed and feedlot trial usually attracts 1100 to 1200 head, with awards for the best pen of 10 cattle in grain-fed, crop-fed and grass-fed categories.
Mr Finger said weight gain from hybrid vigour was the biggest advantage of Simmental cattle, but they also have the ability to lay down fat.
"With the cross it's easy to get fat cover and weight, so we can average 360 kilograms to 380kg dressed for a two-tooth bullock," Mr Finger said.
Temperament is another big factor, and the Fingers add to that with their use of dogs on the cattle from weaning.
Mr Finger's other daughter, Julie Turner, runs the Clermont Kelpies stud, breeding and training working dogs for producers all over Australia.
Year-round joining means there's always a mob to train, with constant mustering.
"We don't control mate," Mr Finger said.
"We let our Brahman heifers grow out to 16 months before joining so we can select the future breeders when they've matured. We get more calves and we're spreading market risk if we're selling throughout the year. We buy young bulls and rotate them, so there's always some ready to work, and when we muster we change bulls and teach them to live with one another again."
The family also keeps the herd quiet by using livestock handling principles from Neil McDonald.
Their latest focus has been improving livestock movement through the yards installing a Bud Box, a design from the late Bud Williams, a well respected American cattleman known for his work developing positive movement stock handling techniques. The rectangular yard is designed based on a cow's natural tendency to return where they came from, so they circulate around the pen and through the race with flowing ease.
"It creates a better flow, and they're not jammed in a 'V', pushing to get into the race," Mr Finger said.