Delungra beef producers Nigel and Casey Wieck did what ever they could to hold onto their remaining 50 Charolais and Limousin breeders last year, including weaning their calves from just three days old.
The couple operate CB Charolais and Limousins on the 210 hectare (521 acre) property, Daylong, regularly showing and selling their top stock including through the Glen Innes Potential Show Steer and Sale for the last three years.
On Monday they sold a 205 kilogram Limousin steer for 1000c/kg ($2050) to Queensland-based fitter Travis Luscombe as a future lightweight Ekka steer prospect while a 260 kilogram Limousin cross Charolais heifer sold for 815c/kg ($2119) to the Campion family, Amos-Vale Herefords, Pinkett, and will be retained as a future show steer breeder.
Few onlookers to the saleyards would have labelled the show-ready duo 'bucket babies' having spent just a couple of days on their mothers.
The Wiecks wanted to do everything possible to keep their "disastrously small" numbers alive after receiving just 157 millimetres in a 750 millimetre annual rainfall area last year and took the term early weaning to the next level.
A mob of 70 calves, including their own bred animals and some bought from saleyards or given to them to boost their numbers, were set up on a calfeteria.
All of their weaners were raised on milk and Riverina calf pellets before progressing onto a Riverina 14 per cent ration. Their cows were fed hay and Riverina Truegraz Gold liquid supplement along with the Riverina 14 per cent ration.
"It's more costly to feed them (the calves) on the cow," Ms Wieck said.
"It's actually more economical to feed the cow and calf separately. We stopped losing cows, it saved them."
The couple were no strangers to raising calves from a young age with Mr Wieck's family still operating a dairy and Ms Wieck growing up on one.
"They are our bucket babies," Mr Wieck said.
"They had three days on mum and then onto the bucket. It was a lot of man hours."
Thankfully they have received about 170 millimetres in 2020, allowing them to put their weaners on a green pick.
Mr Wieck said they would wait to see what the market did before potentially offloading them into the upcoming northern weaner sales.
"The market has got to be as good as it can to make a return on them," he said.
Pinkett Poll Hereford breeders Mark and Wendy Campion and their sons Matthew and Bradyn attended the Glen Innes Potential Show Steer and Heifer Sale to have a look at the offering.
But instead they went home with the Wieck's Limousin cross Charolais heifer to add to their breeding herd.
Mr Campion couldn't see the heifer wasted on meat production and pitched in with his sons to one day breed their first show steer from her.
"It's probably rarely you see a Euro breed with such natural softness and fleshing; her correctness and balance and length and depth just made her an eye catching heifer," he said.
"I made the remark to Nigel, that heifer is far too good to get her head chopped off and the boys said, well can we buy her."