Big gains in commercial herd ahead of stud establishment

Mill Creek Angus builds highly regarded commercial herd

Beef
Mill Creek Angus operations and livestock manager Ben Pritchard with company owner Trent Ottawa. Photo: Supplied

Mill Creek Angus operations and livestock manager Ben Pritchard with company owner Trent Ottawa. Photo: Supplied

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Purely a commercial operation at this point, Mill Creek Angus has sourced bloodlines from local producers Knowla Livestock, Urban Angus and Curracabark Angus.

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A RELATIVELY new Angus cattle operation in Stroud on the mid-north coast has been making big strides over the past four years, all of which they put down to their focus on reliable genetics, quiet/positive cattle handling, premium seasonal pastures and cropping programs.

Purely a commercial operation at this point, Mill Creek Angus has sourced bloodlines from local producers Knowla Livestock, Urban Angus and Curracabark Angus.

"Our focus has been establishing a highly regarded commercial operation with key supply chains for our product and a long-term plan of establishing our Angus Stud," Mill Creek Angus operations and livestock manager Ben Pritchard said.

"Establishing any stud takes time, a lot of planning and patience. The aim is to start using our more experienced cows as recipients for ET (embryo transfer) programs to bring the stud to life with the long-term goal of having annual on property bull sales."

Running around 160 breeders plus finishing weaners across 283 hectares (700 acres), they recently sold 23 pregnancy-tested-in-calf (PTIC) cows for $2650 a head, to top the 18,000 head sale on AuctionsPlus that day.

"We do a lot with our weaners to ensure we maintain quiet, yet high performing cattle that are familiar with standard feeding and farming operations. As a result demand for our cattle continues to increase," Mr Pritchard said.

"The weaners are yard weaned for 10 days and quietly handled through the pens, yards, race and crush twice a day. They then enter into a five acre development pasture paddock that includes troughs, dams, hay feeders, self-feeders, bunk feeders and lick feeders for approximately four weeks.

"This gives our weaners the exposure and knowledge they need when entering our paddocks which reduces stress and increases immediate performance.

"They then move into larger paddocks near high traffic areas for continued monitoring and to assist with them becoming comfortable around a variety of farming equipment before they move out onto pastures.

"It is a long process, but the performance results and ease of handling are worth the effort.

"I like to get our weaners to 485 kilograms on average and then we move them on."

A key sire used over their top-line commercial females was Knowla Payload P05 that Mill Creek purchased for $18,000 from the 2019 Knowla Livestock Bull Sale.

"We didn't want to over work him so we use him selectively," Mr Pritchard said. "At scanning 98 per cent of the cows he joined were PTIC. The pregnancy rate across the herd was 96pc utilising a selection of performance bulls.

"Going through the drought and to still be able to achieve such high conception rates was really pleasing.

When selecting bulls Mr Pritchard said they look for well-muscled, powerful animals with good feet and structure, and high 200- and 400-day weights to ensure they have the ability to get to weight quicker, for a quick turnaround.

"We also look at IMF (intramuscular fat) and EMA (eye muscle area), birth weight and calving ease etc," he said.

Mill Creek Angus are continually looking for ways to future proof their operation and improve operational efficiency.

"The cost of land and raising cattle is expensive, so in order to keep expanding our breeding herd, we are always looking at ways to improve the performance of our pastures and reducing wastage in the paddock," he said.

"We drill down around 350 acres of winter and summer forage crops annually, cut and retain enough silage to store and feed our cows as part of their balanced dietary requirements. It's a combination of controlled grazing and feeding programs so they perform without the wastage."

"We try to grow as much premium feed as possible and keep everything in-house/on-farm to ensure quality and consistency.

"If we control what our cattle are eating we can better estimate their performance to ensure we provide a consistent finished product."

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