SELECTING bulls on structure, then focusing on nutrition is how Hunter Valley producers Max and Paula Hayne get their calves up to supermarket weights.
Mr Hayne has had Angus cattle all his life, but includes a splash of Santa Gertrudis genetics in his 100-breeder herd at Carlisle, Moonan Flat.
"That gives the Angus a bit more size and length but you can't have much Santa because they can get too lanky," he said.
"We put good Angus bulls over the Angus/Santa cows with about a quarter Santa."
The Haynes have used Pentire Angus bulls for the past two years, and they focus mostly on structure and temperament.
"The Pentire bulls suit me to the ground," Mr Hayne said.
"I'm looking for temperament and shape - length and depth. I think genetics is about 40 per cent of what you need and the rest comes from nutrition."
Mr Hayne has a big focus on nutrition, which begins when calves are on the cows.
"We started feeding the calf on the cow in the middle of the drought to help the cow, and we're continuing that," he said.
"We imprint them with Manildra pellets and home-grown silage which gives them a headstart prior to weaning.
"We won't have to do it as much now because the calf will get enough milk in a good season, but it's a good option to have when we're getting them ready for weaning.
"It also means they're nearly all the same weight by the time they come off the cow."
All calves are yard weaned on pellets or barley, along with straw and silage.
"We like to yard wean so we can educate and handle them when they're young.
"Imprinting and weaning them on good feed means they don't lose weight and it helps me get the calves to the weights I want.
"I lotfeed my calves, and they're usually about 300 to 350 kilograms by weaning, so they only need about nine weeks on feed."
Mr Payne aims to get them to 400kg to 450kg, depending on market returns each year.
"If you're going to breed and feed a calf you want the maximum profit you can get," he said.
"We also make sure the cows always have good feed so they have plenty of milk for the calves.
"You can't starve them because if you do, it hurts the pocket at the end. It's definitely worth investing in nutrition, as well as genetics."
The herd has reduced since the drought began, but Mr Hayne isn't looking to rebuild the herd just yet.
"We might just stick to current numbers at the moment. I'm not sure the dry spell is over because we haven't had a flood yet."