SELECTING bulls based on the maternal traits of calving ease, fertility and milk, is helping Paul and Nada Gibbons improve genetics while increasing breeder numbers in the Coffs Harbour hinterland, NSW.
The Gibbons' beef production, based at Rolling Hills, Lowanna, began as a side hobby to their blueberry and banana wholesale business.
The couple started with Herefords, introducing Angus bulls about 25 years ago, and they've grown the operation from just 40 cows to 330 breeders and 100 replacement heifers. They run the cattle over 445 hectares on multiple properties, including a block at Bucca, closer to Coffs Harbour.
The couple started using genetics from local stud, Brooklana Angus, when they bought a Brooklana Dream bull five years ago and they have been chasing similar genetics ever since.
"We've got four bulls with B/T Right Time 24J bloodlines, and 24J is known as the cowmaker," Mr Gibbons said.
"Brooklana have now blended 24J with Te Mania Emperor and Millah Murrah genetics and we are having great success with them.
"We're focusing on calving ease, fertility and milk, because we're building numbers, trying to get to 350 cows, keeping a big portion of heifers each year, and turning off a lot of old cows and replacing them with newer genetics.
"This year we've calved 150 so far with only one death, a premature calf.
"The rest have calved with no trouble at all and we've got five sets of twins."
About 100 heifers are retained each year and the rest are sold as weaners, along with the steers, usually through the Ray White Dorrigo weaner sale in April each year.
This year the Rolling Hills weaners topped the sale for cents per kilogram, with the steers reaching 540c/kg and the heifers making up to 500c/kg.
"They were lighter because of the season, but we'd usually turn them off at 250kg to 300kg," Mr Gibbons said.
The weaners get to those weights on grass, with a pasture mix that includes ryegrass, oats, silage and kikuyu pastures.
"We try to have a lot of feed for them, so we strip graze ryegrass and oats for two to three hours a day and they're fed silage as well."
A big part of the herd building is pasture management, Mr Gibbons said.
"We've bought some very run down farms.
"About 10 years ago the Lowanna country had a phosphorous deficiency, and some of the cows died from it, so we've been working on our nutrition. If you can't grow good grass, you can't grow good cows."