High performance Hereford and Shorthorn cross paying dividends in the south west

Hereford crosses performing at Hamilton

Beef
RED CROSS: Leon Wheeler is having good saleyard success with a Hereford-Shorthorn cross operation.

RED CROSS: Leon Wheeler is having good saleyard success with a Hereford-Shorthorn cross operation.

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High performance Hereford and Shorthorn cross paying dividends in the south west.

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Leon Wheeler's cattle are repeatedly reaping red hot results at the annual Hamilton weaner sale, held in January.

He attributes this success to the consistent quality, heavy weights and gentle temperament of the Hereford and Hereford-Shorthorn crossbred offerings he presents to the market each year - and has done so for more than a decade.

My Hereford-Shorthorn crosses get really good daily weight gains, highlighted in November last year when my heaviest steer weaner was 540kg coming off his mum. - Wallacedale beef producer Leon Wheeler

Testament to his close attention to on-farm production practices and choice of quality genetics was winning the Herefords Australia champion pen of steers at the 2019 Hamilton weaner sale.

This was for a line of 70 steers with Mawarra and Yarrum Park Hereford blood that had an average weight of 373 kilograms and sold for $1126 per head - or 302 cents per kilogram.

Another pen of 21 similar steers offered by Mr Wheeler at the 2019 sale - weighing 434kg on average - sold for the top Hereford price on the day of $1259/head.

He said competition at Hamilton was always tough, as the region and its buyers were strongly focused on Angus stock.

But Mr Wheeler has been a long-term user of Hereford and Shorthorn genetics and said the economics of this crossbreeding stacked-up for him due to the herd's ability to produce high liveweights in a relatively short period of time.

His system is set up to turn-off about 360 weaners - including about 200 head of steers - each year at an age of about 10-11-months. Over the long-term, these have typically weighed-in at an average of about 380kg/head.

But the best average weaner weight Mr Wheeler has achieved was 391kg/head in 2017, followed by 386kg/head last year. His top weaner steer lines typically tip the scales at 410-430kg/head.

PROGENY PERFORMS: A Hereford-Shorthorn crossbred combination works well for Leon Wheeler.

PROGENY PERFORMS: A Hereford-Shorthorn crossbred combination works well for Leon Wheeler.

The Wheeler property in the medium rainfall zone of Wallacedale, near Hamilton, covers 570 hectares and supports 500 breeding cows, about 400 calves, 17 bulls and 60 replacement heifers each year.

About 80 per cent of breeder females are pure Hereford and the remainder are Hereford-Shorthorn crossbreds.

Most are joined to Hereford bulls - although a small mob is mated to the one Shorthorn bull on the property - and have their first calves at age two-years-old.

The mating period is tight, at nine weeks for the older cows and six weeks for the youngest mobs, to ensure a small calving window in late summer early autumn. This means lines offered for sale the next year are consistent in size and weight.

"I have been using this system for the past 15 years - since I took over from dad, who also used a Hereford-Shorthorn cross," Mr Wheeler said.

"It is a cross that has worked very well for our family over the years.

"I might have been getting a 20c/kg discount to Angus weaner prices in recent years, but this is made up by heavier weights because the cattle are bigger.

"My Hereford-Shorthorn crosses get really good daily weight gains, highlighted in November last year when my heaviest steer weaner was 540kg coming off his mum."

Mr Wheeler uses the Mawarra and Yarrum Park Hereford studs for his herd genetic improvement and selects sires based on visual appearance and structure - seeking out a big frame and high-yielding bull.

In recent years, he has started to target Breedplan Estimated Breeding Values for Intramuscular Fat in response to market trends for beef that is higher marbling.

"I don't plan to change too much in future, as things are going well," Mr Wheeler said.

The story High performance Hereford and Shorthorn cross paying dividends in the south west first appeared on Stock & Land.

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