Shorthorns have been a staple of the Stuckey family's mixed farming operation at Condobolin for two generations.
Peter Stuckey said running a cattle breeding operation, self-replacing Merino sheep flock for wool production and cropping across the bulk of their central New South Wales property ensured a diversity of enterprises, multiple income streams and less overall business risk.
He, wife Vikki and father Allen are re-building their cattle herd after several years of prolonged drought.
The run of poor seasons has resulted in the Stuckeys having to almost halve their Shorthorn breeder numbers to about 550 head, including about 200 heifers.
But this year, there has been a dramatic turn-around in autumn and winter seasonal conditions - and there is a promising outlook for a wet spring.
"We think 2020 has the same potential as the bumper year we had in 2016 and - if this is realised - we will seek to get our stock numbers back up as fast as we can," Mr Stuckey said.
"The cattle and sheep are such a good fit for our predominantly cropping system.
"Lucerne-based pasture improvement for grazing has a positive spin-off on boosting soil health for our cereals, canola and oats and we always have grain on-hand for supplementary feeding animals if needed."
We think 2020 has the same potential as the bumper year we had in 2016 and we will seek to get our stock numbers back up as fast as we can.
The Stuckeys farm on their home block of 1100 hectares and lease a second 800ha property about 50 kilometres further south.
The family breeds straight Shorthorns and Shorthorn-Angus crossbreds and sells the bulk of the purebred steers and heifers into the premium JBS Australia Shorthorn brand 'Thousand Guineas'.
This is a collaboration between JBS and the two leading Shorthorn breed societies - Beef Shorthorns Australia and Shorthorn Beef.
To be eligible to supply into this branded market, which is underpinned by the Meat Standards Australia quality assurance scheme, beef must be grain fed and meet a marble score of 2+, meat colour of 1B-3 and fat colour of 0-3.
The Stuckeys join their Shorthorn and first-cross Shorthorn-Angus females to Shorthorn bulls. First-time breeder heifers are mated to Angus bulls from the age of 15-18-months-old to assist with ease of calving.
Joining occurs in winter for the bulk of the herd, with the remainder joined in summer, and is kept to a tight window to ensure consistent quality and size of cattle lines to be turned-off the following year.
Across the long-term - and depending on the season - the Shorthorn and Shorthorn-Angus crossbred weaners typically achieve average weight gains of 1-1.5 kilograms per head per day. The target for the best performers is about 2kg/head/day.
The young stock are sold to JBS for further grain feeding at between 12 and 15-months-old and at average liveweights of between 350kg and 450kg.
Mr Stuckey, who has been a long-term client of the Royalla Shorthorn stud at Yeoval, said sire genetics were chosen based on bull structure, body length, muscle shape and general 'do' ability.
"Because we run a very busy mixed farming system, we want maintenance-free cattle that will pretty much look after themselves," he said.
"We visually assess the bulls and then check the Breedplan Estimated Breeding Values for 600 Day Weight, Eye Muscle and Intramuscular Fat to back-up our decisions."
Mr Stuckey said feedback from JBS about the carcase and beef quality resulting from their Shorthorn and Shorthorn-Angus cross stock had been very positive over the many of their direct supply chain relationship with the processor.
"They find our cattle have relatively high marbling, are consistent in performance and meat their brand requirements," he said.
Mr Stuckey said if seasonal conditions continued to improve, the family's plans for the future were to breed the cattle herd back into full production.
"We want to grow our numbers, as we find the cattle enterprise integrates very well into our cropping system and provides us with a diversified income," he said.
"It has cost us a lot in recent years to maintain our stock - even at much lower numbers that usual.
"But we feel it is worth it, and our environment really lends itself to mixed farming operations.
"In saying that, though, it is always a moving feast of enterprises based on seasons and markets."