Improving calving in heifers

Improving calving ease in heifers with Wagyus at Burindi Station

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HANDY MANAGEMENT TOOL: Richard Puddicombe has been joining Angus heifers to Wagyu bulls at Burindi Station for the past six years.

HANDY MANAGEMENT TOOL: Richard Puddicombe has been joining Angus heifers to Wagyu bulls at Burindi Station for the past six years.

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Wagyus are a good fit in the high quality Angus production at Burindi Station, Barraba.

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WAGYUS are a good fit in the high quality Angus production at Burindi Station, Barraba, adding an extra market to the business, while increasing on-farm production.

Manager Richard Puddicombe uses Wagyu bulls over maiden heifers for calving ease, which has improved calf survival, as well as producing a high value first-cross calf.

The Paraway Pastoral Company property has had Wagyu bulls since joining 2011 drop heifers as a trial in 2012, using genetics from Lock Rogers' Door Key stud near Guyra.

While the market has been good over the past decade, the main benefit of using Wagyu in the operation is on farm.

"As a management tool, they're very good to have," Mr Puddicombe said.

"We calve quite a few heifers down, and the smaller birth weight calves reduces stress to Heifer and calf, and this has proven a good strategy to increase the survival of calves born to maiden heifers."

Heifers are joined to Wagyu bulls each year at Burindi to calve as two year olds, and other Paraway breeding properties which are also Angus-focused, have adopted the same strategy.

Mr Puddicombe said as a novice Wagyu Bull purchaser, it was difficult to select the best suited Wagyu genetics for your programme, but having a strong relationship with Mr Rogers, who previously had the Wattletop Angus stud, makes selection easier.

"Lock is a keen student of all things Wagyu, from Paddock to Palate, and has freely shared his knowledge from the start on the right genetics to use," Mr Puddicombe said.

"We're looking for high content Tajima bulls, which generally are smaller, higher marbling cattle, then put them over the growth and carcase quality that the quality Angus female provides.

"A high quality Angus herd complements the high marbling Wagyu bulls to produce high value F1s."

A high quality Angus herd complements the high marbling Wagyu bulls to produce high value F1s. - Richard Puddicombe, Burindi Station, Barraba

Calf survival has improved, and calf marking rates have improved.

"In Angus first calvers, we budget for around 90 per cent for Angus to Angus, and the Angus heifers to Wagyu bulls are around 95pc," Mr Puddicombe said.

"Calving down heifers joined to the right Wagyu bulls is similar to calving down cows. They don't require daily monitoring and don't need to be kept within easy reach of yards. They are out in a suitable paddock, grazing, properly fed and mostly calving happily."

Most of the first-cross calves - steers and heifers - have gone to Rangers Valley feedlot near Glen Innes, entering at 400 to 500 kilograms.

Heifers calve in June and Mr Puddicombe starts selling progeny in October the following year. Calves are weaned at Christmas onto subtropical pastures, then they're on oats by April or May.

"In the last couple of years they've gone early because of the dry conditions, so last year's calves went to another Paraway property to finish, but we should be able to do the job ourselves this year."

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