SANTA Gertrudis genetics are adding carcase quality, hardiness and longevity in Charlie and Lou Clemson's herd.
The Clemsons, with help from their sons, twins Tom and Will, 19, and Sam, 18, grow dryland crops at Wongajong, Ardlethan and run cattle Marobee Station, Condobolin.
They currently have a herd of 500 Droughtmaster and Santa Gertrudis/Droughtmaster cross cows, all based at the Condobolin property, but they're looking to increase numbers as they expand the business.
While the herd is predominantly Droughtmaster, after Mr Clemson purchased the herd with Marobee Station four years ago, the use of Santa Gertrudis genetics is adding hybrid vigour, allowing the family to turn off steers weighing up to 400 kilograms, from as young as 12 months of age.
Mr Clemson still maintains a straight Droughtmaster herd, but also crosses Santas over them, and retains females from both lines.
Santa Gertrudis cattle were added to the mix due to their hardiness and ability to walk out.
"They're robust cattle, and they'll travel," Mr Clemson said.
"Santas do an amazing job, which we learnt during the drought.
"They'll travel off water to find feed and can utilise a 6000-acre paddock as well as they could utilise a 60-acre paddock."
Marobee covers approximately 10,500 hectares, and the cattle are rotated around paddocks according to feed reserves.
"We're moving them every week, but we've still got 100km of fencing to do on Marobee to split up paddocks, and once we do the fences our herd management will be so much better," Mr Clemson said.
"We're sowing a lot of grazing crops and getting into cover crops, but we're letting Marobee have a spell, so the grass cover comes back."
Mr Clemson grows Naparoo and Whistler wheat, along with Dictator 2 forage barley.
"It's similar to Moby with a black grain and we did some trials in grazing recovery, and the grazing barley is unbelievable," he said.
"In the south at the moment we're just about to start sowing Super Sweet Sudan grass, a grazing sorghum."
Calving is in July and August and calves are weaned onto grazing crops by the second week in May, after being yard weaned for three weeks at Marobee.
"We quieten them down and handle them, then bring them south to Wongajong, but we can also use the grazing crops at Marobee," Mr Clemson said.
"We want to produce a beast that we can turn over in 12 to 14 months at 330kg to 400kg, and we can do that with the Santa genetics."
Bulls are sourced from the Hague family's Rockingham Santa Gertrudis stud at Euabalong West.
"Using the Santa genetics over these Droughtmaster cows give you a great looking animal," Mr Clemson said.
"The Droughtmaster has a really good frame, with great calf bearing hips, then when they're matched to a Santa, the calves pack on the beef.
"We're also breeding heifers that are very saleable."
Once the Clemsons get to their goal herd size, they'll look at options to sell more heifers.
"We could get them in calf and sell them PTIC, depending on the market, or in a good year we might calve them down," Mr Clemson said.
"The beauty of this cross is the longevity.
"We have 10-year-old cows, and up to 14 years, that are still producing a calf every year, and if they do that, and they're sound in the mouth, they're here to stay.
The family is currently in a herd rebuilding phase, with a goal to reach 750 breeders over the next few years.
The larger herd is part of their succession plan, which also includes adding a northern property to the business.
"We'd like to breed up numbers to be able to stock the next property, and keep expanding north if we have the opportunity," Mr Clemson said.
"Will is having a stint with Paspaley Pearls at Broome, Tom is based at Marobee, and Sam is the farmer, running between the two properties.
"Sam is also part way through his helicopter licence, and we're aiming for a place in southern Queensland.
"The Santas give us the opportunity to move into those areas."
The Clemsons are also testing the genetics with their own paddock to plate side hustle, Wag Snags, which use an entire beast, including prime cuts.
"We've found that the Santas and Droughtmasters are the best for the sausages because they're so lean, which we need because we're using the whole beast," Mr Clemson said.