Time to renew the herd

Hunter Valley breeders sink their teeth into Angus rebuild

Phil Hobden with his sons Will and Harry and a new maternal line of Angus at Almavale via Denman.

Phil Hobden with his sons Will and Harry and a new maternal line of Angus at Almavale via Denman.


A rare opportunity to renew the herd is giving Hunter Valley graziers a chance to build on prior success


A rare opportunity to renew the herd is giving these Hunter Valley graziers a chance to build on prior success.

At Almavale, run by the Hobden family, bulls are running with a new maternal line, bred on the northern New England and which now reside in paddocks overflowing with feed.

"I wanted to get new genetics into the herd and by buying this line of cattle it has allowed me to go to the next level," Phil Hobden said.

For 10 years on their Hunter Valley property at Doyles Creek, via Denman, Phil, Fiona with their sons Harry and Will ran a female line brought from western Victoria, and they produced top progeny on fertile country - not only at Almavale but also at the family's other property Eaglehill at Stewarts Brook where 600 hectares captures 1200mm of rain a year in the lee of Mt Barrington.

During the 2019 drought all of their breeders were moved to Almavale, which gets half the rainfall and where the valleys were burnt brown and dusty.

However the logistics of feeding at Doyles Creek were more sensible.

When the drought broke the Hobdens decided they would sell their old cows with calves at foot. Their price in March this year was more than $3000 allowing them to buy a single line of 58 Angus heifers, 12 months old, for $1800.

The black Angus were originally bred by Brian Hillier at Ebor.

The second run of weaner heifers were first sold to Steve Cudmore from Spring Ridge who grew them out to joining weight.

The 15-month-old heifers weighing 400kg, were put to two sons of SAV Raindance that are due to calve in September.

"The bulls were young and quiet and the heifers joined easily," Mr Hobden said.

The decision to purchase those bulls had a lot to do with their genetics, based on a century of development by the Schaff family.

The bulls purchased from Killain Angus, Goonoo Goonoo, were sired by SAV Raindance 6848 who sold to ST Genetics in 2017 for US$464,000 and has progeny that consistently achieve high indexes for feed efficiency and retail beef yield combined with moderate birth weight. He sired champion bull and junior champion female at last month's Sydney Royal Show.


The Hobden family's end goal is to produce a steer consigned to the feedlot market or as a milk tooth calf weighing 350kg to 400kg, sold into the local butchers' trade.

Beyond genetics there needs to be feed and this is where Mr Hobden's family lineage plays a large part as he was born into a Hunter Valley dairying family near Jerrys Plains, where his ancestors arrived as pioneers and passed down knowledge of farming in the area throughout the generations.

These days, when he is not busy selling steel supplies at Muswellbrook, Mr Hobden pursues crop rotation with a passion across multiple paddocks covering 97 hectares of alluvial flats at Almavale.

He employs property manager Jamie Carter who works with the family along with Phil and Fiona's sons Harry and Will, a Tocal graduate.

Planted with forage sorghum are cow peas for summer feed, with steers allowed to graze in front of the heifers. Now that winter is coming beardless barley is being sown in paddocks where lucerne has had its time.

"Lucerne is drought king," he said.

"As soon as we had rain after the drought we were able to cut it within a month. It was incredible. We've had five cuts off this paddock and now it's time for rotation.

"I don't like my cattle to go backwards.

"I like to have feed at a constant level so they're not waiting on new crops to come through."


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