TRADITIONAL Simmentals are in demand for export markets, with Australian breeders sending a large number of heifers to China over the past 12 months.
According to Simmental Australia records, 678 head were exported in April this year, and 157 in January. That followed a huge export of 1242 head in October 2020.
Simmental Australia executive officer Felicity Reeves said the market was open to commercial and stud producers who are out of bluetongue virus transmission zones.
The demand is for young heifers from eight or 16 months of age, can be stud or commercial animals, with traditional markings, not pregnant and a minimum weight of 200kg on delivery.
Clients are looking for heifers sires by registered Simmental bulls with multiple generations of known pedigree, and breeders must be members - either stud or commercial - of the Simmental society.
It's a handy premium in many years, with a recent export order paying $1550 (+ GST) for purebred commercial (category 2) heifers, and between $1700 and $1800 (+ GST) for stud registered (category 1) heifers.
Exporting future breeders has been a regular market for the Halter family, based east of Esperance in Western Australia.
Joe Halter, who's originally from Switzerland, runs a 180-breeder herd of traditional Simmentals with his son Andrew.
In the past they've sent heifers to the Phillipines and other countries, and most recently, they've exported heifers to China.
"We don't do it every year, because while there's a premium price, you want to keep some of the better heifers some years," Andrew Halter said.
"We'll have to keep a few more for ourselves in this year's drop."
It's been a good market thanks to the premiums on offer, and the Halters are always open to more market opportunities.
"They're looking for weight and age and they've got to have a distinct Simmental look to them when the export agent selects them," Mr Halter said.
"We're price-takers but we always look for opportunities if they come up, so in the past we've also sold heifers and calves to other restockers.
"This year has probably been the only year where you could come out ahead if you sold them locally, but with the flat rate per head, some of them are working out at $8 to $9 a kilo.
"It's good money for very young cattle that you're not having to carry over summer."
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The calves are handled a couple of times before shipment, with all heifers blood tested and preg-tested by a vet, and if it's a later shipment, they'll be yard weaned.
"We get them in first week of December to draft through and tag what's potentially going to be exported," Mr Halter said.
"We wean in December, so if it's the second shipment in January or February, they can stay in the yards for a few weeks.
"The only thing we need to keep on top of is, if they're in the yards in summer and it's dusty, we have to monitor for pink eye - they have to be in top condition for the export market."
They're looking for weight and age and they've got to have a distinct Simmental look to them when the export agent selects them
Long-time stud and commercial breeder Cam Emerson has been exporting heifers for almost a decade, and it's been a good avenue for the second tier heifers from Alva Downs, at Tahara South in western Victoria.
Mr Emerson's 600-breeder commercial herd is run alongside a stud herd of 120 and a purebred Hereford herd, and he usually exports about 200 heifers each year.
"We manage our business to incorporate the live export market, so we calve in autumn, and we're starting to prepare the cattle in August." Mr Emerson said.
"Those heifers go early and their mothers have a much longer period of rest before the next calf, but it also reduces feed pressure.
"It releases feed for us that we can put into our steer calves that are sold through the western district sales.
"By January, when we've got our steers ready to go, we don't have to worry about getting heifers ready for January sales because the majority of them are gone."
While the export market is usually a high premium, this year, it would have to compete with the red-hot cattle market which has reached record levels.
"This year the price of young cattle at the moment is very high, so it's going to be interesting to see what the offer is for live export heifers," Mr Emerson said.