FOCUSING on maternal traits in genetic selection has led to a low-maintenance operation for mixed farmer Hamish Cullenward.
Mr Cullenward manages the cattle, sheep and irrigated cropping operations at Nap Nap Station, west of Hay, which has run Angus cattle for about 20 years.
"We had a predominantly Hereford herd but changed in the 1990s when the premiums started coming in for the black cattle," he said.
"We transitioned with black baldies, just using Angus over heifers, then those heifer bulls ended up in the mixed aged herd, and by the start of the 2000s we'd stopped buying Hereford bulls."
Mr Cullenward has sourced bulls from Riddellvue stud principal Ian Bates since Mr Bates worked at Anvil stud, which Mr Cullenward supported for a decade.
"Ian was running the Anvil bull operation and when it dispersed we followed Ian," he said.
"He had his inaugural autumn sale last year and we like what we see. So far he's got good bulls, conformation wise."
Given the size of the Nap Nap - 31,000 hectares - structure is the biggest priority when selecting bulls.
"What we look for in a bull in this larger area is really a sound, easy type that can cover the ground, so we don't look for extremes.
"Calving ease is super important because we don't see a lot of them calving, other than the heifers. We look at EBVs for birthweight, calving ease, 400- and 600-day weight, milk, EMA and temperament."
Focusing on maternal characteristics and temperament has led to a low-maintenance operation.
"We're very strict on fertility, so we preg test and get rid of any dry cows, and anything that gives us trouble goes. We haven't had calving issues for years, and they're in big paddocks, so they've got to be able to fend for themselves."
Progeny is targeted at the yearling feeder market, with cattle turned off around 400 kilograms.
"It's been a pretty tough run in recent years but generally that's the market we focus on," Mr Cullenward said.
"It suits our program, because it's marginal country, so we've got to keep moving things along."
Calving ease is super important because we don't see a lot of them calving, other than the heifers. We're very strict on fertility, so we preg test and get rid of any dry cows, and anything that gives us trouble goes. We haven't had calving issues for years, and they're in big paddocks, so they've got to be able to fend for themselves.- Nap Nap Station manager Hamish Cullenward
The majority of steers and heifers are sold direct to the feedlot, with a lot of them going to Victoria, and the tail end of each drop, along with surplus cattle, go through the saleyards.
The property has a small area of irrigated pasture which is used to finish young sheep, so the cattle are generally finished on native pastures.
"They usually reach 400kg around 14 months, and the surplus heifers go to the feedlots or online through AuctionsPlus, at similar weights."
A portion of the heifers is kept to retain in the herd, and while numbers have dropped in recent years, Mr Cullenward will join about 420 breeders this year, and he's looking to build numbers again.
"We would like to be back around 600 or more females and so some opportunistic trading in between," he said.
"We used to run a lot more cattle, but we seemed to have more bad years than good years, so I like to stay flexible with trading in between."
As the property was coming out of drought, it was hit by flooding, he said.
"We've still been feeding right through for years now and cattle numbers have been back, but this flooding will have a big impact with summer grasses."
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