LAST year's trial winners Hicks Beef have again excelled, with its Australian Beef Composite cattle finishing third overall and taking out equal champion pen of the feedlot performance category.
Proving their composite cattle have the hybrid vigour needed perform in the trial, long-time entrants Andrew and Anne, and Tom and Kate Hicks of the Holbrook-based operation have been involved with the competition since its inception.
They have clocked up two wins over the 13 years, as well as a number of awards.
The Hicks' podium-finishing team entered the trial weighing on average 413 kilograms and had an average daily weight gain of 2.1kg per head per day, with their highest performing steer putting on 2.43kg/hd/day.
With a total point score of 750 placing them third overall, they were just five points behind first place.
Entering the trial each year gives Hicks Beef market validation and they will continue entering in the foreseeable future.
"We can make sure that we are on track, plus it is a bit of a cross reference for us as to where we sit with everyone in the trial and what other breeds are performing well," Tom Hicks said.
"The feedlot performance has always been a good part for us and we have also done well in the carcase performance and a lot of the reason we do well is from the heterosis and hybrid vigour, because that's a health trait as well.
"They are healthier which equates to less health treatments and death which is a part of the trial, and because they are healthier they will gain weight."
Hicks Beef operates both stud Red Angus and a commercial herds with a composite Simmental/Angus balancer making up the commercials.
The composite steers are not just designed to go into a feedlot, we want them to be able to do both grass and grain feeding, Mr Hicks said.
"What we are selecting for has always been important for us and what we have been selecting for the past 30 years all aligns well within the trial.
"Looking at our past performance in the trials and constantly being in the top 10 means we are aligned with the feedlots."
Mr Hicks said they do a lot of in-house collection of raw data and information for estimated breeding values (EBVs).
"We take a balanced approach in selecting sires for our program," he said.
"We look to increase both IMF [intramuscular fat] and EMA [eye muscle area] which tends to be negatively correlated so it can be tricky.
"We have seen a vast improvement since we have been selecting to improve both those traits and the trial shows the trends are going in the right direction.
"The trial and the way it is scored already follows our objectives.
"It validates our program and helps us with confidence in what we are selecting for to make the final product.
"It is great to go in the feedlot trial but we are also a very maternal focused program so it's only half the puzzle.
Hicks Beef has a big emphasis on fertility and structure, with Mr Hicks saying "the cows are really the stars of the show".
"You run a cow for a long time so it's not good if she isn't profitable, but also you have to make sure you're still meeting the feedlot guides and getting a good premium with your steers," he said.
"When our clients sell their stock to a feedlot they know they are going to perform and we have the trial results and information to back it up."
The second team from Hicks Beef placed 27th.
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