The Land

Macka's Angus heifers in high demand

PREMIUM CATTLE, PREMIUM PRICES: Macka's Australian Black Angus Beef recently sold 120 yearling heifers for $3600 a head to Cougar Cattle Co.

ANGUS breeders are making the most of the current high market and scoring high prices, but it's not every day that young females fetch stud prices straight out of the paddock.

Gloucester breeders and beef brand owners Bruce and Rob Mackenzie, Macka's Australian Black Angus Beef, recently sold a large number of future breeders at premium prices.

The sale of 200 weaner heifers at $2550 a head, 120 yearling heifers for $3600 and 50 pregnancy-tested-in-calf (PTIC) heifers at $4500 follows years of exceptional prices for Macka's cattle through the saleyards and online.

It's an impressive result, particularly for a paddock sale, according to agent Rodney McDonald, Bowe and Lidbury, who said verified Angus cattle were attracting premiums.

The Mackenzies were the first producers to sign up to Angus Australia's Angus Verified program when it was launched in March last year.

"Down here in the Lower Hunter, we're crying out for good breeders, particularly Angus, so you're able to set the price if you've got the good quality cattle," Mr McDonald said.

Mr Mackenzie, who runs Macka's alongside his father Bruce and sons James and Jack, said was a big decision to let the future breeders go, but he was pleased to see his females going into an operation focused on quality.

New property, new opportunities

The addition of Strike A Light, a large property between Taree and Kempsey, to the Cougar Cattle Company business gave Chad Dillinger and Craig Barnett the perfect opportunity to start a premium Angus herd from scratch.

Mr Barnett has had cattle on a small scale for the past 20 years, and now the pair have 400 head across three other properties at Gresford and Dungog, two owned and one leased.

"We're leasing Strike A Light with the intent to buy, and we made the decision to buy the best cattle we could and build a herd that was of high quality so that our returns were as good as possible," Mr Dillinger said.

"We first contacted Rob about 12 months ago, because we'd been following his story and we were really interested in the Angus verification program.

"We plan to turn that into a 100pc verified Angus breeding property, and we'll sell off our other cattle.

"In the past we had bought whatever cattle we could to build numbers up, but it costs the same amount of money to feed an unproven beast as it does to feed a verified Angus breeder."

EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY: Some of the 50 Macka's Angus heifers, pregnancy-tested-in-calf to Mackas Angus stud bulls that sold for $4500 a head.

Being close to the Macka's herd, which is run over six properties near Gloucester and two in the Port Stephens area, was another big factor.

"We needed coastal cattle for our new block, and Rob's got cattle suited to us," Mr Dillinger said.

The Cells River property, which is almost 6000 hectares (14,000 acres) in total, will be the base for the cattle operation, and the pair plan to grow the Cougar herd to approximately 2000 breeders across all properties.

"Hopefully we can buy another drop of cattle from him in April which takes us to 500 animals," Mr Dillinger said.

"Approximately 6000 acres of Strike A Light will be used for this production and we will aim to run 800 breeders on the property.

"We could have built a herd from different sales, but we chose a larger line of verified females, as this is our long-term business strategy for a consistent result."

Females the focus

Mr Mackenzie's passion for the Angus breed and investment in genetics made it difficult for him to sell so many future breeders.

With a very female-focused breeding program, his replacement heifers are always sought-after.

"Macka's has a very solid and disciplined breeding program, and this is the reason the female herd is maternally so powerful," Mr Mackenzie said.

"The Macka's cow is based around temperament and actual performance - she must get in calf in a tight joining period, she must then calve unassisted, she must be an exceptional milker, she must get back in calf, and she must rear a super calf.

"This can only happen if she has high fertility and is structurally very sound to embrace the hills of the Gloucester country.

"She must have that nice soft skin, which indicates her ability to milk and convert grass into beef."

FUTURE BREEDERS: The biggest line in the private sale was 200 weaner heifers that sold for $2550 a head.

Investing in genetics

Maternal traits were a key factor in the purchase of $225,000 bull Texas Iceman R725, who comes from the well-respected Undine cow family, but his sire, Poss Maverick also comes from a strong maternal base, Mr Mackenzie said.

"The Poss herd in the US is well-renowned for maternal power and consistency of breeding, and Maverick replicates all of those traits."

The family has already artificially inseminated 1000 commercial cows and heifers to Iceman.

Another sire added to the program last year was Circle 8 R509, purchased for $55,000.

"Investing in these genetics will enable us to further advance our commercial operation with consistency and predictability, continuing our business' outstanding record on the hook," Mr Mackenzie said.

INVESTING IN THE BUSINESS: Three generations of MacKenzies - Bruce, Jack and Robert with Jack's partner Alexandra Lynch - and their $225,000 record busting Angus sire Texas Iceman R725, who was purchased last year.

While some of the future breeders purchased by Cougar Cattle Company are PTIC, the unjoined heifers will be artificially inseminated using Iceman, whose semen is available through Genetics Australia.

"From the start, we've wanted to AI all our heifers," Mr Dillinger said.

"We could never afford to buy a bull like Iceman, but we can afford to invest in straws from him.

"This will ensure we make the most of the property and the cattle we have."