There's no reason to change. This is how Peter Altschwager feels about Hereford cattle, and after breeding them for decades, he has no plans to swap breeds. In fact, he's more impressed by them than ever.
Mr Altschwager and his wife Karen, Marlex, Tantanoola, South Australia, have run Herefords ever since Mr Altschwager began running the farm at 18 years old after his father Lex passed away.
Lex had bred Herefords since the 1950s, and Mr Altschwager remembers going with his father to buy Herefords bulls when he was four or five years old.
"We went to Ardno stud at Strathdownie, then run by Ralph and Clive McEachern," he said.
And it isn't simply loyalty that has kept Mr Altschwager breeding Herefords - over the years he has dabbled in breeding Simmentals when they first came to Australia and using Angus bulls over his heifers. But he says Herefords still came up trumps. "There is enough variation within the Hereford breed without having to go into other breeds," he said.
Today the family joins around 600 Hereford breeders. They also run crossbreed ewes, but they are in the process of phasing them out.
Mr Altschwager said the Herefords' temperament was a massive bonus. "It is as good as any other breed I have seen," he said.
He said their ability to put on weight was impressive. "Polled cattle are never as heavy as horned cattle, but it is getting harder to get horned bulls," he said. "There is high fertility in the breed. In the first 100 cows to calve, there is 15 per cent twins. There are very few health problems with Herefords."
In 1991 Mr Altschwager decided to go to the Herefords Australia national show and sale in Wodonga, and since then has bought 60 bulls at the sale. "It was a chance to see a magnificent selection of bulls," he said.
He said one of the studs that stood out was Tarcombe stud, Ruffy, Victoria. "Tim (Hayes) and his father always showed an interest in what we were doing," he said.
He also buys bulls from Yarram Park stud, Willaura, Glendan Park stud, Redesdale, and Newcomen stud, Ensay, all in Victoria, and Wongawilli stud, Keilira, SA.
Mr Altschwager looks for bulls with a reasonably low birthweight, so they can join both heifers and cows, as well as ease of calving and positive fat estimated breeding values (EBVs).
But figures are only a guide for him. "I want bulls to be athletic and have the pigment around the eyes," he said. "I have to like the look of him, irrespective of the figures."
The Altschwagers join for eight or nine weeks for a mid-April calving. Breeders are pregnancy tested, with dries culled. Calves are yard-weaned at seven to nine months, with the weaners grazed on Persian clover and improved pastures. They usually keep all of their heifers, and have only recently started selling the surplus.
In the past the Altschwagers sometimes aimed cattle towards the Jap Ox market, breeding animals that weighed 300 kilograms carcase weight at 24 to 28 months old.
But now they are accredited grassfed producers with Teys Australia.
"Being part of Teys' grassfed program pays a massive premium," he said. "We can attain a premium for Hereford cattle that is equal to any other breed of cattle."
Their EU-accredited weaners are sold in two groups - the lighter cattle weighing up to 280kg carcase weight are sold to Woolworths, while the heavier are sold to Teys at around 18 to 20 months old.
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