FOCUSED on kilograms of beef out the front gate and crunching the numbers to ensure a profit is being made, Central West producers John and Nana Peters have fine-tuned their purebred Hereford operation.
The Peters own the 17,500 acre historic property, Burrawang South, located between Forbes and Condobolin, on which they run a self-replacing commercial cow/calf Hereford operation and a small stud, which focuses on breeding bulls for in-herd use.
Traditionally they have been a bullock producing herd, with progeny finished through the quality assured licensed and registered feedlot - which is audited every year by AusMeat - that they own.
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"It is a 950 head bullock enterprise, Jap Ox, but we do feed for Woolies or Coles if the contracts are right for us," Mrs Peters said.
"Traditionally we were a bullock producing herd, but have been trimming them back and coming back in size... mainly because the store market is driving everything."
Around 2000 acres of their property is used for cropping, which includes wheat and barley grown mainly to supply their own feedlot hay, grain and silage.
"Assuming surplus (feed) commodities of our own are available, we buy in 200-400 head (any breed)... dependent on contract, weather," she said. "Any surplus feed not being used is sold.
The Peters on average turn off 600-700 head through their feedlot in any one financial year.
About to wean calves now, Mrs Peters said they look at the cost of commodity, contract price and do the sums to work out if there is a profit to be made.
"If it is too close to call and the margin is tight, we might hold the commodity and sell progeny as forward stores," she said.
"The feedlot is a safety valve - in dry and wet times it can be used to lighten off paddocks, it is a way of getting out of trouble."
However, the avenue for the Peters' stock changed this year with "store prices so much better" and more money to be made selling them off quicker.
"We sold most of our progeny from last year as 500 kilogram store cattle," she said.
Their most recent sale through Forbes Central West Livestock Exchange included a run of 66 Hereford heifers, 16-17 months, weighing 460kg on average for 540 cents a kilogram to return $2484 a head.
Prior to the drought they were running 1000 cows. Now they are running 650 cows, of which around 50-60 are registered horned Hereford breeders with Mrs Peters saying her husband John and his late wife had started the Burrawang stud in 1968.
"They moved from sheep to cattle, and built themselves up into Herefords... We were married in 1993, and since we have kept on keeping on with them," she said.
"We like their quality and size, the bone and growth and genetics.
"They are all horned, but I have to say things are changing... of the 130 at Wodonga, only 30 are horned.
"Everyone at the minute is chasing positive fat and marbling figures, muscle and low birthweight. We are trying to strike a happy medium - it all comes back to the same things; fertility, functionality and feed efficiency.
"We are focused on kilograms out of the front gate."
Introducing new genetics through the use of artificial insemination to get a diverse base, the Peters utilise genetics from Canada and North America, and are currently looking to New Zealand for a new option.
At the recent Herefords Australia Wodonga National Show and Sale in May, the Peters sold their sole entry, Burrawang Rockefeller for $26,000 (seventh highest price) to Ross Trethowan.
"We are not in the business of breeding stud bulls... the main reason we have the stud is to keep them for our own in herd use," Mrs Peters said. "It gives us access to diverse genetics, to help spread our genetic base... everything is pre-planned, recorded."
A quality long-term relationship with their stock and station agents, Kevin Miller, Whitty, Lennon and Co Pty Ltd (KMWL) which stemmed from the agency's first sale 40 years has allowed them get results across all stock classes.
"John and another friend in Forbes gave Kevin (Miller) a run, and he did well so we have been with them ever since - we haven't used another agent," she said.
"KMWL has a huge role in placing and facilitating whatever class of stock we happen to sell - 40 per cent of income in general that comes from your breeding herd is culls; cull heifers, broken down bulls, old cows and things that don't make the cut.
"The placing of those kind of animals is every bit as important as placing your prime animals."
Mrs Peters said the drought did a lot of damage to a lot of people, and so had localised flooding, which resulted in them losing 1000 acres of crop, not making hay and having to buy in fodder.
"We cut down our numbers, but decided to feed our core herd of 600 cows and carried them right through (the drought)," she said.
"Financially it was painful, but it has worked out for us now as we had those cows when the drought broke and didn't need to try and buy stock at these prices.
"A lot of people might have sold out or stopped trading, and while they sat quietly for a couple of years and the drought didn't cost them a fortune, it is quite possible they are experiencing a financial drought now.
"But in the end there is no right or wrong... you only can do what you can do."
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