IMPROVING the genetics of their herd and getting the best quality possible is the goal for Norm and Sandy Maher.
The couple run an Angus herd of 90 breeders on their 500-acre property at Bungowannah near Albury. They have their own bull from Table Top Angus as a reserve but this year have bred from a neighbour's Dunoon Angus bull in an effort to improve genetics.
"We want to improve the herd to the best quality we can and that means improving the genetics," Mr Maher said.
"We know the shape of the cow that we want and we want to get stretch into our cattle and that's why we've gone to a different bull."
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With a fully self-replacing herd the cattle are bred for the feedlot and restocking markets selling through the Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange and on Auctions Plus generally twice a year.
Mr Maher said it was important to have a self-restocking herd to help keep the costs down.
"It's a better option because we know we have a very fertile herd," he said. "It's better to buy genetics in stud bulls rather than buying cows in."
The herd is culled based on fertility and temperament, with the culls sold first followed by the younger stock. All steers are sold and the best of the heifers are kept for breeding.
They said the market prices don't always determine when to sell.
"We monitor the market but the season is really the driver for us," he said.
"Depending on what the season is doing is how long we will carry cattle or turn cattle off."
Weaner steers are typically tuned off at 400 kilograms.
"We had a look at the market this year and we said there was a marginal increase for us if we were to hang onto those stock and grow them out compared to selling them when we did," Mr Maher said.
"We thought why work on that marginal increase when we could sell them and make good money out of it and then put the fodder they normally would have eaten into the breeders."
But it wasn't always the country life for the couple who both grew up on farms but careers took them to the city.
Both grew up around Deniliquin, Norm on the CSIRO field station while Sandy came from a dairy farm.
After working as jackeroo, Mr Maher had always wanted to serve the community and hoped to join the police force but was told he was half an inch too short so enlisted in the army.
A 22-year army career, including active service in Somalia, was followed by a role as the Deputy Director of Transport Operations for the Sydney Olympics and then 15 years working as a transport bureaucrat for Transport NSW.
Mrs Maher had worked as an assistant accountant for various financial institutions including NSW Rural Bank, State Bank and Perpetual Trustees.
But farm life was always the goal for the couple and in 2010 they bought the Bungowannah property.
"It's something we always wanted to do - it was our dream,"she said.
"The dream was to live in the Albury region - I never wanted to go back to Deni."
In 2016 after Mr Maher retired from the government they moved from Sydney and began living their dream on the farm.
Originally the couple had thought about Herefords as they had both had them growing up but they decided for their own farm to have Angus, and they bought their first 30 cattle in 2011 for $350 a head.
"My brother in law was breeding Angus at the time and he said don't go down the Hereford track - there's a price premium in black and he said I'll sell you some," Mr Maher said.
"With the Angus we find their temperament is very good, they make good mothers and they're polled."
Since moving to the farm the Mahers have kept busy replacing 15 kilometres of fencing themselves, putting in new cattle yards and improving pastures to be able to run a larger herd.
They've since put in a second set of yards in a separate part of the property making it easier to manage the cattle and both sets have solar lights in the situation where a calf needs to be pulled at night.
The Mahers are now looking at yard weaning rather than paddock weaning to limit the erosion along their fence lines.
Since their days on their respective farms as kids the Mahers said the one of the biggest things to have changed is technology with data an integral part to their operation now.
"When the calf is dropped we'll go and grab that calf and whack a tag in its ear because Sandy's driven by data," Mr Maher said.
"She will know who the mother is and does a history and because of the records she kept we found out we had a cow that had a calf but lost the calf after six weeks every year.
"The data we keep and just by tagging that calf and knowing who the mother is and the history of it is really important - it works for us and the helps underpin the bottom line."
Mr Maher said by keeping all this data they can cull based on performance.
"There's value in having good data - in tighter conditions you'll know which cow better performs based on their calf weight and their weight," he said.
The main thing for the Norm and Sandy Maher is enjoying what they do.
"I never thought I would've got so much joy out of cattle," he said. "We couldn't be happier and there's not any greater reward than when you look out there and you see what you've bred."
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