The Land

Hicks' Composite genetics impress internationally

Commercial client Aaron Salmon, Tokajo Pastoral, with Andrew Hicks, co-principal of Hicks Beef.

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Hicks Beef put their clients first, breeding Red and Black Composite and Red Angus bulls that deliver profitable and consistent results for commercial beef producers across Australia.

Spanning across three properties in the New South Wales Holbrook district, Tom Hicks and his wife Kate, along with Tom's parents Andrew and Anne operate the business, with 1500 Composite and Red Angus breeders.

Tom Hicks says breeding the right animals is a balancing act.

"Our real aim is to help make a profitable commercial system that produces the most beef per hectare. So we really want our cows extremely fertile," he said.

"We're really big on calving, maternal calving ease, while trying to balance the carcass traits like IMF (intramuscular fat) and EMA (eye muscle area), we put lot of effort into them," he said.

The Southern New South Wales operation breeds Australian Beef Composite and Red Angus Bulls with a focus on carcass, weight gains and the maternal traits of cows. Their Spring sale this year will offer more than 100 bulls, the largest offering Hicks' Beef has put up.

"You showcase your best animals and we're able to allocate the Spring and the Autumn bulls evenly. It's not like one sale is better than the other. We try and keep them very even," Tom said.

In terms of benchmarking, the business utilises the Total Genetic Resource Management (TGRM) software to identify the best breeding stock after a vigorous structural assessment.

Lot 3 in Hicks Beef sale lineup in the top 0.01 per cent for All Purpose Index.

Their cattle are also DNA tested for more accurate carrying markers for desirable traits.

"The Meat Animal Research Centre (MARC), based in Nebraska conducted a trial of 7000 of commercial cattle, aiming to find the best way to utilise hybrid vigour in commercial cattle systems," said Mr Hicks.

"They found the use of composites was the simplest and most effective way to capture the benefits of heterosis and breed complementarity without the hassle of implementing a rotational crossbreeding system."

Numerous times, their cattle have finished in the top ten at the Teys Australia Beef Spectacular Feedback Trials at their Jindalee Feedlot. Cattle are fed for more than 100 days and ranked according to weight gains and carcase quality.

Mr Hicks attributes their success to the use of Australian beef Composites that combine the desirable traits of British and European breeds to create an animal that can put on more weight without sacrificing carcase quality or maternal production.

"Because of our breeding program, we're able to exploit a big gene pool from bloodlines not just around Australia, but around the World," he said.

"But we are making terrific gains at home, which is why we choose to use our own-bred bulls with our breeders as well as elite sires from around the World."

Despite their consistent success, the Hicks' continue to be hard markers. Every cow must have a calf every year or she is removed from the herd. They also need to calve un-assisted, join within two cycles, remain structurally sound and handle above-average commercial stocking rates. They also use international benchmarking standards to ensure the cattle they produce are consistently performing.

Some of Aaron Salmons first cross Composite cows, with second crosses at foot.

"We're part of international genetic solutions or IGS which is the largest red meat database in the world. There are 20 million records in that database and within that our saleable average are in the top 10 percent," Tom said.

The international comparison means their bulls are highly sought after. They have been sold and then trucked to Queensland's tropical savannah country, to temperate paddocks in southern Tasmania and everywhere in between.

"A lot of our clients are very data driven. They've seen that every other meat industry in the world involves comps or cross spreads of some description to increase profitability. And they see us as a simple, easy way to add hybrid vigour into their program," Mr Hicks said.

And while they strive for consistency, there are also buyers who are targeting specific traits. Mr Hicks says the company's varied clientele means they work closely with the people they sell to.

"Because we are constant breeders, we are willing and able to really customize something to an area too," he said.

"We're able to do specific crosses for clients and breed them to exact specification."

Some of the results they've achieved for their clients is an increased fertility in cows, heavier steers, more calves on the ground and improved carcase feedback.

Tokajo Pastoral's Aaron Salmon has recently introduced Hicks' Composite bloodlines into their herd in south-eastern New South Wales.

"I found that their cattle just have a bit of extra punch," Mr Salmon said.

"We've recorded a real increase in fertility and conception rates with my first cross heifers, that have just calved now. Not only did they calve very well on their own, but when they were joined last year, the Composite heifers were 15 kilos heavier on average than the straight Angus heifers."

The Hicks' 2022 Spring bull sale will be held on property at on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.