USING Charolais bulls as a terminal sire is giving Dennis and Jacquie Fitzgerald heavy calves with strong growth rates that have the ability to meet multiple market specifications.
Mr Fitzgerald is the third generation on Carmel, Baradine, and runs about 300 black baldy breeders, all joined to Charolais bulls from the nearby Elstow stud.
The herd began as a purebred Hereford herd, but Mr Fitzgerald used Angus bulls to get the first-cross black baldy female which is renowned for hybrid vigour, fertility and exceptional mothering.
"The black baldy cow is equivalent to the first-cross ewe and the Charolais is a terminal sire so all of the calves are sold," he said.
"I buy in the replacement black baldy cows, either preg-tested-in-calf heifers or first or second calvers, because I don't have the space to be breeding my cows."
He's sourced Charolais bulls for the past 12 years with his selection being focused on structure and the softer red factor bulls.
"I'm looking for correct conformation, with plenty of length and depth, and good temperament," he said.
"They're terrific bulls for temperament. I've bought quite a few and never had one we had to be worried about."
I'm looking for correct conformation, with plenty of length and depth, and good temperament.- Crossbreeder Dennis Fitzgerald, Carmel, Baradine
The versatility of the Charolais breed is a big benefit, with Mr Fitzgerald open to different markets depending on the season and premiums available.
"I've sold them at 10 to 12 months old straight off their mothers and when the season allows I've grown them out to the feeder weights and through store markets and fat sales.
"I do prefer to finish them myself, but I've even custom fed some through a feedlot at Coonamble."
The most recent lot of progeny was sold about a month ago as feeder steers, averaging 460 kilograms at 15 to 18 months.
"The ideal weight is 450kg but they'll take them anywhere between 400kg and 500kg," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"This year, with the way the season is, I wasn't able to do a job on them and I could get a reasonable price through Caroona, so I took it."
Mr Fitzgerald has the flexibility to sell them as weaners in difficult times but in an ideal season he'll grow them out for the prime sales at either Dubbo or Gunnedah.
"The breeders are on native grasses but with the calves I try to finish them on oats or barley crops, getting them to around 500kg.
"We have a bit of subtropical improved pasture as well and sorghum in summer, and the growth rates are pretty good, being a second cross."