First cross Brahman/ Hereford has been the basis of the Page family’s female line at Heifer Station, Upper Copmanhurst, since the mid 1960s.
Robert Page’s great grandfather Sir Earle, a surgeon first and politician second – he was the nation’s eleventh prime minister and led the country party for 18 years – was innovative and confident. He performed the first hysterectomy on the North Coast in front of a disbelieving audience in his Grafton surgery. Ensuing generations of the Page family have never thought they’ve done anything quite so special.
Yet Sir Earl’s son Don was a pioneer in adopting Bos indicus for hybrid vigour. It was some years later, in fact, that the DPI began promoting the resultant gain from Brahman over British on challenging country.
“Don tested all his calves, first cross versus straight British, and discovered a 15 per cent weight gain at the time which sparked the family’s continuation in the system,” explained Robert, who with his wife Michelle and son Sam are the next generation to run the property.
Of course Robert’s parents Jim and Philippa are very much part of the daily business, with a gradual succession plan put in place years ago.
Robert credits his father for instilling sound skills which prove necessary when dealing with the extra intelligence, sensitivity and athleticism of a first Brahman cross.
“My father is a very good cattleman who can read, respect and respond to his stock,” he said. “We move quietly, we only muster on horseback due to hills creeks and gullies which dominate the landscape. We don’t own a quad or even a motorbike. I like being amongst the cattle and feeling them. On horseback the cattle can get very docile and you are allowed to get close.”