FERTILITY diseases and drought struck the O’Connor family, Mountain View, Springsure, harder than they could have imagined – but the family operation is now on the up.
Adele and David O’Connor run Mountain View (6475 hectares) in partnership with Adele’s parents Fred and Fay Wheeler, and Mr O’Connor said their numbers are currently “down to buggery” after a string of bad luck.
“We’ve got 300 breeders at the moment, 80 are agistment cows, but we’ll go back up to about 500 breeders,” he said.
“It was dry, and we bought a place which has taken a long time to grass up, so that’s still coming online.
“We had a lot of fertility diseases; pestivirus, we got over that and then got hit by vibriosis - so we’re just chasing fertility at the moment.
“Fertility-wise we were back up to 83 per cent last year, but we were down to 30 per cent at the height of it - that was with the pestivirus.”
The herd is now predominantly Brahman/Braford crossed, a change from the initial polled Hereford herd.
Mr O’Connor said after adding Santa Gertrudis genetics to the Hereford herd, he realised the issue was within the lack of Bos indicus genetics.
This year, Brangus bulls will be added into the mix.
“As long as we can keep between not 100 per cent Bos indicus, and above 50 per cent Bos indicus, we’re okay,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We can’t dip, so they really need to keep a clean coat.”
After making the decision to become certified organic four years ago, the O’Connors said they haven’t looked back.
Mrs O’Connor said it was a no-brain – with very little change needed to the operation to obtain the certification.
“It just suited what we were doing, our beliefs with the environment, neither of us liked using the chemicals, my father didn’t even like using them for cropping, and there was an extra premium,” she said.
“We had already started cell grazing so we could see the ticks coming down, so we thought it was the way to go.”
Mountain View has been in Mrs O’Connor’s family for more than 100 years.
The family will be putting their bulls in mid-November, and will take them out again in April.
They aim for the first calf to be born in the last week of August each year, and prefer to have early calves weaned early, rather than a late calf weaned early because they get more growth out of them.
In addition to the cattle, the family have also branched into Dorper sheep, after first getting them to train working dogs.
Now, they sell about 50 fat lambs each year, and when time permits they plan to invest further into the sheep operation.
GRAZING BMP has seen the first graduates complete the renewal of the course – with the O’Connor family, Mountain View, Springsure, first across the line.
The family made the switch to organic production in 2013 and began the Grazing BMP trial in 2010.
The O’Connors run a commercial breeding operation with 300 females, down from 500 after disease and drought impacted the operation.
“The BMP modules cover a wide range of topics and over the years we have found them to be really useful,” Mrs O’Connor said.
Mr O’Connor said it was beginning the Grazing BMP program which enabled the family to achieve their organic certification.
“Not only have we learnt more about our land and how to plan grazing management, but we have been able to collect the evidence required for animal welfare and grazing land management practices that are required for organic certification and we now have a doorway into this market,” he said.