At Goonoo Goonoo Station, near Tamworth, the focus is on producing cattle that buyers want, and Angus/Hereford cattle have the ability to meet all markets, according to manager Ken Haggarty.
Mr Haggarty manages the livestock over the business’ six properties, finishing cattle for a range of markets, including feedlots and the supermarket trade.
The operation includes about 4000 breeders for Goonoo Goonoo Pastoral Pty Ltd, owned by Mr Haggarty’s brother, Tony, on about 27,000 hectares at Goonoo Goonoo Station, "Linton/Pera" at Barraba , "Warrah Ridge" at Quirindi, and "Rockley" near Murrurundi; and about 600 breeders at "Kintyre", a 5000ha property between Glen Innes and Grafton, owned jointly by Ken, Tony and their brother, David.
Ken uses black baldy breeders, with hybrid vigour giving the calves improved weight gain, allowing him to take advantage of any market.
"Anything that's straight black is put to a Hereford bull, and anything with white goes to an Angus bull,” he said.
"Straight Angus make a premium as feeder steers, but black baldies aren't too far behind and most feedlots that take Angus will take black baldies as well."
Mr Haggarty purchases bulls from Killain Angus, Tamworth, Eaglehawk Angus, Glen Innes, and Waverley Angus, Scone.
Goonoo Goonoo Pastoral also has its own Hereford stud, with 50 registered cows producing bulls predominantly for its own use.
Mr Haggarty looks for a moderate frame and concentrates on the thickness and softness of a bull before worrying about estimated breeding values (EBVs).
"We don't chase any of the real extremes in any bulls and we're not sticklers on figures,” he said. "Normally we'll look at the bulls first and if we like what we see, then we like look at the figures.
"We look for good maternal traits like milk, because we retain all our own heifers, and we like to have good figures for eye muscle area and marbling.”
The EBVs that count are the carcase characteristics.
"We look at those carcase qualities because we've already got the strong weight grain through hybrid vigour," Mr Haggarty said.
"What we're really chasing is a type - that moderate frame bull with plenty of thickness and preferably a softer coated bull. Keeping with that type gives us a consistent product for our markets."
Mr Haggarty doesn't lock himself into one market, with steers and heifers being finished for the supermarket and other Meat Standards Australia (MSA) graded markets and steers going to feedlots at a range of weights.
"We'll sell feeder steers if the feeder job is good and the price is good," he said.
"The steers are going to feedlots at 440 to 500 kilograms, predominantly to Killara, Caroona or Bective. We did sell a few lighter, younger straight Angus steers for a special job for Beef City. They wanted lighter cattle, up to about 380kg, and we got 440 cents a kilogram for them.
"Cull heifers normally all come to Goonoo Goonoo Station to be finished on oats or pasture to go to the supermarket trade.
"We normally aim to get our young steers and heifers to between 550kg and 600kg liveweight to fit the MSA graded supermarket trade but if they get too heavy we can sell them to JBS which can handle the heavier ones."
The Angus-cross product gives Mr Haggarty the flexibility to change markets according to demand and prices.
"We can take advantage of good markets as they change - we've got plenty of options with them.
"You can sell black and black baldy cattle anywhere, and you've got to breed or produce cattle that people want.
"It's alright to like a particular breed of cattle, but if that's not what the market is chasing, you're not going to do well."
About 500 heifers are retained each year as breeders, as Mr Haggarty continues to build herd numbers.
"The Grafton place is still understocked. It's got about 600 breeders, but we'd like to have 1000, and we've been building up numbers at ‘Linton’.”
The first heifer cull is at weaning, with the remainder grown out to yearlings before a second cull.
"We want heifers that are well grown, are feminine and have the temperament we want,” he said.
"It doesn't matter how nice a heifer is, if her temperament isn't right she goes with the culls.
"We walk through them in the yards, and anything that fizzes up a bit, is out.
"The culling is working; I can see they're getting quieter over the past five or six years."
All heifers are joined to Angus bulls, and Mr Haggarty is trialling joining at the Tamworth property to make it easier on the young breeders.
"We've found that if you pick your Angus bulls for calving ease, you have a lot less trouble.
The results of a trial using Wagyu bulls over maiden heifers in 2016 were also being watched closely.
"We like to have any maiden heifers on oats
"The biggest issue is getting those first calvers back in calf, so we try to look after them a bit.
"We're bringing heifers to Goonoo Goonoo and joining them as yearlings for their first calves, then rejoining them here and sending them to Barraba for the second calf."
The bulk of the breeders, about 2300, are at "Linton". About 700 breeders, plus a percentage of heifers are joined in autumn, with bulls going out for 12 weeks.
The remaining breeders have a spring joining, with bulls put out at the beginning of October, also for 12 weeks. While the heifers calve onto oats, most breeders calve onto native grasses fertilised with superphosphate.
All calves are yard weaned, a "no-brainer" according to Mr Haggarty.
"We put them in the yards, feed them hay, break them in with the dogs, and handle them with dogs and horses after they go out of the yards.
"That stays with the cattle for the rest of their lives. I think if you don't make that effort to get them quiet, you're making the job difficult for yourself down the track or for whoever buys your cattle."