SANTA Gertrudis cattle have been the focus for the Dingle family for more than 50 years due to the breed’s ability to thrive in tough conditions while meeting any market.
Rodney and Megan Dingle run 2500 breeders over four properties – "Wivenhoe", Mundubbera; "Moolboolaman", Gin Gin; "Burnwood", Chinchilla; and "Kilmore", Gayndah.
Mr Dingle is a second generation Santa breeder, using various bloodlines, but he’s been buying bulls from Monto stud Santahat for the past four years.
“The main thing I like about the Santahat bulls is the way they (stud principals Brett and Brodie Hatton) prepare them for sale,” Mr Dingle said.
“They’re only pasture-fed and you can define the good and bad points of a bull much easier than you can if it’s been pumped with feed. We focus mainly on structure and how a bull is prepared, because they need to suit our country.
“Over the years we’ve spent a lot of money on bulls that have been prepared on grain and they can go downhill, but the Santahat cattle are bred on forest country which suits what we've got here so those bulls only get better. Santa cattle just suit our conditions and they suit all markets. They attract a bit of a premium through the saleyards or feedlots.”
Bulls now run with the breeders year-round, following six years of tough seasonal conditions.
“We seem to get all our rain in big falls over a short period of time, then there are months with nothing,” Mr Dingle said.
“Our last rain was from Cyclone Debbie so we're hanging out for some spring rain.”
Having 120 hectares of irrigation country pays off in the tough times, with the steers backgrounded for feedlots on irrigated ryegrass, clover and lucerne.
“Our irrigation is our most valuable asset, because at Mundubbera there’s no general rain through winter, but we can still background our steers. Through summer we’ll put in millet and cowpeas.”
Steers are grown to about 420 kilograms and are usually sold to the Teys feedlot at Condamine and Smithfield Cattle Company at Proston.
“We have a feedlot near us, so we’ll custom feed heifers there,” Mr Dingle said.
“We turn off about 500 steers on about 150 acres (60ha) of winter crop, but if we didn't have that irrigation they'd be sold as weaners. We don't keep them to meatworks weights because we just don’t have enough irrigated country.”
The crops also allow Mr Dingle to make the most of any out of season calves.
“Most of our calves come off at the same time, but if they don’t it's not a problem for us.”