SANTA Gertrudis cattle are the perfect fit for the buffel scrub country at “Ninderra”, Injune.
Geoff and Lyndal Nicol run about 430 breeders on 4400 hectares, along with buying in weaners to background, with all cattle finished to feeder weights.
The Nicols have been using Santa bulls since 2007, focusing on genetics from Rosevale Santas, based at Jandowae.
Mr Nicol concentrates on estimated breeding values (EBVs) to select bulls before looking at structure on sale day.
“The EBVs give us our first cut, so we run them in the sort function, based on the breed average, on the Santa Gertrudis website,” he said.
“We’e looking for above average 400- and 600-day growth, above average scrotal, below average days to calving and above average fat. If I don’t get enough bulls I’ll decrease the growth – but I won’t weaken the fertility. It’s fertility first, growth second. With the (semen) morphology, I won’t come below 80 per cent.”
He always attends the sale to look at structure, shortlist in hand.
“I basically only look at those bulls I already have on the list,” Mr Nicol said.
“I might have a list of 20 or 25 bulls, so having that list keeps me focused on those bulls. They need to be structurally sound and I’m looking for a moderate frame, early to mid-maturing animal. We’re not looking for a large frame – our aim is for a low maintenance, highly fertile herd.”
Mr Nicol has also purchased crossbred bulls from Rosevale.
"They’re mostly Santa, but with a dash of European or British in them. If they don’t have EBVs I then look at dam history and morphology and 400-day scrotal measurement. For me, I probably don’t look that much at pedigree, it’s more EBVS followed up with body type.”
He’s run a three-month joining period in the past, but that’s being cut to two months, with Mr Nicol pushing for more profit per acre.
“We think we’ve got good country, good management and fertile cattle to go to a two-month joining,” he said.
“We’re looking to tighten up the calving, then we’ll try to wean in late March, and look to have them all turned off by June the following winter. By tightening up the calving, they’ll only be here for one winter. With the longer joining some of the tail end calves can be here for two winters, and we’re going to try to speed up the turnover of the whole mob.”
About 100 heifers are retained most years, and joined at 14 months to calve as two-year-olds.
All cull heifers are spayed and sent to Brindley Park feedlot at Roma, averaging about 390 kilograms at about 18 months of age. The steers are turned off between 17 and 20 months, weighing from 450kg to 470kg, and go to feedlots on the Darling Downs, with most going to Teys and Condamine for the past few years.
Mr Nicol is tough on the dry cows, with anything that’s empty finished and sold as fat cows, but they also have to do their bit on the property. He’s in the process of putting more water in and starting a fencing project for a rotational grazing system.
“We’ve got some high scrub country that grows big Biloela buffel, which is where the cows go,” Mr Nicol said.
“We make them utilise the country they normally don’t want to go to, and by doing that, we’re trying to lift the long-term stocking rate by having better grazing management.
“It’s only a small place so we’ve got to do what we can to maximise profitability – the aim is maximum sustainable production per acre.”