BRAHMANS have been the backbone of beef production at “Campo Santo”, Roma, since the 1950s, with Brahman breeders now joined to Angus and Charolais bulls.
Denis and Elena Ward run 2500 breeders on four properties covering 10,500 hectares, keeping pure Brahmans for replacement females.
Mr Ward is the third generation on the property, which has been in the family since 1916.
“We like Brahmans because of their hardiness – they can handle our harsh conditions,” Mr Ward.
“They do well in the bigger paddocks – they'll go to the back corners of paddocks to find feed, and when you do have the feed, they put on weight.”
Mr Ward focuses on structure, skin and a moderate frame when choosing bulls.
“It’s still important to have good bone structure, but the big, lanky Brahmans are the ones that are had to fatten.”
Brahman bulls are joined to produce the pure herd for the crossbreeding operation.
“We join all the heifers to Brahman bulls because of their low birthweights, then for the second calf, we’ll run them with Angus and Charolais bulls to get the extra growth,” Mr Ward said.
The joining period is four to five months, depending on the season, but Mr Ward won’t put bulls out until he’s had rain.
Heifers are joined a bit later than most, calving as three-year-olds.
”I think we’ve got better calving rates and when it comes to selling the older cow we've got a bigger animal,” he said.
Mr Ward tries to give the cows the best chance to get back in calf by yard weaning for about 10 days prior to winter.
“Generally calves start to drop in August and we’ve weaned by May to give the cow plenty of time to recover before winter sets in and that gives her a really good start for the following season.”
We like Brahmans because of their hardiness – they can handle our harsh conditions
About 10 per cent of heifers are kept as replacement females, with all others grown out to two-and-a-half years of age, going direct to processors.
”It’s all grass finishing here, mainly on buffel,” Mr Ward said.
“We spay our heifers so we can grow them and finish them to a dressed weight of about 280 kilograms.
“The bullocks weigh about 560kg to 570kg liveweight, or about 320kg dressed.”
Mr Ward said he didn’t have too many problems finishing on buffel.
“It finishes them very well, especially if we get close to average rainfall.
“If it's a really bad season, we’ll supplement the cows with a protein, urea and molasses mix.”