CLERMONT graziers Carl and Andrea Moller have taken a deep breath and plunged into the non-HGP world for their young bullocks.
The pair run a breeding and fattening operation at Springvale station, 92 kilometres west of Clermont, tucked in between the Narrien Range at the southern end and Chalk Mountain to the north-west, describing it as lighter carrying but country that sticks by them in a dry time.
Carl's father, Bill Moller, grew up next door at Recruit and he and his wife Olive bought the 16,500ha Springvale in 1954, so now the younger couple have a familiarity that helps them understand how their stock are likely to respond to different conditions.
As in most other places in the area, they've developed their brigalow and box country and sown it to American buffel and say that at its best they run a beast to 4.5ha (10 acres), averaging out at 1:40 overall. "It's a small operation for this part of the world," Carl said. "It wouldn't be liveable without improvements and management."
Up until now, that management has included hormone growth promotants for all bullocks on the property but Carl and Andrea decided not treat their No.3s.
"I really think HGPs' days are numbered," Carl said. "China doesn't want it at all and the EU never wanted it.
"I'm frightened that if I treat a heap of bullocks, and Japan wants HGP-free too, where that will leave us."
They have a Droughtmaster-Brahman- cross herd, mostly Red Brahmans, and like to turn their bullocks off as three-year-olds for the Japanese market.
"Sometimes we'll put Brahman bulls back over them so they don't get too soft," Carl said.
"The Droughtmasters are good to handle and seem to be good doers.
"Some other breeds might fatten more quickly but not in this country.
"Dad went from Shorthorn to Santa Gertrudis and in the late '70s tried Droughtmaster and liked them.
"He also tried out Limousins, Brangus and Charbrays so we know what works."
Last month Carl sent a truckload to Teys in Rockhampton and said there was a 5c discount because they were HGP treated.
"I know trials say you need a premium of 25c just to start breaking even, and we're not sure how it's going to go, but if the premium's there it will be good."
They are also working towards MSA and PCAS certification, all to take advantage of the various opportunities that seem to be beckoning.
They weigh their cattle when they bring them in as weaners, putting any steers over 400kg in a separate paddock, and say good record-keeping based on NLIS and property management tags is helping manage their herd to the best advantage.
"We have to vaccinate for botulism so NLIS helps there too in knowing which are due for another round, and when," said Carl.
Cull heifers used to be sent to the store sale at Toogoolawah after they were weaned, which sometimes won prices nearly twice as much as local yards.
Now though, they are kept in a separate paddock and finished before being sold to Teys or JBS.
The couple have a policy of lightening off if rain has been light up to the end of January, believing their best grass-growing months are behind them then.
It's a policy that worked in their favour at the start of 2013, when they sold heifers over the scales to Barmount feedlot for $1.50. "Soon after that they were bringing a dollar so we were very lucky," Carl said.
Twice this year they have sent small pens to Clermont for the show sale at the end of May and the beef expo in October, and sold cattle to Teys Rockhampton at the same time.
Both times the meatworks price was better - averaging $1216.75 in October - against $1134.79 at the expo, once expenses were taken out.
The meatworks bullocks weighed 330kg while the expo cattle weighed in at 627kg.
Carl had expected a premium for the latter, as everyone was showing their best cattle. "I guess they were not what was wanted at the time," he said.
As well as continually seeking ways to attract better prices, Carl is taking on the job of AgForce central region president this month, and is a state councillor, which will give him and Andrea opportunities to effect wider change for their industry.