Commercial cattle producer Nick Mather has been using Angus genetics in his operation for five years, and says the breed has provided him with a great crossbreeding option over his Brahman and Brahman-rich Charbray breeders.
Mr Mather is currently running close to 6000 head across five properties under his Manumbar Pastoral Company banner.
Manumbar and neighbouring property Court LeRoi are situated between Kilkivan, Goomeri and Kilcoy in the eastern fall of the South Burnett, and lay on 4800 acres (1942 hectares) of old scrub soils and Apple Gum tree flats.
“It used to be one of the oldest fattening places in Qld, but it’s now used by us as a breeding block.
“We run close to 1100 Brahman-rich cows and Charolais bulls on the freehold land there from which we sell steers, culled cows and culled heifers out of the paddock, and send the good heifers to Lyndley at Jandowae.”
Lyndley on the North East Downs is situated on the edge of the Jimbour Plain, and used to be Sir Robert Sparkes’ family Hereford stud.
Mr Mather said the 16,800 acre (6799 hectares) property was very run down when he purchased it, but it has been extensively improved since.
“We put improved pastures and forage into the paddocks, after they were raked and ripped.”
He said they’re running close to 1500 breeders and their followers at Lyndley but they intend to take off all the breeders and use it to grow out and fatten progeny to two years of age.
“The breeders there consist of Charbray cows brought over from Manumbar and Charbray/Angus-cross heifer progeny from the 230,000 acre (93,078 hectare) property, Victo at Cunnamulla.
“Lyndley is very fertile and gets reliable rain, is very productive, near the markets, and close to the international airport. We’re always looking to relocate our breeders to cheaper country so we can use Lyndley exclusively to grow and fatten.”
He said while the current total herd stands at 6000 head, by around Christmas they are expecting a drop of close to 2800 calves across Victo, Lyndley, Manumbar, and a couple of smaller places owned by the company near Monto and Glen Idol.
The herd is predominantly comprised of Brahman and Brahman-rich Charbray, and for the last five years Angus bulls have been put over them once or twice at Victo and Lyndley to improve softness and meat quality.
He said the confidence in Angus genetics and his decision to use the breed within the herd was made a lot easier by having “the worlds largest fast food outlet doing your marketing for you for free”.
“The flavour is richer and I can taste it. Our Angus-cross get premium attention in the saleyards, and when we give our cross steers three years on grass, the meat is simply the best.”
To reduce cost of production throughout the operation, forage cropping and hay baling activities are carried out, and storage has been created for weaning purposes.
“We’re also in the process of moving away from grain finishing our cattle, and shifting towards only producing a grass-fed article.
“We’re trying to develop a reliable premium grass fed product at present; we’ve won a few awards now which is helping build our reputation for it, which has also helped to increase repeat buyer interest.”
Mr Mather said they ideally like to turn off at 360kg to 460kg, dependent on markets and seasons, to restockers, lotfeeders and processors.
He said he also likes using Angus bulls due to their high fertility and mobility.
“They're polled, they're fat, the cows don't get a lot of udder problems and they're in demand. You get more progeny from every bull, the market pays more and that’s great for the bottom line.”
Mr Mather said his love for Angus was bolstered when he was introduced to Jim and Jackie Wedge, and their Ascot Cattle Company genetics, four years ago by agent Mike Wilson, Stud and Bloodstock, Armidale.
“Jim and Jackie are straight-up professionals and very likeable people, they run an excellent operation with a constant eye to what makes profit.
“They’re reliable, fast and efficient and produce beefy, mobile and fertile bulls. I love Highlander. It’s a cracking genetic line. He's long and heavy carcased, possessive and he stands well. It’s a strong genetic print which has carried over into his sons in spades.”
With the crossbreeding activity, Mr Mather said he aims to produce progeny with easy low weight birthing and fast growth rates to two years.
“Marbling and beef yield is also important, and we aim to get more and more polled content, we’re also constantly seeking to increase the fertility of the cow herd.”
The operation is run on very strict selection criteria, with Manumbar Pastoral Company manager Miles Paterson culling any cows which aren’t in calf each season.
“We also select for polled breeder cattle with good udders and teats.”
Mr Mather said when he attends stud sales with Mr Patterson and Mr Wilson, they’re on the lookout for bulls with mobility and a big frame that can take a lot of beef cover.
“A long bull, with really good feet is critical, and from an EBV point of view we want strong growth and scrotal figures, fat scores and low birth weights.
He said he doesn’t often miss out on making the winning bid when they want a particular bull, “because when a vendor gets everything right in a bull it’s always worth the money”.
“We bought a massive bull at the Ascot sale in 2015 for $30,000 which I thought was cheap, considering the potential he has. I’m happy to look at new genetics from a good breeder, and Jim Wedge is one of the best.”
In Mr Mather’s opinion, the more mobile a bull is, the better.
“The mobility of the Angus goes a long way because they’re very fertile. They cover up to 30 per cent more cows than other breeds, and to do that his feet and legs need to be good, so it’s a fundamental trait we require.
“We've pulled a lot of calves in the past and it’s a costly loss that we want to avoid. We don't want that high birthweight genetic character.”
Mr Mather said he feels indebted to Miles Paterson and his family for the management of the operations and thanks Mike Wilson for his guidance and introduction to the Wedges.