Designing, through breeding, an efficient, medium-framed female hat can deliver a live calf each year, unassisted, to the weaning yards in a marketable state has been a passion George Mills for 30 years.
The principal of the Longford, Tasmanian-based, Panshanger Estate, Mr Mills has, without deviation, selected solely from the Lawsons Angus bull catalogue sticking firmly its in-house Sire-mate program.
Bulls selected from the program have had a strong maternal influence focusing on calving ease (low birth-weight bulls) as well as increasing fertility to the female line.
Over more recent years bulls descendant from New Design, Ultimate and Bartel have provided a tremendous boost to the herd's conception rate that consistently average above the 90 per cent level, this past year returning 97 percent back in calf.
Mr Mills said that while the Angus Society birth weight index stands at an average of 4.3 he has purchased bulls that have been below the breed index average, mostly around 3.1 to 3.5 mark.
The next important criteria when selecting sires according to Mr Mills has been Eye Muscle Area (EMA) and Marbling followed by Growth Rates "but GR runs a distant second to having a live calf on the ground" he said.
Panshanger Estates farms a breeding herd of 450 females on its 450 Ha Scopus property near Smithton on the North West tip of Tasmania.
It retains most of its annual drop of heifer calves each year for breeding purpose these being joined as to calve as two-year-olds. They are also calved on a quiet but isolated portion of the property - Perkins Island - with only a handful of experienced cows on hand to give them advice and lead them home after calving.
Calving down this many heifers then allows a large proportion of its rising four and five year-old cows to be released for sale in Panshanger's annual production sale thus allowing the improved and latest genetics to flow more quickly through and into the depth of the herd.
Mr Mills says this constant quick turn-over of the female breeding stock also enables buyers to purchase performance females in the prime of their breeding life.
The Panshanger Estate operation employs the same selection criteria to its sheep flock which is grazed on its home property at near Longford in the northern Midlands.
Terminal sires, joined to Merino ewes, are also selected for the same low birth weight attributes, simply for the reason of the difficulties in birthing because "terminal sires have become too large and too broad across the shoulder regions to facilitate unassisted lambing", according to Mr Mills.
Their Merino to Merino joinings (based on the Tasmanian Barton-blood, now Nareeb) he said returns a much higher survival rate than their Merino to Terminal joinings.
"Our Merino to Merino joinings, with their smaller shouldered Merino lambs, have remained consistently around 130 per cent whereas the joinings to the Terminal sires have dropped from 130-140 pc to 120 pc for the reasons explained" he said.
With its Angus steer progeny, Mr Mills said the Panshanger herd breeds a desirable animal that has become highly sought by the feedlot industry.
Steers are weaned in March and trucked from Scopus to the home property at Longford and grazed on fodder crops and pasture that have no synthetic inputs.
They are sold annually the following July at around 450kg to the local feedlot who have become keen buyers "because the steers perform for them" Mr Mills said.
Panshanger will conduct its annual production later this month, on April -26th on Auctions Plus.
With feed efficiency also a key criteria on Panshanger management program, Mr Mills said he is looking forward with a deal of enthusiasm to the next step in the Lawson breeding program when feed efficiency data would become a measurable selection criteria.
"When 75 per cent of your costs are involved in feeding the cattle- be it fertilizer, hay or pasture production - it becomes very importance you have feed-efficient cattle" Mr Mills said.