Extremely high pregnancy testing results, undertaken in the grip of drought, have convinced Charleville cattle producers Kenton and Amy Peart they are on the right track with their breeding objectives.
Tested by Roma vet Will Nason before it rained in March, their Angus composite No 8 heifers returned a rate of 82 per cent in calf, while their No 7s on their second pregnancy had a rate of 94.5pc and all other cows 96.8, making for a whole herd average of 93pc.
Older breeders make up a good percentage of this outcome as the Pearts have concentrated on retaining their core herd.
They are results that back the philosophy of selecting a highly fertile moderate-framed animal that fit the Peart's sustainable grassfed model.
"We select for very efficient cattle that give maximum productivity for no input," Mr Peart said. "It ticks the boxes for not only our breeding enterprise but the growing and fattening one too."
Read more: Organic origins at Dunvegan
The Pearts operate under the philosophy of obtaining maximum productivity per hectare rather than a per cow basis, which has seen them keep their breeding operation at Charleville property Dunvegan, while the fattening and farming sides of the business take place on their Augathella country, Mareto and Belclare.
Downsize a delight
Downsizing to a tenth of the size they'd been used to, and operating within organic principles, are two of the main challenges Gerard and Jody Tully have enjoyed grappling with as the managers at Mareto and Belclare, on the Mt Tabor Road north of Augathella.
The couple moved from Quilpie soon after Mareto was purchased in April 2017.
The focus on the end product - a seedstock operation as well as breeding and fattening - is one of the main differences between what they're doing now and their seven years supplying the feeder market while managing the 93,077ha Canaway Downs north of Quilpie.
The usual plan for the organic breeding and fattening business operated over the three properties is to breed at Charleville property Dunvegan and then move the dry stock to Belclare and Mareto to grow them out.
Replacement heifers are mated at Mareto and sent back to Dunvegan as PTIC heifers.
Calving takes place between August and October and weaning would usually occur in March.
With 100km between the Charleville home base and the Augathella country, this is the logistically simplest way to run the enterprise, as well as making the most of the country types.
However, with a rolling 12-month average of 200mm at Dunvegan for 2018 and down to 180mm at Mareto, numbers were lightened off significantly and Mareto was completely destocked.
According to Mr Tully, they would normally take steers and cull heifers to two-and-a-half years before marketing them with OBE Organic or Arcadian Organics but had to sell all their No 7s early last year and the No 8s at the start of 2019.
"Belclare's very low stocked on steer numbers," he said. "All the No 9 heifers have gone up there instead of here, and we've brought the PTIC No 8s from Dunvegan over here, to lighten Dunvegan off."
It's a system that gives them enough leeway to sell stock more than 18 months early, as they had to resort to, and keep the production system intact.
Despite not having any outside feed inputs, due to the organic status, weaner weight rates averaged over 200kg.
Mr and Mrs Peart remain committed to organics after coming through the dry times with female cattle genetically selected to reproduce on little feed.
They say it suits their extended rangelands environment that doesn't have big internal or external parasite loads and therefore no big need for chemical treatments.
"It's given us a lot more marketing options," Mr Peart commented. "Even through this dry we've not fed any bulk feedstuff and we've ended up with one of our best preg testing results."
Since March, Dunvegan and Belclare received 160mm of rain but there was considerably more at Mareto, meaning it's struck Mitchell and buffel grass as well as herbage.
As Mareto was totally destocked at the time, it's been able to be rested so the pasture could get away.
Trade heifers have been added to the income mix, along with a couple of hundred head of agistment cows, and 1000ha that's being organically farmed.