Angus key at Nive Downs

Angus proving crucial for Cameron family


Beef
The Cameron family: Doug and Rachelle Cameron at Nive Downs with their children Ella, Grace and Stirling and their steers.

The Cameron family: Doug and Rachelle Cameron at Nive Downs with their children Ella, Grace and Stirling and their steers.

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The Angus breed are pivotal to the management of Doug and Rachelle Cameron's commercial beef program situated north of Augathella in western Queensland.

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For Doug and Rachelle Cameron, the Angus breed are pivotal to the management of their commercial beef program on their properties Nive Downs (9105ha) and Old Coolabri (4654ha), which are run as one entity, situated north of Augathella in western Queensland.

The Camerons, together with assistance from their children Stirling, Ella and Grace, run 880 cows on the predominantly open downs land on the properties. This land recedes to red loamy buffel country running onto sandy river flats.

Doug and Rachelle purchased the properties at the end of 2004 to form an operation of their own after having previously been in a family partnership with Doug's parents Brian and Anne, which involved the management of properties situated in Augathella, Roma and Quilpie.

Cattle production at Nive Downs centres around a three-way cross, which involves Angus bulls primarily purchased from Darren Hegarty, Carabar Angus Stud, Meandarra, being joined with ex-stud Brahman cows. This cross forms close to 20 per cent of the Camerons' entire herd.

Mr Cameron said the first-cross Brangus heifers were then crossed again with Charolais bulls sourced from the Sullivan family, Riverglen Pastoral Company, Glenmorgan, which represented the remaining 80pc of their herd.

"Terminal heifers are sold through the Roma saleyards and heavy feeder steers are then fattened to 550kg liveweight and sold on to the feedlots," he said.

Mr Cameron said the initial purchase of Nive Downs included the cattle on hand, which comprised a diverse selection of breeds.

"We decided to bring Angus in to put a line of black over them, and we noticed we were getting a good Bos Indicus cross with strong growth rates in the progeny.

"It was these early results which led us down the path to our current crossbreeding program which we began in 2009.

"These first Angus bulls were purchased from Carabar between 2005 and 2006, and we've remained closely associated with Darren since that time."

He said the Carabar bulls had good temperaments, broad thickness through the flank, depth in the chest, and the high growth rates which were essential to the Camerons operation.

"The genetics Darren's importing from the US are great, and those genetics run through our herd.

"Carabar consistently produce good all-round bulls with great conformation that are also quite long compared with traditional Angus."

Cross: Cattle production at Nive Downs centres around a three-way cross which involves predominantly Carabar Angus Stud bulls being joined with ex-stud Brahman cows. The resulting first-cross Brangus heifers are then crossed with Charolais bulls.

Cross: Cattle production at Nive Downs centres around a three-way cross which involves predominantly Carabar Angus Stud bulls being joined with ex-stud Brahman cows. The resulting first-cross Brangus heifers are then crossed with Charolais bulls.

Mr Cameron said they're looking forward to seeing how the calves look from the last lot of Carabar bulls they purchased, which are expected to be dropping at close to Christmas time this year.

"Those bulls met all our criteria in regards to growth and EBVs. I got all the bulls I wanted at his last Carabar sale."

He said compared with many others in the region they've been lucky with rain, though they've still had to reduce their numbers by more than 400 head from 1300 breeders they had on-property pre-drought.

"We're still supplementary feeding through the dry months, but the tail end of Tropical Cyclone Trevor gave us heavy enough falls to produce some feed."

He said at present they're a bit out of sync with their joining program, though it usually runs for four months from early December through to mid-April.

"We don't usually keep any breeders that give us less than 50pc Bos Indicus content in the progeny, but due to our cow numbers being lower at present we might keep a hold of our terminal heifers to feed them on and value add."

We decided to bring Angus in to put a line of black over them (a diverse selection of breeds), and we noticed we were getting a good Bos Indicus cross with strong growth rates in the progeny. - Doug Cameron, Nive Downs, Augathella.

In addition to the commercial operation at Nive Downs, the Camerons value-add to their business by producing an increasingly popular beef jerky range.

This side business came about when Doug had a light bulb moment in the midst of the live export shutdown in 2011, which caused a flood of Northern cattle to saturate the southern markets, precipitously dropping the market values for the cattle they were producing at the time.

He said that period reminded him of the sheep floor price being taken out.

"To take charge of what we were being paid for our beef, we thought about how we could make money without going directly to a butcher, and have a shelf-stable product instead of fresh meat."

It was with this notion in mind that commenced with the beef jerky venture.

Mr Cameron said he'd been making jerky as a treat for the family for four years before deciding to start selling it commercially, a process he described as a massive learning curve.

"We've been selling the jerky for four years now, and as we've been in drought through that time, it's taken a while for this side business to get going."

He said the business was growing and they were continuing to refine the production process which involves the use of out of spec cattle from their herd, which can't go on the truck or are overweight.

Including obtaining food-safe accreditation, the process from idea to selling the first packet took a year.

To achieve this goal the Camerons partnered with the Endeavour Foundation, which had a factory with a disused butcher shop, and a packaging plant, in Toowoomba.

"I equipped the factory with an oven, mixers and dryers. We bring the meat down, and they marinade and cook it. They get the packing rights and dispatch it for us from there."

He said the original flavour was derived from his grandmother's roast beef gravy recipe, but Nive Beef Jerky now came in Hot and Spicy, Heated Garlic and Thai Fusion varieties, and he has a couple of other flavour ideas.

"Our mate John Kendall has been helping us promote the product which is now available in 170 locations across Queensland, NSW, Canberra, Victoria and the Northern Territory."

He said ultimately they want to export the product, but their current dream is to expand in the domestic market.

The story Angus key at Nive Downs first appeared on The Land.

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