Angus key at Red Ridge

Eating quality is essential for Maces

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Top cross: Angus and Brahman crossbreeds are a key part of the commercial herd run by Red Ridge Grazing Company owners Lachlan and Trudy Mace, on-property at Toorilla.

Top cross: Angus and Brahman crossbreeds are a key part of the commercial herd run by Red Ridge Grazing Company owners Lachlan and Trudy Mace, on-property at Toorilla.

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Angus crossbreeders, the Mace family, believe farmers should be interested in the eating quality of the meat they produce.

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Lachlan and Trudy Mace's passion for breeding cattle is reflected in their belief that farmers should be interested in the eating quality of the meat they produce.

"For all of us, we should be thinking about the consumer sitting down to a great meal," Mr Mace said.

The Mace's own Red Ridge Grazing Company, on Toorilla (10,117ha), in the Shoalwater Bay area, between Rockhampton and Mackay, Queensland. The country is coastal bluegum and ironbark mixed with alluvial flood plain.

They run 2200 to 2500 Brahman-Angus and Angus-Brahman cattle. Brahman cows are joined to Angus bulls and Brahman bulls are joined to Angus-Brahman cows.

"We started using Angus in 2009," he said.

"My neighbour was using Angus bulls over Brangus and he inspired me to go to a bull sale down south. When the stud owner asked me what it would take for me to buy his bulls, I said he'd have to deliver them to my door.

"The deal was done then."

It was the start of a 10-year business relationship that shows no signs of stopping. Greg Chappell, principal of Dulverton Angus Stud, Glen Innes (NSW), offered door-to-door delivery and was as good as his word.

But for Mr Mace, it is more than the annual interstate delivery of new bulls.

"Greg's got a background in meat science so he knows what he's doing.

"He's interested in the performance of the animal in meat quality.

"The Angus breeders also have a good understanding of growth in their animals and Greg Chappell should be applauded for producing a really well-balanced animal. It's enabled them to market and brand their breed for fertility, growth and meat quality.

"We measure everything to see if it's worth doing. I think if you're not measuring outcomes, how can you improve what you're doing?

"I've got to maximise what I do. My focus is to have a product as good as I can produce, using all the resources I've got available."

Red Ridge Grazing Company produces own-bred finished cattle, sold as accredited grass fed beef direct to beef processor, Teys Australia, at its Rockhampton processing facility. The meat is branded Australian Grasslands Premium Beef and is underpinned by the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading system to guarantee tender, juicy beef.

Rohan, Drewe and Lachlan Mace use horses and dogs to work the weaner cattle through the yard.

Rohan, Drewe and Lachlan Mace use horses and dogs to work the weaner cattle through the yard.

The couple also participate in the Central Queensland carcase competition.

"It's a pretty good indicator of what you're doing well and where you could improve your core breeding and finishing strategy to gain those extra one-percenters."

Three years ago, that diligence paid off with the Mace couple awarded the Champion Pen of Three Grass-fed Cattle, three years after winning the Reserve Champion Grass-fed Carcase in 2013.

The challenge for Mr Mace is to keep the Angus bulls alive, given the hot conditions and internal and external cattle parasites that are typical for his region.

"I work them hard as young bulls. They go out with the cows for five weeks at a time, because all they do is work and they don't eat.

"They come out of the herd and they're quickly back in condition. You really can't leave them with the cows for an extended time."

The 250 to 280 Brahman breeding cows are serviced by nine Angus bulls on rotation, beginning December 15. Three bulls go with the cows for five weeks; they are brought out and replaced with another three bulls; that process is repeated for the final three bulls.

At the same time, Brahman bulls are joined to 250 Angus-Brahman cows.

Maiden heifers are grown out to two-year-olds before they are given the opportunity to join, from December 24, to Brangus bulls, along with their first-calved sisters.

Every heifer and cow is pregnancy-tested and all empty females are sold. Recent joining rates are above 80 per cent.

"We make sure the heifers' nutrition is right, so we wait for them to be two-year-olds and they're given every opportunity until they get their second calf on the grid."

He consults an animal nutritionist to ensure herd health is optimum, whether it is pre-joining, post-calving or growing out the steers to prime weights.

"We use Tony Newman, of FeedPro Australia, at Rockhampton. He tries to see what the animals need."

Some of the soils are deficient in phosphorous, which needs supplementing in a lick, so the meat and fat colour and grade occurs naturally in his cattle, in order to hit the grid.

Nutrition advice, in particular, has resulted in improved outcomes for reproduction, pregnancy rates and weaning rates.

"We try different bolus and licks and we observe the animals and measure weights before and after to see if it's worth doing.

Angus, Brahman and Brangus bulls are used in the cross-breeding program of Red Ridge Grazing Company.

Angus, Brahman and Brangus bulls are used in the cross-breeding program of Red Ridge Grazing Company.

"We really want to maximise weaning rates."

They also Pestivirus-vaccinate all cattle, test for faecal worm egg counts and apply three-monthly drenches for internal and external parasites.

"We keep them unburdened for good health.

"The Brahman has environmental adaptability for this district - they can handle the buffalo fly, the heat and humidity.

"The Angus provides meat quality and a carcase and temperament suitable for weight gain."

Calves are weaned in the yards for five days, on round bale hay; sent to a holding paddock then returned to the yards for five more days on hay. In that time, they're handled regularly and worked with dogs.

The seven-month-old weaners, expected weight averaging 250kg, are turned out to graze on Para grass on the floodplain, where they are expected to gain 0.5kg to 0.6kg per day, rising to 0.8kg to 0.9kg per day.

"We'll try to kick weight gain up with a molasses-based wet mix and push along the one-percent-ers to try and get improved meat and fat colour."

In a tough season, he will lighten the load by selling the bottom-performing steers and cull heifers to a feedlot to finish. Otherwise, the cull heifers are sold at 18-months-old to a feedlot and the grass-fed steers fatten and grow out to two-to-two-and-a-half-years-old and are sold direct to Teys.

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