THE muscling and milking ability of the Simmental breed is allowing South Australia's Kempe family to produce top quality, heavy milk vealers at Culburra.
Graeme and Pauline Kempe and Michael and Elise Kempe run a mixed operation with a 1200-breeder beef enterprise, Merino sheep and cropping on the 5500-hectare property in the upper south east of the state.
Simmental genetics have been used since 1978, over a base herd of Futurity-blood Shorthorn cows.
Half of the Shorthorn breeders are joined to a Simmental bull to produce first-cross heifers that are then joined to Angus bulls.
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"We like the extra muscling and carcase in the Simmental cross, which gives us more weight in calves, and the milking ability of the mothers is exceptional - their maternal instincts are very good," Michael Kempe said.
"We keep all the first-cross mums and sell all second-cross calves."
Using Simmental genetics helps Mr Kempe meet the vealer market.
The weight for age is quite exceptional, with some nine to 10-month-old calves weighing up to 500kg.
We work with our season to maximise marketing potential.
We also like to turn them off early because we're running a large number of cows so we've always got more calves coming through.
"We have a July calving, and a February calving, and 100 per cent of our autumn calves are sold as milk vealers, at eight to 10 months of age, because we usually get a good spring to finish them.
"We try to finish the July calves in the following autumn, but we do have predominantly lucerne-based pastures which enables us to finish cattle in autumn if we've had good summer rainfall.
"If we haven't had the season to finish them they're sold to a feedlot."
The autumn vealers are generally sold in the first week of November, with the majority going to Hardwick Meatworks at Kyneton, Victoria.
"Our calves can consistently average 380 kilograms liveweight straight off mum," Mr Kempe said.
"They only come into the yards twice - to be marked, then when they're sold.
"Hardwicks has been purchasing them for a long time, but if we have an exceptional spring and have the extra weight (around 410kg liveweight or 220kg carcase weight), they can go to Woolworths or Coles.
"The weight for age is quite exceptional, with some nine to 10-month-old calves weighing up to 500kg.
"We work with our season to maximise marketing potential.
"We also like to turn them off early because we're running a large number of cows so we've always got more calves coming through."
Lakeside (formerly Waterfront) Simmental genetics are used, along with Woonallee, and Mr Kempe focuses on structure and moderate, easy-doing cattle.
"We are conscious of birthweight, but because we're using a bigger framed Shorthorn cow we don't have a lot of trouble with calving.
"We buy a more modern type of Simmental that's moderate in size, so they're a softer animal, and it's easier for them to lay fat down.
"The smaller, muscular bulls compliment the Shorthorn cows."
The breeders are also on lucerne-based pastures, and clovers and ryegrass in the winter.
"All the cattle are grass finished, and with our 18-inch (450 millimetres) annual rainfall, it's a safe area for grass finishing, and they're paying a premium for the vealer animal."
The Kempes have a strong focus on fertility, with all breeders pregnancy tested and culled based on fertility, as well as age, with cows usually sold at 10 years.
"We have no trouble getting cows back in calf - they're extremely fertile, especially the Simmentals," Mr Kempe said.
"Over a 10-year average, we can consistently achieve a conception rate of 93 per cent to 94pc, and we run an intensive system.
"We calve each mob of cows with their full group, with 100 first-cross heifers, 250 Shorthorns and 250 Simmentals in each calving.
"We check them three to four times a day, and we drift out the calves into mating groups of 65, with two bulls going into each mob.
"With the number of twins we have, we always mark 100pc to 102pc."
Cows are back in with the bulls for 12 weeks.
"When we're drafting mobs in three-week intervals there's not a great spread of calves. We don't have a tail end of smaller calves scattered through the mob - they're peas in a pod."