Crossbreeding activities with Limousin bulls and heifers are producing top results for the Central Queensland-based Leather family.
The family's breeding operation is run on 17,754ha across three properties: Barfield Station, between Theodore and Banana, where Robert and Melinee Leather live; Four Mile, north-west of Gin Gin, run by their son Adam and daughter-in-law Chloe; and Hazeldean between Eidsvold and Monto, on the Wuruma Dam.
Barfield, is Organic, EU and Grasslands accredited, and is used to breed Organics and background and finish progeny from the three properties. Four Mile and Hazeldean are both EU and Grasslands accredited breeding blocks, though Hazeldean is in the midst of being converted for Organics.
Melinee Leather said they mainly use Limousins as a crossbreed, with the breed introduced onto Four Mile by Mr Leathers' father, John, 30 years ago for that purpose.
"He had very good results with steers and speyed heifers, gaining the benefits of hybrid vigour. Seeing the improved weight gains he was getting led us to continue the crossbreeding program."
The family target the Organic, EU and Grasslands markets with 18 to 30 month-old steers weighing 600 to 650kg and milk to two-teeth 18 to 24 month-old heifers at 500 to 550kg live weight.
"Barfield has 750ha planted to Leuceana and we're getting very good MSA grading results by finishing the Limousin-cross cattle on it."
They're also trialling Brahman/Limousin-cross heifers in the Northern Genomic Project.
"We're seeing some good results from these females. They typically reach puberty at a earlier stage and have shorter days to calving. The percentage pregnant on their second calf is also higher.
"Given the results we're getting from the project on the crossbred heifers we'll be looking to introduce more of them into our breeding herd. Historically we have always maintained a pure Brahman breeding herd using the cross as a terminal breed."
For the last two years, the family has entered Limousin-cross cattle in the Callide Dawson Carcase Competition with great results.
"In 2018 we won Reserve Champion Steer Carcase and placed third in the Trade Steer section. Last year we again claimed Reserve Champion Steer Carcase honours, placed third in the Pen of Three Grassfed Steers section, and we won the Single Export Heifer and Best MSA Carcase sections."
In the operation bulls are put in the paddock in December and removed in March.
"This timeframe suits our seasonal conditions. We plan to have calves being born when the paddocks are on a rising plane of nutrition."
Over the years the family has purchased Limousin bulls from the Talana, Graneta, BJF and Bony Villa studs.
"The bulls from these studs are performing well and we're seeing excellent results in the progeny."
Mrs Leather said when making their purchases they go through EBV's prior to the sale and look at ease of calving, 200, 400, 600 day weights, docility score, fertility, fat scores and yield.
"We also conduct a thorough visual assessment on sale day, checking their feet, overall appearance, and temperament."
All properties had the worst drought in recorded history in 2019, though the situation has improved this year.
"For the year to date, Barfield has received 345mm, Four Mile's had 525mm and Hazeldean's had 125mm. All properties have responded well as we heavily destocked Barfield and Four Mile during the drought, and Hazeldean was destocked for two to three months before we moved cattle there in April. Having residual grass in the paddock meant that we had a good response to the rain, and falls on April 19 at Barfield (44mm) has positioned us well going in to winter."