For Barranga Grazing managers Rob and Annie Donoghue the utilisation of Brangus bulls as a rotational crossbreeding option in the family-owned commercial cattle operation has proven to be a reliable fit.
The Donoghues run close to 4000 breeders on a 47,720ha aggregation across four properties, Redcliffe, Baradoo, Belah Hills, Clovernook, situated at Bauhinia in Central Queensland.
Redcliffe was purchased by Richard and Libbie Wilson (Mrs Donoghues parents) in 1979, and Barranga Grazing has been operating since 2009. They bought Baradoo in 2008, Belah Hills in 2010, and Clovernook in 2011.
Mrs Donoghue said that the broad range of country types across the properties ensures the operation is well suited to breeding through to finishing, as well as backgrounding, on each.
"We aim to sell steers and cull heifers as two to two and half year olds. They're typically marketed as either feeders or finished cattle, depending on market performance, seasonal conditions and individual animal performance," she said.
She said Brangus were one of the breeds used in the extended family operation that existed prior to 2009.
"Within the Barranga Grazing operation we've continued to use Brangus as part of our rotational crossbreeding program (which also predominantly includes Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmasters).
"We've found that Brangus are well suited for our environmental conditions. They have good doing ability, they're easily finishable, show good growth rates and are typically quite fertile and able to produce the necessary calf each year. An extra bonus with the breed is that a high proportion of the progeny produced are polled. There has been good market acceptability for our Brangus as heavy feeders or as a finished Jap Ox type article."
In their program heifers are joined with the bulls for eight to nine weeks from late November, while breeders are theoretically joined for 12 weeks from early December.
"We say theoretically as we remove the bulls on a paddock by paddock basis in conjunction with a planned muster, so the actual joining period for each paddock varies. Foetal aging at pregnancy testing is used to identify the cattle that conceive in the preferred window.
"Currently we have also allowed an extended joining period to facilitate recovery from the severe impacts of drought and in recognition that our season has broken so late in the last couple of years - our pregnancies are consistent with when good nutrition became available to the breeders after a seasonal break in February.
"We're also considering delaying our joining slightly in the future as our green date has been consistently later in recent years compared to what historical records have indicated."
Cattle performance in terms of reproduction, growth and carcase traits are all important aspects that the Donoghues focus on.
"We strive to reach a balance between these three traits to achieve ultimate herd productivity.
Technologies identified to provide a production or economic benefit to the operation are incorporated where possible. The family has reduced the risk of introducing sires that won't perform to required standards through the utilisation of EBVs as a tool to assist selection of purchased and AI sires.
"EBVs have particularly been used in recent years to enable sires to be selected with improved fat cover to positively influence carcase and reproductive traits in the herd, without compromising growth. Reproduction specific traits such as days to calving are also used."
It was the focus on EBV data that initially led the family to purchase bulls from Lindsay and Fiona Barlow, Triple B Brangus at their first on-property sale in 2013.
"We decided to purchase from Triple B as we were looking to buy from a stud that used objective measurements to improve the predictability of how bulls are likely to influence our herd.
"The Barlows provided a range of EBVs relating to important growth, carcase and reproduction traits. We use this and other critical measures such as scrotal circumference and morphology to ensure bulls we're considering meet minimum requirements to increase the likelihood of improving the performance of our herd.
"Once we have confidence that the bulls we're considering will help our herd performance, we can then focus on their own physical traits and structure to confirm if they're a bull we'd like to purchase.
"We continue to buy Triple B bulls as they reliably produce easy doing animals that grow, finish and reproduce well. They've done a great job in our operation, resulting in us using a higher proportion of Brangus bulls in our program in recent years."