The White family have achieved excellent results by using Charolais bulls over a Santa Gertrudis-cross herd as part of their Roma-based breeding operations.
Steve and Robyn White, run their business on a combined 5261ha across three properties including Mt Saltbush (purchased in 1999), Tarrebar (2002) and Balboa (2016), which are all situated within a 30km radius of Roma, and they live on a smaller block, Golden Green, on the outskirts of the town.
The land across their properties is comprised mainly of brigalow and belah type country. Drought conditions impacted the Whites heavily through 2018 and 2019, which led them to hand feeding all their cattle with pellets and hay.
"Thankfully, we received wonderful drought-breaking rain at the beginning of this year, to which the country responded well. It looks magnificent now, and we have an abundance of dry feed at present," Mrs White said.
The Whites breed on Mt Saltbush and Tarrebar and the weaners are held at Balboa. Due to the drought they're currently carrying 250 breeders on Mt Saltbush, though they're in the midst of restocking to their usual number of 350 to 400 breeders. This herd of Santa Gertrudis-cross cows are joined with Charolais bulls purchased from the Bondfield family, Palgrove stud.
The Whites join the Charolais bulls with the cows from mid-October to mid-February so that the calves are falling in early Spring, their perfect time for nutrition.
"We recently changed our joining window to 12 weeks. This shift was was about the only positive to come from the drought. As our cows are already very fertile they rose to the challenge and performed well. This allows us to take a bit of the tail off the calves so we produce more tightly joined, even lines."
They target the backgrounder and feed-on markets, with their ultimate goal being a 300kg weaner.
"To achieve this outcome we provide our females with the best possible chance of rearing a quality calf. We've been preg-testing since we began breeding, and consequently we have a very fertile herd. Empty cows are fattened and sold, pregant cows are vaccinated for 7-1, and bulls are semen evaluated and vaccinated for 7-1, 3-day and Vibrio annually. The entire is fed a dry lick during colder, drier months."
The Whites wean at approximately seven to eight months, with heavier calves sold at the Roma Saleyards each year, often to repeat buyers.
"A percentage of the heifers are selected, retained in the herd and joined at 13 months.
"The balance of the weaners go through the weaning process in the yards and paddock and are then taken to Balboa, which is exclusion fenced. This provides them with protection from predators. From there they're eventually turned onto oats.
"These plans are all weather permitting. The past few seasons have been challenging weather-wise, we've had to think outside the box."
She said Charolais bulls were introduced into their program 20 years ago.
"The calves from the Charolais x Santa Gertrudis-cross are great quality and gain weight quickly. This has been reflected at sale time where we've received top prices lately. We sold heavier Charolais-cross weaner steers in May, which averaged $4.76 to top at $1400."
To strengthen the genetics running through their herd the Whites have been purchasing bulls from the Bondfields for 15 years. All bulls utilised on Mt Saltbush at present are from Palgrove.
"The Bondfields produce moderate-sized bulls, with great temperaments, which perform well to their EBV's, which makes selection easy."
Mrs White said temperament, softness, fertility, Red Factor, good balance and high 200 and 400 day weights are what they look for in the bulls they purchase.
"We find bulls with a good temperament have better weight gain and wonderful maternal instincts. We require softness in the bulls for our calves to perform well for us and also our buyers taking them onto the next stage. Well balanced bulls leads to longevity, we want consistently working bulls that won't break down. And in our minds fertility, quite simply equals productivity."
She said in their busy periods of branding, weaning and bull evaluation they always have family members and extra staff helping out.
"For this reason safety is always the top priority in our operation. The temperament of the Palgrove bulls always shines through in their progeny which makes them a pleasure to work with."
Looking down the road, the Whites will be aiming to promote their heifers as future breeders for producers wanting to buy them.
"That's our ultimate dream, and it also creates another market for us."