Santa Gertrudis are the glue that binds all operations within the Stiller family's successful backgrounding and lotfeeding crossbreeding programs.
Trading as Weeroona Family Trust, Tim and Tammy Stiller run the business with their parents Don and Robyn, and their children Ashlyn and Hugh.
The Stillers central base of operations is Weeroona, situated in Guluguba on the Western Downs, and they own additional properties in Guluguba, Gilugugul and east of Wandoan.
Weeroona was settled by Tim's grandparents Bert and Amanda, who journeyed up from South Australia to settle Weeroona in 1935, making Tim the third generation Stiller family member to mange the operation, which lies on brigalow, belah and melon hole country running into open forest grazing.
The family background and feedlot the cattle produced through their 600 head breeding herd.
"Weeroona Feedlot was developed in the late 1980's to supplement feed during drought. Now it's a full-time operation with 1800 head on feed, including some custom fed cattle," Tim Stiller said.
For more than 35 years the they've been utilising Santa Gertrudis bulls as the breed is well suited to their climate and the markets they target.
"Santa cross heifers are ideal for the 70 day MSA local trade, and the Santa cross steers provide us with the flexibility to fit in either the 70 or 100 day MSA market. We find that our Santa cows are well conditioned to the seasons, and produce ample milk for their calves."
In their program the Stillers cows are split into three lines:
- Crossbred British cows are joined to Santa bulls
- Pure and crossbred Santa cows are joined to Santa bulls
- European, crossbred Santa and Bos Indicus cross cows are joined to Santa and Angus bulls
"Choosing to cross the Santa bulls over our other British cows enables a quality animal to suit our Woolworths specifications of less than 39 per cent Bos Indicus content for the MSA grade."
The family has supplied Woolworths for close to 28 years and they've found that the calves they're producing are ideal for this market.
"These are milk tooth's averaging 260kg dressed weight.
"We target the 100 day MSA market with our third line of cows as milk and two tooth's at 350 to 400kg dressed."
To source fresh Santa Gertrudis bulls for their programs the Stillers have been buying from the Wandoan Sale for close to six years.
"The vendors always present a good variety of poll bulls for sale. Interacting with the vendors there allows me to make informed bull buying decisions.
"When making our purchases we look in the back yards for qualities such as temperament and structural soundness. Most of my decision is made in the sale ring looking at P8, rib and EMA, as rib coverage is particularly important to our domestic market.
"The convenience of the sale in relation to where we are and the guarantee of free delivery are bonuses on top of a good selection of bulls."
The Stillers recently exhibited their cattle at the 2020 Wandoan Show Beef Bonanza Carcass Competition. In the Class 2: Pen of 3 Milk to Two Teeth Heifers 70 Day Grain Fed - Woolworths Trade section the family placed third and equal fourth.
"We also won the Champion Heifer Carcass section with one of our homebred heifers."
Mr Stiller said they've been in an expansion phase with the feedlot operations, which has included adding shade and a grain unloading system. Going forward they hope to add numbers to their breeder operation.
"I left school to join dad and my brother Ross, to establish the feedlot, which commenced on a shoestring budget of homemade self-feeders, 44 gallon drums and buckets.
"Today it is a far cry from the inception; Tammy and I have overseen a license expansion and mechanising to enable efficiency of labour and resources."
Like his grandfather and father before him Mr Stiller has been physically engaged in the expansion including its construction process.
"My drive comes from the advice given to me, that there is no such word as can't. As the next generation join in, they're also encouraged to keep in mind the past, look to the future with a broad perspective and to embrace change as it rolls around."
The Stillers have been recognised for their excellence in lotfeeding, winning the Elanco Feedlot of the Year Award in 2016 for the 'Below 3000 Head Capacity' section of the competition in which they won three of the five categories.
"Our feedlot has been designed for stress free livestock handling, with a focus on staff safety and the longevity of the facility."