Charbrays' appeal is crucial for Stewarts

Charbrays' market appeal key to Stewarts success

Local Business Feature
Family: Gordon Stewart with his children Campbell and Matilda, and a selection of the family's no-8 Charbray heifers.

Family: Gordon Stewart with his children Campbell and Matilda, and a selection of the family's no-8 Charbray heifers.

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The market flexibility the Charbray provides has been essential to ensuring the success of the Stewart family's commercial breeding program for more than 40 years.

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The market flexibility the Charbray provides has been essential to ensuring the success of the Stewart family's commercial breeding program for more than 40 years.

The operation, which is run as a family partnership involving Gordon Stewart, his sister, Helen, and their mother, Heather, is spread across four properties in the Callide Valley; Craiglands and Kilburnie east of Jambin, and Rockwell and Bundalba west of Goovigen.

Gordon and Helen are the fourth generation of the family on the country. Their great grandfather, John, settled Kilburnie in 1883, Craiglands was purchased in the late 1890's and the Goovigen blocks were added in the last 20 years.

Heather Stewart began purchasing Charbray bulls from the National Charbray Sale close to when the sale commenced 43 years ago.

Mr Stewart said the breed is tough enough for even their rougher country, with the drought highlighting this.

"They also have good weight for age. We have to change our markets based on the seasonal conditions we're contending with and the Charbray has always been well accepted in any market we target," he said.

The family is mainly selling into the Teys Grasslands program, though last year they had to sell feeder steers due to the dry.

"Despite the feeders we sold having below average body condition they still netted us a good return due to their weight and frame."

He said going forward they'll continue selling some steers as feeders to keep their cash flow going, though with the Teys plant being close by, it makes sense to turn off what they can over the hooks.

"Grasslands will continue to be our main market. We sell into that program at between 300 to 320kg dressed. We recently sold 23 fat heifers, which MSA graded beautifully through Grasslands for a good return, but last year we got our best return sending 400 to 450kg steers to the feeder market."

The family put the bulls in the paddock from October to the end of May.

"After we pull the bulls out, we wait for a couple of months then preg-test. We cull empties, old cows and any heifers with temperament issues. We normally achieve an 85pc fertility rate. We're getting a good influx of calves this year."

Mr Stewart said the quality of the bulls available at the National Charbray Sale is high and there is ample data available to help aid their visual decision making.

"Good conformation is what we look for first and foremost, and that is where the sale is getting really strong. There's a big difference to when I started buying from the sale 18 years ago. These days they're all consistently good lines of bulls, we'd be happy to take home any of them."

He said they look for bulls with a smooth coat, and those with slightly higher Brahman content are their preference as they're a bit tougher than the higher Charolais content bulls.

"For this reason, we do like the bulls the Marshall family, Greenfields Charbrays, present at the sale. Their bulls are bred locally to us so they handle our conditions well. Progeny we've received from previously purchased Greenfields bulls were surviving on cottonseed and molasses when there wasn't a blade of grass in the paddock, they're very tough. The Marshalls also produce a good, consistent line with the higher Brahman content we favour.

"We'll be returning to the sale this year to find the right bulls to put over our no-9 heifers to help us build our numbers back up."

Mr Stewart said while they got bailed out by Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017, 2018 and 2019 had proven to be a struggle though their outlook brightened in January.

"We had 300mm in 2018 and 280mm last year. Thankfully we've had 545mm so far this year after a late start to Summer. We have a good body of grass coming back now, which has been helped along due to us being down on numbers from the dry.

"That's our aim at present, to get our numbers where we want them. Another decent season would be terrific to help with this."

The family has built a solid reputation with their article which has won awards in feedlot trials and carcase competitions through the years.

"While we didn't enter steers into the Callide Dawson Beef Carcase Competition last year due to the season we were dealing with, we did win the Champion Grainfed Steer Carcase section there in 2018.

"We also had a great result in the 2019 Charbray Society feedlot trial hosted by Nolan's Meats at Waterfall Feedlot. We won the awards for best weight gain, best pair of carcases and highest MSA score. Our steer entry 29, gained 272kg during the 100-day trial and our steer entry 37, topped the MSA index score at 62.48."

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