Crossbred Droughtmaster production has been the focal point for the Alpha-based McKeering families' commercial breeding program for close to a decade.
Ross and Sandy McKeering run the business with Ross's brother Matt, and his wife Sally, on Forrester, 100km north-west of Alpha, and Carinya, 20km north-east of Alpha, respectively. They predominantly carry out their breeding activities on Forrester, and fatten the resulting steer progeny on Carinya.
Ross McKeering said they should achieve above average seasons across the properties for the year if the rainfall continues how it has.
"The rain this year has been a pleasant change, especially in comparison with the last few years. The good, steady grass rain has helped us recover after six to seven years of below average falls," he said.
Close to 10 years ago the McKeerings breeding herd mainly consisted of Brahman. Now their herd is predominantly Droughtmaster cross, with Brangus and Simmental breeders included.
"We introduced Droughtmaster bulls as we wanted to improve the overall temperament and fertility of the herd. The Droughtmaster is a good all-round breed, especially for fattening purposes. We've found that it's hard to go wrong with them. They cross well with any breed of cow, with a good article produced."
Mr McKeering said they seasonally mate from Christmas to the end of March.
"We hung onto a few wet cows, which struggled through the dry. But at the minute there are no excuses for them preg-testing empty. We're taking the opportunity to get in among the cows while the prices are so good to sort them out, ensuring we're only keeping those with good mothering and nurturing instincts.
"We usually achieve an 85 to 90 per cent in-calf rate when preg-testing, which decreases to about 75pc at weaning. We're looking to improve that figure at present as we're trying to increase weaner turn-off. We're focussing on identifying any external threats: diseases, wild dogs etc, that may be causing this drop at branding.
The properties are certified organic and the family breed and fatten steers for the organic export market, with Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Co purchasing the majority of their stock.
"Season dependent, we send steers at 330 to 350kg dressed, and cull heifers at around 280kg dressed. Arcadian seems to be happy with the carcase we produce. They MSA grade well.
"Crossing the Droughtmaster with the Brahman enables us to turnoff cattle even when its dry. We haven't had to sell many without finishing them. Like most in the beef industry at present, we're receiving favourable returns for the article we produce."
To strengthen the Droughtmaster genetics running through their herd, the McKeerings have been purchasing bulls from Mac and Gayle Shann, Lamont Stud, Cantaur Park, for as long as they've been using the breed.
"We really like what the Lamont bulls provide. The femininity we're seeing in the heifers by their bulls is great. They're helping us to produce a really good line of heifers.
"The Shanns are easy to deal with. They're always happy to help us out. They're invested in ensuring we're receiving a good deal when purchasing their genetics. We have close to 35 Lamont bulls in the paddock at present, which makes up about half of our run of Droughtmaster bulls."
Mr McKeering said after the tough times through the dry, he's looking forward to seeing how the bull sales for the rest of the year play out.
"It's good to see some money going into the pockets of producers who can then spend it on genetics, which in turn improves their herds and the overall viability of our beef industry."