An ideal fit on Watson River

Quality Brahmans are key for Quartermaines

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Target destination: The Quartermaines fatten their weaner steers and cull heifers to 280 to 320kg then sell them to one of their nearby friends who takes them through to slaughter weight.

Target destination: The Quartermaines fatten their weaner steers and cull heifers to 280 to 320kg then sell them to one of their nearby friends who takes them through to slaughter weight.

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Over the years the Gold City Brahman Sale has proven to be a reliable source for purchasing quality bulls for use in the Quartermaine family's pure grey Brahman breeding program.

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While they're thick in the middle of mustering at present, the Quartermaine family are hoping to attend the 2021 Gold City Sale, which over the years has proven to be a reliable source for purchasing quality bulls for use in their pure grey Brahman breeding program.

Cameron and Doreen Quartermaine purchased Watson River Station, 35 years ago.

The property, which is situated in the Cape York Peninsula, 140km south-east of Weipa encompasses 89,000ha of good melon hole country, clay soils and timbered ridges.

Upon buying Watson River, the Quartermaines went about clearing out the existing herd of low quality red cattle and introduced Brahmans.

Through the years the family has been gradually fencing off more and more of the property when the opportunity to increase their herd numbers has presented itself.

When Cameron and Doreen retired three years ago they handed the reigns of the business to their son Luke and his wife Ally.

They continue to develop their Brahman herd on Watson River, as well as on a fattening block they own at Millaa Millaa, on the Atherton Tablelands.

Luke Quartermaine said in addition to their tick and fly resistance, Brahmans handle the heat at Watson River very well, especially when it's building up to the wet season.

"The Brahmans walkability is also excellent. Even our young calves have had no troubles walking the 10 kilometres from the furthest point of our breeding country to the yards. Other breeds wouldn't be able to handle that walk in our climatic conditions," he said.

Gentle: Luke Quartermaine on Watson River Station with his son Ty. Temperament is the number one priority for the family when making their bull buying decisions.

Gentle: Luke Quartermaine on Watson River Station with his son Ty. Temperament is the number one priority for the family when making their bull buying decisions.

Bulls are placed in the paddock with the older cows on a year-round basis, and they're mated to the joiner heifers in mid-December each year to give them a kickstart while the season is usually optimal to get them in cycle with the rest of the breeding herd.

"We're extremely focussed on only having cows with a good temperament within our herd.

"Anything that doesn't fit that description is sent down to the Mareeba Saleyards. We also cull cows if their conformation isn't up to our standards.

"If it has been a dry year and a heifer has lost body condition we'll let her cycle again to hopefully conceive, but the older cows only get one chance."

Mr Quartermaine said that at present the herd conception rate ranges between 60 to 65 per cent.

"We want to improve our conception rate. We'd really like to lean into the cows, get more information about them, and look at the group as a whole to see which ones aren't performing as well as they should so we can work them a bit harder.

"Due to the green grass we've got from the rain we've received we're calving early so there will be no excuses for them next year if they're empty."

When they attend stud sales at the Dalrymple Saleyards in Charters Towers, including the Gold City, Wilangi and Big Country Brahman sales, the Quartermaines pick the eyes out of the bulls on offer to ensure they purchase the right type of bulls for use in their breeding program.

He said the nine bulls they purchased at the 2019 Gold City Sale, at an average of $5278 per head, were exactly the type of bulls the family wanted for the Watson River herd.

"They all had great temperament and conformation. They also weren't overfed for the sale, which can be a problem as when we get them home they melt under our conditions.

"We like to buy a mix of older and younger bulls.

"The older bulls can be put straight into the paddock onto green grass where they can then acclimatise over the course of the wet season to be ready to work the following year.

"We put the younger bulls straight out with joiner heifers then brought them back in to the yards to look after them.

"We're starting to see progeny by these bulls starting to drop now."

Being part of a coordinated paddock to plate operation provides us with quality control over the entire product and it also gives us peace of mind regarding the treatment of our animals and processes by knowing that we're doing the right thing by them." - Luke Quartermaine, Watson River Station.

He said they also like to attend sales such as Gold City to talk to the breeders and get their ideas on production methods.

"The sales are also a great chance to see a diverse range of bulls going through the ring."

The Quartermaines send their weaner steers and cull heifers to the block at Millaa Millaa where they're fed 280 to 320kg then sold to one of their nearby friends who takes them through to slaughter weight.

"He has his own grassfed beef brand, Atherton Grassfed, and his parents own the Barron Valley Hotel, which is where the majority of our cattle are sold through, as beef for the restaurant.

"Being part of a coordinated paddock to plate operation provides us with quality control over the entire product and it also gives us peace of mind regarding the treatment of our animals and processes by knowing that we're doing the right thing by them as we can follow the end point in the chain from when they leave our paddock."

To be as feed self-sufficient as possible, the Quartermaines produce hay on 28ha at Watson River and they're aiming to clear and plant to another 150ha paddock in the near future.

"When we start producing hay from the second larger paddock, we'll be using it to feed our cattle as well as selling a bit of it to producers local to us as we'll be producing three times the amount of hay that we currently are."

In addition to the cattle, the Quartermaines also breed Australian Stock Horses (ASH) at Watson River Station.

"They can be trained for camp drafting, mustering, eventing, pleasure, and novelty events. They are handled as foals and yearlings.

"It's a hardy breed of horse noted for endurance, agility and a good temperament. They're bred for intelligence, courage, toughness and stamina."

Mr Quartermaine said they received 76mm of rain at the homestead last week.

"We've had good follow-up rain on the back of a great wet season.

"Our cattle look like a million dollars. They're really powering ahead."

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