In just two years a businessman and his manager have transformed their property in the Gympie region to a prize-winning weaner factory.
The 1012 hectare property is located 12 kilometres outside of Woolooga, and is noticed by travellers on the busy dirt-road thoroughfare for its well-kept paddocks, dotted with conditioned, Droughtmaster cattle.
The property was bought in 2020 by businessman Peter Shadforth, owner of Riversleigh Pastoral, who resides on the Sunshine Coast, with the day-to-day running of the cattle operation put in the capable hands of Gympie locals Mitch Davis and Peta Dray.
Mr Shadforth's main goal when purchasing the property was to improve it to a point where both the country and the cattle were noticed and appreciated, something that he has certainly achieved.
Mr Davis grew up in Gympie before spending some time out west working with the Sargood family at Charleville before returning to the Wide Bay region, while Ms Dray has been working with her parents on their fifth-generation property at Woolooga, breeding Brahman cattle.
The young couple, in conjunction with Mr Shadforth, have come together with their knowledge and passion for agriculture to produce a quality article that is becoming well-known throughout the region, evident in their success at this month's Gympie weaner show and sale, taking out several awards including the grand champion pen.
Mr Davis said a lot of thought goes into the commercial weaner program at Burnside, with majority of the females joined to Droughtmaster bulls, while a Charolais bull was put over the remaining females to achieve best possible trade market results.
He said that their ideal Droughtmaster cattle have enough Bos indicus content to inherit hardiness and resistance to the ticks that are typical of the area, while also exhibiting the softness and high meat yield of Bos taurus cattle.
When Mr Shadforth bought the property, he kept 220 cows which had been bred by the previous owners and formed the basis of his program, before searching for different bulls and heifers to implement a variety of genetics to achieve their optimal Droughtmaster weaner.
"We're pretty fortunate that we took over a really strong herd of cows, which has made our job a lot easier," Mr Davis said.
"The article that we're getting out of them now is a bit of a hybrid figure because of the blood bloodlines, where we're crossing with bulls that are sourced off-farm opposed to breeding our own.
"It's going a long way towards our success and that shows in our results with our weaners, but I believe there's a lot of improvement to come and we should hopefully see that in the next 12 months.
"We sourced 50 heifers from Taroom this year from the Mungalla Droughtmaster stud, just to introduce a bit more diversity into our herd in a bigger way with a different outcross, so we'll get them to a bull this year and they should help this herd tremendously.
"We also want to keep good quality bulls going through our cows and that should hopefully speak for itself, and as far as our cows go, it's probably about not getting too complacent and trying to keep changing the goalposts."
Ms Dray, although a Brahman fan at heart, said that it was easy to appreciate the quality of the cows at Burnside, due to their big frame and quiet nature.
It's not just the cattle that are easy on the eye, but also the property itself, in terms of its neat fencing and pasture improved paddocks.
This aesthetic, however, is not achieved without hard work, which Mr Davis said was all a part of ensuring the quality of the cattle that they are producing.
"We've got the place now where it's probably 95 per cent cleared and tidied up, so it'll just be the maintenance of regrowth and weeds that we focus on over the next few years," he said.
"We want to try to improve roughly 10 per cent of the place every year, and we'd like to run a beast to six acres, which is most likely where we'll always be.
"We probably won't gain anything out of that carrying capacity, but we should be able to gain constant condition on our cattle with our improvement in our grass and legumes."
Mr Shadforth and the couple have a shared vision to continue building their cattle operation to the best of its ability, and their determination to do so is evident in the improvement of both their country and their cattle in just two years, but Mr Davis said they will continue to strive for even better outcomes.
"Our main goal is to be as viable or as efficient as we can, which would mean achieving a high pregnancy rate and pulling off weaners that are hopefully averaging somewhere around 300 kilograms, maybe a bit better," he said.
"The boss and myself, we just try and make the cows as happy as possible, and if our cows are happy, then we're happy.
"Peter's goal was never to make a fortune off the place, but he's just the type of person that can't help but think about how we can improve it.
"And there's always room for improvement; if you're not improving year to year, well then you're doing something wrong."
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