When their central western Queensland properties were in the grip of drought, Mym and Simon Daley chased 23 different agistment properties over four years to keep their core breeding herd intact.
All that hard work was rewarded at the Royal Queensland Show recently, when the couple were awarded the champion carcase in the prestigious Paddock to Palate competition.
In their first year of competing since a solo entry in 2012, it was their Charolais cross exhibit that took the prizes for overall champion carcase and third place in the pen of six carcases in the Class 40 100-day HGP free category.
They also placed equal second in the pen of six carcases in Class 37 100-day HGP export.
"It was an amazing result and very unexpected, particularly as we were competing against such blue chip studs, so we didn't really go prepared," Mr Daley said.
"We had tickets to the dinner and thought we might as well go, so we jumped on a plane from Blackall to have a couple of days in Brisbane."
The Daley's operation includes La Mancha in the Longreach district, Mineeda in the Blackall district, Waterview near Injune and Curraley at Wandoan, which is finishing country.
Originally the Daleys were on La Mancha near Longreach, but as severe drought began to take hold at the start of the last decade and unrelentingly refused to abate, they gradually switched from agisting and walking cattle to buying more country with grass.
Their breeding base comprises of red factor Charolais, and they have a cross breeding program with Simmental, Angus and Santa Gertrudis genetics to produce flat back cattle for the 100-day feeder market.
"We crossbreed over our Charolais cows to make sure the progeny has enough hybrid vigour," Mr Daley said.
After entering the Barcoo Beef Feeder Competition last year and winning first and second place in the vendor-bred carcase section, the Daleys decided to enter this year's Paddock to Palate competition "out of interest".
"We really wanted to see how our cattle performed, benchmarking their performance for our own personal gain," Mrs Daley said.
"It is a great competition to get involved in as it really makes you look at your cattle and other people's cattle."
And the Daleys were stunned by the "very unexpected" results.
"It probably makes the years of the drought chasing agistment cattle around worthwhile," Mr Daley said.
"We didn't want to sell the cows we had built up, and in 2015 we were lucky enough to find Waterford near Injune, with grass which became home to some of these breeders.
"When it got dry at Wandoan we trucked some steers back to Blackall, so we have just been able to keep chipping away."
Mrs Daley agreed that saving their breeding herd had been a priority.
"We're very particular with temperament and how we handle them, so it was all hand in hand, we didn't want to have to go and start it all again," she said.
Earlier this year there was a relatively good break in the season on La Mancha for the Daleys.
They run their breeders on Mineeda managed by Peter Scott, while some cows too, have returned to La Mancha, as it is slowly recovering after 10 years of drought.
They also have started a breeding herd of Angus on Waterview.
All steers are trucked to Curraley at Wandoan where they are grown out to feedlot weights of between 420 to 520 kilograms.
"Our Wandoan country is good strong Brigalow country, grassed with buffel, and is ideal for backgrounding," Mr Daley said.
The Daleys sell directly into the feedlots that offer the grids suitable for their cattle.
"The market has been amazing over the past 12 months, but we are now returning to prices of 12 months ago," Mr Daley said.
"It was great to benefit and have cattle available during this time.
"It is disappointing that some areas of Queensland were forced to destock or reduce numbers and haven't benefitted from this market."
Curraley is managed by Brenda Wells and Bill Karrasch, and it is Brenda who handles and educates the weaners on arrival.
"She really puts the polish on their steers and does a great job," Mr Daley said.
The Daleys collect performance data on their cattle including weights from branding through to weaning.
"We have found that our calves are gaining between 1 to 1.5 kilograms while still on their mothers," Mr Daley said.
"We keep records on the cows and place pressure on pregnancy rates, and we definitely cull for temperament."
The Daleys paid tribute to the work of their staff.
"We really couldn't do this on our own without our staff, so this win is really one for the whole team."
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