IN recent years, market trends have indicated that black-coloured cattle have been in high demand at saleyards across the country.
This shift has caused all kinds of breeds to adapt to try and remain competitive in the commercial sector.
Nowhere has this sense of innovation been more evident than on the Wilson family's property Redbank, north of Mitchell, where the long-time commercial and stud cattle producers are working on breeding a black-coloured Braford.
Having bred Brafords, via their commercial operation Wilson Grazing and stud Taroela, for more than 50 years, Warren and Sue Wilson, along with their daughters Louise and Amy, are aiming to try and breed a black-coloured Braford in a bid to help give the breed a new dimension.
"There's no doubt that black cattle are attracting a bit of a premium at the saleyards in recent years," Mr Wilson said.
"That's not to say other breeds aren't selling well, Brafords for example are still selling quite well and demand remains pretty high.
"Personally, I don't think the colour of the animal should matter too much because you can't tell what colour they are when they are hanging in a cool room.
"In saying that, there's no reason why you can't adjust with your own breeding strategies to try and adapt to what the market is doing, so we are going to give it a go.
"I think it will probably look a bit more like a black baldy than anything else, but it should be interesting to see how it turns out."
To help achieve the desired black article, the Wilsons are planning to experiment crossbreeding with other breeds to strike the right balance.
"The Simmental wasn't black until recently, much like the black Limousins, which are also a new development," Sue Wilson said.
"I think those sorts of things are what have really prompted us to have a dabble at breeding a black Braford.
"We have no idea if anyone will buy them, but recently we had a client come to buy some bulls out of the paddock and he asked us if we happened to have a black baldy bull for sale, so who knows, there may well be interest out there."
As well as for experimental purposes, Mr Wilson said crossbreeding had played a vital role in the family's commercial cattle operation, which consists of about 1400 to 2500 breeders depending on the season.
"I think Brafords are the Toyota Hilux of Bos indicus cattle in the sense they are popular, durable and versatile," he said.
"Recently we have started putting Simmentals into the breeding program and the reason for that is to give us another cross because our genetics pool in the Braford breed is getting smaller, which is making it harder to get hold of different genetics."
Having a variety of properties in districts such as Mitchell and Taroom, the Wilsons have opted to maintain higher levels of Brahman content in their cattle to help adapt to the conditions.
"Most Brafords these days have pretty low Brahman content due to market trends and it can only take a couple of generations to lose that content, so that is why we like to mix things up a bit," Mr Wilson said.
"Given we are in the light, sandy, forest country, they have to walk a long way to get water so they need that bit of content to thrive.
"A lot of our water sources are situated about eight kilometres apart, so there is a bit of walking for them."
When marketing commercial cattle, the Wilsons aim to either sell directly into feedlots or via the weekly cattle sale at Roma.
"Most of the breeding is done here at Redbank, but most of the steers go to our place at Taroom to grow out from weaner steers to heavy feeders," Mr Wilson said.
"In terms of which feedlot we aim for, we're not too picky, whoever is the best outcome at the time works for us.
"We try not to lock ourselves into any particular market such as the vealer market or bullock market, instead we want a multi-purpose beast because we want to be able to adapt with whatever the trends are happening.
"We've also got a block at Mungallala, which will predominantly be for our Batandra Brahman stud eventually."
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