In 1987, after nearly a decade of working with commercial Angus at Hillgrove Pastoral, Boorowa, we became convinced of the strong future of the Angus breed and decided to integrate an Angus stud with our commercial Angus herd of 1000 cows.
The decision to go into the stud was not taken lightly. Our commercial herd, with its emphasis on maternal characteristics, had shown us some of the practical benefits and rewards from running Angus cattle. As operators of a feedlot, we had seen the performance capability of our progeny and the benefits that follow the right genetics. We took the view that to gain the most from our commercial herd we should establish a stud with strict commercial principles that must, as a pre-condition always satisfy the commercial objectives of our herd and allow us to share the same commercially beneficial genetics with our clients.
Commercial Herd Linkage
Since our earlier beginnings we have expanded our herd and now run some 20,000 head of cattle between properties located in Southern NSW and Northern QLD. The management of these herds brings us, as stud breeders, again and again back to the realities of our industry. Our objective is to produce robust and practical cattle that are simple and economic to manage, produce and rear a calf each and every year without assistance, and to use genetics that provides us with the fullest range of marketing opportunities for both our steers and heifers.
We see the commercial herd as the benchmarking platform of the stud herd. Indeed, the production data acts as a test bed for the performance of our sires and also allows us to emphasise high performance marbling sires.
More Beef per Hectare at Low Cost
We have been happy for some time that the fertility levels in our commercial herd are at the leading edge of industry performance and that our operating costs are realistic in comparison to other competing enterprises in our mixed livestock and farming operation. Our cattle management costs have been helped by such single practical measures such as reducing the need for observation and assistance while calving. Our costs have also been assisted by having cattle that have an easy handling temperament in both paddock and yard. None of these savings have come about by accident but rather concerted efforts in our breeding efforts. Good genetics have enabled us to score some significant cost savings at the operational level.
The next focus has been to maximise the beef that we produce per hectare. This has focused on growth and involved making sure we have enough carcase weight as possible while moderating mature cow weight and not blowing out some of our other operating costs such as supervision, handling, ease of calving, health and early breakdown arising from any structural failure. We are now achieving growth levels comfortably above breed average and without sacrifice to the quest for a simple and as-trouble-free-as-possible operation.
Marketing Flexibility and High Value Sale
Once having produced the meat the final objective then becomes the maximisation of selling price per kilo. In our breed (and other breeds when they care to take a commercial view of it!) this objective is arrived at via meat quality or as best can be measured by marbling (IMF%). No other meat trait has such high premiums attached to it at both domestic and export levels as does marbling.
Breeding such industry sires as Kenny's Creek Sandy S15 as leaders of the IMF trait a decade ago has equipped our herd over a long period with carcase performance and particularly high inherent marbling. A reference to our most recent bull sale catalogue only underscores this above breed average performance for marbling.