Angus cattle and Merino sheep breeding and wool growing is a successful mix in the hill country above Merriwa.
Angus are better foragers in the hills and creek flats, 500 to 1200 metres above sea level, and utilise the higher reaches, according to Hampshire Station manager of 19 years, John Halsted.
“That’s what Aberdeen Angus were originally bred to do,” he said.
With his wife, Jill, the Halsteds oversee a joining program of 1200 breeders, plus 5000 Merino ewes, and run 4000 wether woolcutters on the two-property aggregation, totalling 9300 hectares on the Great Dividing Range for the Morgan family of South Australia.
“We want to fit our cattle into any market,” Mr Halsted said. “As broad a market as we can make the cattle suitable for at an age where they are attractive to a broader range of buyers as possible from restockers, to backgrounders or to feedlotters.”
All cattle sell on the open auction system, more often than not through Dubbo saleyards.
Breeders are joined for eight weeks in November for a spring calf, while heifers are joined a month earlier.
“This gives heifers a longer break between their first and second calf to help them go back into calf “ he said. “We did use lower birthweight bulls over heifers, but we generally don’t have calving problems. As well, we don’t mate our heifers as early as probably most do. We grow them out an extra year so they are not mated until they are close to two years old, so eliminating calving problems.”
Running on all natural pastures on hill country also develops a healthy female. The last top-dressing on Hampshire Station would have possibly been in the 1980s and no cropping has been done on the property.
The neighbouring “Mt Erin” is what Mr Halsted terms the “incubator”. All cows are run there after the weaners are moved to Hampshire’s hill country to grow out.
“They don’t get fat, grow better and we find we get a lot better first calf as (the heifers) are a year older,” he said. “They milk better and get back into calf easier and what we miss out on in the first year we pick up at the other end and run them as mature breeders a lot longer.”
After autumn weaning, the first draft of culled heifers are sold in spring as yearlings. The second heifer classing is in July at 18 months. The remainder are joined in October.
Developing a brand name for the reputation of the Angus stock bred at Hampshire Station, Merriwa, is of utmost importance to manager, John Halsted, who keenly utilises the audience that comes with the open auction saleyards system in his marketing program.
“We try to sell our steers particularly at an age and time when they are attractive to a broad range of buyers,” he said.
“They are marketed at around the 14 to 16 month of age so the top end could go straight into the feedlot and the others to backgrounders.”
Mr Halsted said the steers would weigh close to 400 kilograms, depending on the season.
“We did a bit of on-farm selling direct to feedlots in the early years, but prefer the saleyard to market our stock.”
Hampshire Station is owned by the Morgan family of Adelaide who also have interests in beef and sheep production properties west of Broken Hill.
Managers since 1998, John and Jill Halsted, have upgraded the property nestled within a series of valleys between ridges running due south from the Great Dividing Range off Murrurundi to the Warrumbungles.
“Hampshire and ‘Mt Erin’ are in nine valleys, with each valley having a gully or creek running through providing semi-permanent water,” he said.
The homestead is at 500 metres above sea level and hills climb to 1200m where cattle and sheep thrive.
“We reduced sheep numbers slightly to allow us to run more cattle,” he said.
In the early 2000s they dispersed the Shorthorn herd and introduced Angus, which he said was a better breed for the country.
“We started off buying heifers out of store sales and gradually increased our numbers from the original 200 head, to now join 1200 Angus females.
Eaglehawk bulls were introduced 15 years ago as well.
Last year, Mr Halsted bought nine bulls at the annual sale, paying an average of $9111 and going to $10,000 three times.
“Hampshire Station Angus now has a reputation attractive to restockers, backgrounders and lotfeeders,” he said.
Merinos are the mainstay of the sheep and wool production with 5000 ewes joined annually, while running another 4000 wether as woolcutters, growing 19 micron wool, while cutting an average of eight kilograms.
Sheep and cattle run together, making the perfect mix for a balanced income.
“It’s now a basic operation, nothing too complex, it’s just an economy of scale.”
Written by Mark Griggs, The Land
Feature Image: Darrel Jacobs and Tommy Trisley move 100 six-month-old Angus weaner steers of Eaglehawk blood on hill country at Hampshire Station, Merriwa
Bottom Image: John and Jill Halsted with 100 six month-old Angus weaner steers of Eaglehawk blood, near the stockyards at Jemmys Creek on Hampshire Station, Merriwa