Eager to learn as much about the beef industry as possible, James and Georgie Knight, returned to her family property, ‘Dornoch’, Mortlake 12 months ago with the support of Gerogie’s father, Bruce Allen.
James, a member of the Angus Youth Consultative Committee, was coming from a successful career with an Australian corporate agricultural business and he and Georgie were keen to relate that experience to the farming operation.
‘Dornoch’, located in the western districts of Victoria, has been in the Allen family since the early 1930’s when it was purchased by Bruce Allen’s grandfather, W.T Allen.
‘My father was a Hereford breeder and did a lot of bullock finishing, selling through the old Newmarket sale yards,’ said Mr Allen.
When Mr Allen assumed the management of the stock and the property, he bought a B-double of straight Angus heifers from Guyra and now has an approximately 85% Angus herd.
‘It was an opportunity that presented itself and a little foresight to where the industry was headed,’ said Mr Allen.
Mr Allen considers their females to be the backbone of the herd, with steers simply a by-product.
‘It’s their genetics that carry the herd from year to year, and we ensure we are retaining consistent lines of heifers as replacements,’ he said.
Processing his own cattle in the early 1990’s, Mr Allen supplied top restaurants in Melbourne and hotels throughout western Victoria.
‘I learnt a lot about carcase, yield and meat quality,’ he said.
‘The experience enabled me to benchmark my beef breeding program, and I am pleased James and Georgie are able to build upon my knowledge’.
Mr and Mrs Knight acknowledged the foresight of Mr Allen in establishing an outstanding herd, sourcing suitable genetics to meet industry demand and applying strict selection criteria to the replacement females.
‘We recognise the quality of the herd in which Dad has invested a lifetime in’, said Mrs Knight.
‘Angus suits our direction to maintain focus on producing a beast which meets market specifications’.
With years of solid breeding by his father in law, Mr Knight saw his own opportunity to benchmark their steers against industry performance and receive comprehensive feedback on the performance of the cattle to help shape their future breeding decisions. And so a decision was made to enter some steers into the 2017 Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial.
‘As the next generation coming through and needing to learn as much as we can from Bruce and others, we needed to have a benchmark to see how we are going and we knew this feedback trial would give us the information we required,’ he said.
To be awarded the grand champion pen of 5 steers, was completely unexpected, as the Knight’s had only thought to enter the competition in order to understand the relevance of their breeding program.
‘To be able to enter the competition was appealing because we knew it would be comprehensive and we would receive feedback that would further our business,’ said Mr Knight.
Benchmarking allows the Knight family to set their breeding goals and produce the best quality cattle for their target market, entering the trial will go a long way in helping them to produce better cattle for their target market.
‘At the end of the day, we can’t manage our business effectively without having benchmarks to refer to and know where we are in comparison to industry performance,’ said Mr Knight.
‘It is clear to me that the key economic driver for our operation is kilograms of beef produced per hectare and kilograms of beef out our front gate’.
With approximately 850 females, joined to Angus bulls annually on their 1220 hectare aggregation, the business has a split calving, with 80% to calve in the autumn and the remainder in spring.
At ‘Dornoch’, all animals have to pull their weight and Mr Knight believes it is important to look past the front gate and make sure those animals are performing in the feedlot, which is their end target market.
The business aims to have steers going into a feedlot at 16 to 198 months at about 460 to 500kg. This feeder steer market has been developed through a long term relationship between Mr Allen and the cattle market.