Market versatility at Merriwa

August 22, 2017 11:04 am

The ability to meet all markets makes Angus cattle a perfect fit at “Dales”, Merriwa.

The 1780-hectare property runs 400 Angus breeders, along with a few trade cattle.

“We think the premiums are going to hold up for Angus cattle,” manager Elliott McKinnon said.

“They’re a good foraging cow, superior mothers, and have the marbling and faster growth rates that we’re looking for.

“Angus cattle are a safe bet – we can hit every market with them.”

Mr McKinnon bought 10 registered Angus bulls last year.  “I was looking for bulls with moderate birthweight with fast growth to target the feeder market, so they need good 200-day and 400-day weight, in the top 20 per cent for growth traits,” he said.

Heifers are joined for six weeks in October, while cows get eight weeks.

“We cull the heifers pretty heavily which is how we get the best breeders,” Mr McKinnon said.

“We keep the top 80 per cent of heifer calves then put the bull out and of the ones that come back in calf, we’ll keep the top 50 and sell the other pregnancy-tested-in-calves through the yards.”

Heifers calve onto oats and cows are in grass paddocks. The property has about 320ha of cereal cropping as well as 40ha of lucerne.

“All the calves go onto forage wheat, and we’ve got a better growth rate from the wheat this year than we did on the oats,” Mr McKinnon said.

“We also grow brassica in between winter cereals and forage sorghum, so we can have cattle on crop year-round.”

Calves are yard weaned at 10 months of age on hay and pellets, and culled for temperament.

“We handle them in the yards, break them in with the dogs, and get them used to humans, bikes and utes.”

Any culled weaners, including calves that have been mis-mothered, are sold through the Tamworth saleyards, while the rest stay on oats and wheat.

“With the money so good last year, I sold most of the heifers as weaners,” he said.

“They averaged 160 kilograms and got more than 400 cents a kilo.

“Normally we’d get them up to 450kg to 500kg, but that money was too good to carry them through to 500kg.”

Grown heifers and steers go wherever the market is – through the saleyards, straight to feedlots or over AuctionsPlus.

“We had some heifers on AuctionsPlus making 400c/kg as breeders. Most cattle are sold by 18 months, but it all just depends on the market at the time.”

Top Image: Elliott McKinnon with Angus cattle at “Dales”, Merriwa. The 18-month-old heifers are joined to low birthweight bulls from Knowla, Booroomooka and Coolie Angus studs

Ruth Schwager, The Land

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