Becca George and her family run a mixed enterprise farming business near Nevertire in Central West New South Wales.
Becca and her sisters Dee and Emma are fourth generation farmers, who throughout their childhood, education, gap years and work life have always been drawn back to the farming life and time spent helping their parents, Donna and Trevor.
The George family operate dry land cropping where they have mainly cereals in rotation, produce meat sheep, running White Dorpers and Australian Whites, along with their commercial herd of purebred Angus.
‘It can be a bit of a balancing act, keeping three balls up in the air at once, but it’s something that I grew up watching mum and dad do quite well and now that I live closer to Mum and Dad, as are my two older sisters, we really are able to work it together as a family, which is nice to learn from each other.’
With Becca’s love of cattle, she has gravitated towards working with the cattle mostly, with sister Dee an agronomist by trade helping a lot with cropping and oldest sister Emma, a shearer, providing her input on the sheep front.
We have sort of all gravitated towards a different part of the business and are able to help there and work closely with Mum and Dad.’
The George Family’s involvement with Angus cattle goes back to Becca’s grandfather, who had mainly run Herefords.
‘When Dad was probably around my age, in his early 20s, they started looking to take advantage of some hybrid vigour and brought in some Angus bulls and it sort of snowballed from there.’
More recently the George’s took a lot of inspiration from their neighbours and good family friends, the Chase family.
‘We saw the great things that they were doing with the breed and from the Herefords and then running the Black Baldies, we transitioned into a purebred commercial Angus herd and haven’t really looked back, to be honest.’
‘Angus cattle have given us a lot of opportunities. As commercial breeders, we never have trouble ﬁnding good bulls and we’ve bred a group of females that we’re proud of.’
Running a self-replacing female herd through selecting their best heifers to keep, they have bred a line of cows that have been really good to them and have been able to hold on to through drought and semi ﬂoods.
‘The Angus cows done a really good job through all the conditions that we’ve had thrown at us. We’re incredibly happy that we went down the purebred Angus road, it’s a good place to be as a cattle producer,’ said Bec.
Steers are mostly sent up north to a feedlot, so when selecting bulls, the family are really looking at that market and down the supply chain for what traits are needed, especially to go into the feedlot market.
As well as looking at the carcase data available, structure also plays an important role.
‘We really do have a big focus on structure because at the end of the day they’ve got to be able to get around, this country can be quite harsh, especially in the drier times.’
This philosophy is also applied to their female selection when deciding which females to keep.
‘We’ll start with structure, do somehard culls there and then if we do need to make any more choices, we’ll start going off weight. We’ll retain the heaviest of the heifers to keep and pop in with a heifer bull.’
AuctionsPlus is utilised to sell excess females, which has been successful for the Georges.
When it comes to management practices, the George Family attempts to stick to a calendar of operations to make sure that they are ticking things off when they need to be done and are keeping animal health up to date, as well with ensuring vaccines and backlining to look after their herd, which became evident during the 2019 drought.
During this period, the George’s made the decision to prioritise their cows.
‘We culled off a few, but we kept quite a lot considering how harsh that period was. We really invested in some good quality feed that we were feed testing so that we could come up with more accurate rations and really prioritise them through that harsh period,’ said Becca.
‘And we came out the other end with some really healthy cows that bounced right back.’
When asked about key drivers of production for success of their herd, Becca said that initially they were looking at weight.
‘We do look more towards our weaning weights and then compare that to when our steers head up on the truck to go up to Queensland to the feedlots. We also look at average daily gain and like to compare to the year before, compare seasons as well, and see if we were utilising our pastures as well as we could have been. We look to the data to measure success, I would say.’
For Becca, this is something she has enjoyed doing a lot.
‘Producing those numbers, it’s quite black and white, we can see where we’ve improved and where we haven’t.’
‘Dad really enjoys looking at his spreadsheets and seeing how we’re doing so for our cattle, we are deﬁnitely data driven to measure our success, especially with those steers, as weight is everything when we’re trying to get them backgrounded to head up north.’
The George’s also get a lot of information from the feedlot and kill data that comes in for their cattle after they have been processed.
‘It’s really cool to see that data and then compare it to what we had here on farm and compare to the year before.’
‘We can look at our genetics and work out if we are still heading in the right direction and make those decisions in terms of our breeding.’
‘So, data is an incredibly powerful thing and I think it’s deﬁnitely the best way for us to measure our success and make any changes in terms of production.’
Like many western New South Wales and Queensland farmers, the biggest challenge the Georga Family faces is weather.
‘Our highs are high, and our lows are very low, and I think that’s something that the region as a whole, and then more speciﬁcally, our family has learned to navigate a lot,’ said Becca.
‘Drought prooﬁng is something that’s been on the forefront of our mind, especially since the last drought. That’s something that I’ve found myself thinking about a lot and researching. These great years where we’re having the right amount of rain and there is feed in the paddocks aren’t going to last forever, so are we making good decisions now, so that when we do hit another hard period, we’re more prepared,’ she added.
To combat this the George’s have put feed away and so they are ready to get stuck back into drought feeding.
‘We’re trying to be more proactive rather than reactive, we’ve buried some grain, we’ve made hay, so that we can commit to the female herd again when that time comes.’
Their mixed farming enterprise means that the family operate in a way that allows their cropping, sheep and cattle to complement each other and ensure a balanced approach to those tough times.
Angus Youth Program provides ample opportunity for growth
Involvement with Angus cattle have not only provided Becca and her family with their livelihood but has also seen Becca gain access via the Angus Youth Program to ample learning opportunities that provide practical knowledge, as well as growth and leadership skills that Becca has been able to implement across her life.
Becca is no stranger to the Angus Youth Program, with over 20 years of taking part in various Youth activities and events hosted by Angus Australia, including the Angus Youth National Roundup and the GenAngus Future Leaders Program.
She has also been the recipient of various Angus Foundation scholarships, including the ARCBA Young Breed Leaders Workshop Scholarship and the SmartBeef Conference Scholarship.
Beca has also been a member of the Roundup Organising Committee and the Angus Youth Consultative Committee.
Feature Image – The George Family, (L-R) Dee, Donna, Trevor, Emma and Becca
— By Diana Wood, Marketing & Communications Manager